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Ship-breaking industry: Minimum wage still a far cry

  • Published at 09:37 pm December 25th, 2019
Ship_yard_Photo
There are 3,000 permanent and 5,000-7,000 temporary workers in the ship breaking yards on the 25km strip of Sitakunda upazila Dhaka Tribune

Published on February 11 of 2018, the gazette notification fixed the minimum salary at Tk16,000 in total for the ship-breakers

Minimum wages for the ship-breaking workers are still to be implemented although almost two years have passed since the government published a gazette notification in this regard. 

Published on February 11 of 2018, the gazette notification fixed the minimum salary at Tk16,000 in total for the ship-breakers.

The gazette also made it mandatory that no employee or worker of the ship-breaking sector be paid less than the minimum wage. 

Labour rights activists have alleged that the employers are reluctant about implementing the minimum wage in the sector. 

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Tapan Dutta, convener of Ship-breaking Workers’ Trade Union Forum, said that the yard owners were following the previous payment system instead of abiding by the minimum wage structure.

“Not a single yard has implemented the minimum wage. We have been calling for full implementation of the minimum wage but in vain. The government agency tasked with implementing the minimum wage is shirking its responsibility by suing the errant yard owners,” said Tapan, also Chittagong chapter president of Trade Union Centre (TUC). 

Attributing the non-implementation to the absence of strong trade union movement, the labour rights activist said: “The yard owners are least concerned about the cases filed against them. It takes several years to dispose of a case and another wage board becomes due by this time. The errant yard owners are mostly let off with a fine for violating labour rules. There is no precedent that a yard owner has been sentenced with imprisonment. Strict enforcement of law is a must for implementing the minimum pay structure.”

Nazmul Ahsan, assistant secretary of Bangladesh Ship Breakers and Recyclers Association (BSBRA), told Dhaka Tribune that the minimum pay structure was implementable in the yards where ship-breaking activities continued throughout the year.

“Ship-breaking is such a sector where the yard remains inoperative if there is not a ship to be dismantled. For this reason, it is difficult to implement the minimum wage in all the yards,” said Nazmul, adding that efforts were on to implement the minimum pay in the yards which remained operational round the year.  

According to BSBRA, out of 160 ship-breaking and recycling yards in Chittagong, only 65 are now in operation. Of them, around 40 yards remain operational round the year. 

260-300 ships are dismantled a year in the yards of Chittagong. There are 3,000 permanent and 5,000-7,000 temporary workers in the ship breaking yards on the 25km strip of Sitakunda upazila in the district. 

Md Al Amin, deputy inspector general, Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment, told Dhaka Tribune that they lodged 10 cases so far with labour courts for not implementing the minimum wage.

“We have also served a total of 430 notices on different errant ship-breaking yards for not complying with labour rules,” the official said.  

The gazette notification on the minimum pay scale categorized ship-breaking workers into four grades.

Tk31,750 in total was fixed for grade-1 workers as per the minimum pay structure, Tk24,250 in total for grade-2, Tk21,250 in total for grade-3 and Tk16,000 in total has been fixed for grade-4 ship-breakers.

Besides, an apprentice worker will receive Tk8,000 in total for a period of six months as per the minimum wage scale.

According to a report titled ‘Review of Maritime Transport 2019’ published by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the ship-breaking industry of Bangladesh has captured the global market by dismantling around 47.2% world vessels.