The state minister for labour and employment makes the announcement
The country’s apparel workers were yesterday handed a 50% rise in their minimum monthly pay as the government rounded out months of negotiations between the factory owners and their employees.
The new Tk8,000 wage structure will come into effect from December 1, State Minister for Labour and Employment Md Mujibul Haque Chunnu told a media briefing following a meeting of the Minimum Wage Board for garment workers.
Currently, RMG workers must be paid Tk5,300 as a monthly minimum, with entry-level employees receiving a basic salary of Tk3,000 and 5% yearly increments.
Of the new gross salary, Tk4,100 has been set as basic pay, Tk2,500 as house rent, Tk600 as a medical allowance, Tk350 as a transport allowance and the remaining Tk900 as a food allowance.
The deal brings to an end a protracted period of negotiations following the formation of the Minimum Wage Board in January.
“After having a series of meetings, the members of the wage board could not reach to a consensus on fixing the wage amount,” Mujibul said.
In mid-July, workers-nominated representative Shamsun Nahar Bhuiyan placed the proposal to raise the baseline monthly salary from Tk5,300 to Tk12,020 before the board.
Md Siddiqur Rahman, the president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), proposed on behalf of the owners to raise the minimum wage to only Tk6,360 per month.
“The owners proposed Tk7,000 and remained strict on it, while the workers did not budge from their proposal of Tk12,000, creating a deadlock for the wage board,” Mujibul said.
For an amicable solution, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held meetings with both parties to discuss the issue.
“Considering the overall situation to protect the interests of workers and employers, she has given a logical decision to set the minimum wage at Tk8,000 a month,” the junior minister said.
“All the members of the wage board agreed the Prime Minister’s proposal and the new wage structure will be effective from December.
BGMEA president Siddiqur said the association had accepted the minimum wage set by the government.
However, Shamsunnahar, the representative of the garment workers on the board, said he was disappointed the government had not accepted the full amount he proposed.
“As a worker representative, I tried my best to set Tk12,000 as minimum wage but there was an absence of workers proper efforts to put pressure on the board to realize it,” he said.
"Since the prime minister set the threshold, we agree on it.”
Workers criticise ‘meagre’ rise
The new minimum wage was rejected instantly by union leader Nazma Akter, the president of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation.
“I think Prime Minister should reconsider the amount so that the workers can lead a better life,“ she told the Dhaka Tribune.
“The meagre amount will lower the benefits such as retirement benefits, festival bonus as well as the overtime payment.”
Nazma saif the prices of essential commodities and house rent have both risen.
“As a trade union leader, I request to the government to take steps so that the house rent and commodity price remain stable,” said Nazma, who is also a former member of the wage board.
She also urged the government to ensure better housing facilities and treatment for the workers.
CPD research director Khondaker Golam Moazzem said that in meeting the basic needs of workers, a minimum wage of Tk8,000 is not enough.
“Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) thinks Tk10,000 as minimum wage is needed to meet the minimum requirement of living,” Moazzem told the Dhaka Tribune.
“One of the weak points of the proposed wage is reducing the basic amount, which will cut the workers benefits such as overtime, retirement and other facilities.”
The basic salary is 56.6% of the existing wage structure but this has been brought down to 51.3%, the economist said, urging to reconsider the amount.
“The government still can set minimum wage at Tk10,000 through political interference,” he said.