Of the new wages, 63% of it will basic pay, while the new minimum wage will be effective from January 2024
State Minister for Labour and Employment Munnujan Sufian on Tuesday announced that the new minimum wage for the readymade garment (RMG) workers has been set at Tk12,500, after obtaining approval from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
She also urged the garment owners to open the factories and agitating workers to rejoin work at their respective factories.
Of the new wages, 63% of it will be basic pay. The new minimum wage will be effective from January, with their December wages.
In the next 14 days, a gazette regarding the new wages will be issued, she also said.
The new minimum wage is higher than the previous entry-level RMG workers’ wages of Tk8,000 that was set in 2018.
Earlier in the day, the RMG factory owners hiked their wage proposal to Tk12,500 from previous Tk10,400 per month during the sixth meeting of the Minimum Wages Board.
However, the workers’ representative persisted with the previous demand for Tk20,393.
Both parties agreed to lower the existing grade structure from 7 to 5.
The state minister also said that the owners should look kindly to the workers.
“Industry is your life, but if this industry closes you will suffer first, the owner will suffer later,” she told the workers.
She also said that the wages had been set through discussions with the chairman of the board, workers and owners’ representatives and the directives of the Prime Minister.
She also said that the basic wages will be increased by 56.25% while the 5% increment remains.
The Prime Minister said that family cards will be prescribed for RMG working families through the rationing system and will be introduced for the RMG workers, she added.
“The wheels of the economy are with you, don’t let the wheels come to a stop,” she urged the workers.
Sirajul Islam Rony, the workers’ representative to the Minimum Wages Board, said that the workers were neither happy nor sorrowful over the decision.
“We have accepted it due to various circumstances and we have expectations from the Prime Minister. We have some demands, which we expect should be clarified during the gazette,” he added.
He also said that they have to take actions that align with reality, including the conditions of the workers and the capacity of the sector.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given directives on wages and workers think it will be in a fair condition to enable them to survive in the current global context.
Md Siddiqur Rahman, former president of the BGMEA and owners’ representative on the wage board, said that the owner is always tolerant.
“When the workers indulge in vandalizing before the owners, we never take action against our workers,” he added.
Earlier, Faruque Hassan, president of the BGMEA, said that they will accept any amount as the minimum wages which the board fixes.
However, the figure was immediately rejected by unions, which have been demanding a Tk23,000 minimum wage.
Various unions said that their members have been hard hit by persistent inflation, which in October reached nearly 10%, and a cost-of-living crisis partly triggered by the taka depreciating about 30% against the US dollar since early last year.
Awaj Foundation Executive Director Nazma Akhter said that the unions and workers are “utterly disappointed” over the new wage.
“In 2018, the wage was $95 per month. If the last five years’ increment is calculated, the amount is in fact far less than what it should be,” she added, saying that the factory owners have surely benefitted through this owing to the dollar exchange rate.
She urged the factory owners and the prime minister to revise the minimum wage for RMG workers once more for the sake of their survival and livelihood amid rising living costs due to inflation.
Amirul Haque Amin, president of the IndustriAll Bangladesh Council (IBC), told Dhaka Tribune that the basic pay fixed at the new wage board is acceptable for them.
“However, we asked for more gross wages as per the current economic situation. It would be better if the gross wages would have been fixed at more than Tk13,000 per month,” he added.
However, the prime minister is always worker-friendly and she has a soft corner for the RMG workers, he went on to say, adding that they are hopeful the prime minister will consider the demand and will revise the wage.
Kolpona Akter, head of Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, said that this is unacceptable and below their expectations.
Hundreds of workers staged an angry protest just yards from the Labour Ministry after the announcement, she added.
Bangladesh Garment Workers Trade Union Center also rejected this announcement and called for a reconsideration of the demand for the minimum wage to be fixed at Tk25,000.
“We are rejecting the announcement of setting wages at Tk12,500 for the garment workers and urge the government to reconsider our demand. We will hold a rally next Friday to register our protest against the announcement,” Jolly Talukder, vice president of the union, told Dhaka Tribune.
Earlier, on April 9 this year, the Ministry of Labour and Employment formed the wage board comprising four permanent members, headed by Senior District Judge Liaquat Ali Mollah, to review the pay of RMG employees.
Source: Dhaka Tribune.