RMG wage board prescribes hike
Published: 2013-11-04 16:18:29.0 BdST Updated: 2013-11-05 08:39:10.0 BdST
The government-appointed wage board has recommended a minimum monthly wage of Tk 5,300 for readymade garment factory workers.
The proposal was finalised at the Wage Board office on Monday in a meeting, the ninth in a row, attended by representatives of factory owners and workers.
The owners opposed the recommendation and staged a walk-out, expressing disapproval.
After Monday’s meeting, Wage Board Chairman AK Ray told media persons that four of the six board members had settled for a minimum monthly wage of Tk 5,300.
"So we finalised the draft proposal as our formal recommendation", Ray said.
“We tried so hard to reach an understanding. But the owners did not agree and left. I had to take votes to arrive at a decision. Most members have voted in favour of this proposal,” he said.
The workers had been demanding Tk 8,100 as the minimum monthly wage against the present Tk 3,000. But the representatives of the workers agreed to the Tk 5,300 recommendation.
The owners said they could accept a 20 percent hike on the present salary and nothing beyond, claiming that would ruin profitability at a time when global markets were getting increasingly competitive.
At the eighth meeting last Thursday, the owners had proposed Tk 4,250 as the minimum wage. But the board had to sit again on Monday as the workers had rejected that offer.
Monday’s meeting at the Wage Board office on Topkhana Road was held with supporters of the Garment Workers Trade Union, Samajtantrik Sramik Front and Bangladesh Garment Sramik Oikya Parishad staging a demonstration outside the office.
Former BGMEA President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin was at the meeting as an observer.
Now, the decision would be issued as a gazette and sent to the Labour Ministry in the next 15 days after taking opinion of all parties concerned.
Once approved by the ministry, the government will give directives to implement the proposed hike.
The minimum wage for a worker was raised to Tk 3,000 from Tk 1,650 in 2010. It had remained the same since then, triggering violent protests by workers and criticism by national and international rights bodies who described the pay as ‘unlivable’.
Workers' bodies have been demanding a review of the wage structure in view of the high inflation rate seen in the last three years.
The $20-billion industry employs around 3.6 million people, most of them women.
Bangladesh, the second largest exporter of readymade garment products, has been accused of condoning poor working conditions in its factories.
There are allegations that many factories do not even follow the recommendations of the previous wage board.
The thriving sector was in the spotlight after over 1,000 people were killed in two separate incidents within a span of six months.
Various European Union (EU) and US organizations threatened a boycott of Bangladeshi products.
In June, the US scrapped the quota-free access of Bangladeshi goods into its market in a bid to push the country improve its factory and workers' condition.
Labour Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju announced a new wage board for RMG workers on June 12.
Former District Judge Amulya Kumar Roy is heading the six-member board.
Dhaka University Professor Kamaluddin Ahmed does not represent anybody in the board and is seen as a 'neutral' member.
M Saifuddin represents the garment factory owners and AK Fazlul Haque Mintu represents the workers.
BGMEA Director Arshad Jamal represents the factory owners and Sirajul Islam Rony represents the workers.
On May 12, Textiles Minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui had said the board's decision would have retrospective effect from May 1.
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