The BGMEA is taking a hard line on minimum wages for RMG workers.
At a time when various programmes of safety inspections are seeking to take the garment export sector forward, it is short sighted for the industry body to adopt a stance that raises worker discontent.
There has been no national pay increase since the wage board last set the minimum wage at Tk3,000 in 2010. As BGMEA’s proposed 20% wage increase falls clearly short of inflation during the last three years, it inevitably adds to the workforce’s concerns.
Around 10,000 workers blocked the Dhaka-Tangail Highway on Saturday in support of demands for higher wages by unions and associations such as Garments Sramik Samannoy Parishad. This type of unrest can only increase if the BGMEA does not negotiate in a co-operative and rational manner.
Inflation hurts everyone but people on minimum wages feel it the most. It is straightforward for employers to at least build in a commitment to raise salaries, including the minimum wage, by the cost of living increase each year. BGMEA has no justification for not being pro-active in addressing this issue earlier.
Experts have noted before that a low wage model is not sufficient to enable the industry to sustainably compete globally in the long run. Moreover evidence from higher paying factories shows a clear correlation between higher minimum wages and higher rates of productivity and employee retention.
BGMEA members therefore have more to gain by supporting a realistic minimum wage increase for workers than taking a hard line stance.