DESPITE inking a deal in December last year for a new wage board in the readymade garments sector, according to Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers' Association (BGMEA)'s own estimates, 38 per cent of factories in Dhaka district and some 60 per cent of factories in Chittagong have not implemented the new minimum wage. The bad news does not end there. According to unions, some 5,000 workers have lost their jobs due to agitation and factory owners have been pressing the existing labour force to accept old wages. We find the whole situation very ironic since the RMG sector has received a stimuli package from government that has led to rescheduling of bank loans and lowering of interest rates.
With the ministry taking a backseat on action despite warning from industrial police that lack of implementation of the new wage board may create friction, it is hardly surprising to see ad-hoc layoffs taking place in some factories. We are perplexed as to why the relevant authorities, particularly ministry of industry, are so laid back about the situation. The whole idea of creating a roadmap for wage implementation was to avoid any further labour unrest in the country. Needless to say, with BGMEA having availed itself of different types of benefits as part of the bailout package to offset losses sustained during the recent political unrest, the body must take responsibility for errant factories. Surely, the time is ripe for the formation of a committee comprising government, factory owners and labour unions to oversee smooth implementation of the wage board.