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A brief history of the minimum wage in garment sector

  • Published at 12:51 am January 11th, 2019
sheorapara-RMG-worker-protest_Focus-Bangla
RMG workers protest in Shewrapara, Mirpur on January 10, 2019 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

After the inception of export oriented readymade garment (RMG) sector in 1978, the first wage board, formed in 1984, set a minimum wage for the sector’s workers at Tk560 a month

Long after the Bangladeshi entrepreneurs ventured into the territory of apparel business, country’s first wage board for fixing salaries of the workers in the garment sector was constituted. 

After the inception of export oriented readymade garment (RMG) sector in 1978, the first wage board, formed in 1984, set a minimum wage for the sector’s workers at Tk560 a month. 

Since then the wage board tradition has come a long way with the government declaring the last minimum wage of Tk. 8000 in September last year. The present dissatisfaction among RMG workers stemmed out from certain discrepancies in the latest wage structure, which the government now promised of solving.    

In 1994, monthly minimum wage for apparel workers was at Tk930, followed by Tk1662.50 in 2006, Tk3000 in 2010, Tk5,300 in 2013 and lastly in 2018 the board set the minimum wage at Tk8000 a month as opposed to workers’ demand for Tk16,000. 

A minimum wage is the lowest amount of remuneration given to a worker in a specific sector by employers, which has the legal frame work. And the employers cannot pay below the amount set by the government.  

How minimum wage is set in Bangladesh’s RMG sector 

In every five year, the government forms a new Minimum Wage Board for the RMG sector to formulate a new wage structure for apparel workers.

The board is usually led by a senior district judge as chairman. In addition to representative from the owners and workers in the board, it also consists of three independent members. 

The representatives of owners and workers separately propose minimum wage for the workers respectively and place it to the board in black and white.   

After having wide range of discussion with the stakeholders, the board recommends a new wage structure based on the inflation rate, living costs, country’s economy condition and strength of the sector in paying the settled wage. 

Wage board then publishes a gazette and gives the trade workers and owners representatives a 14-day time to appeal if there is any objection on the recommended wage from their sides. 

The board finalises the new wage structure taking into consideration the objections of workers and owners representatives, if there is any.

Then the wage board places it to the Ministry of Labor and Employment, which reviews the proposed wage and sent it to the Ministry of Law for vetting. 

After getting the Law Ministry nod, the Ministry of Labor and Employment publishes gazette notification and the then the new wage structure goes to implementation phase.

How it is implemented 

Once the gazette notification is issued, all the export oriented garment manufacturers are bound to implement new wage structure in their respective factories.

The new wage structure comes into effect from the date set by the government.