The government yesterday formed a wage board that will recommend a minimum salary scale for the country's 3.6 million garment workers within six months.
Md Mujibul Haque, state minister for labour and employment, announced the formation of the board at his secretariat office in Dhaka. The constitution of the board aims mainly at averting labour unrest.
Massive demonstrations by hundreds of workers in Ashulia and Savar in December 2016 for a wage hike prompted nearly 100 factory owners to shutter their production units.
The factories were reopened after a negotiation with the labour ministry and trade unions.
“We want the minimum wage to be set at Tk 16,000 or $200 as the prices of basic commodities like rice went up abnormally in the local market,” says Nazma Akter, president of Sammilito Garment Sramik Federation, a garment workers' rights group.
Akter, the workers' representative to the 2006 board, said rice prices went up to Tk 60 and above. House rent also increased a lot earlier. “So, we want a big hike now.”
Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said two workers' rights groups submitted proposals to the BGMEA in writing for taking measures to form the wage board two months ago.
“We immediately suggested that the government form the board to increase the salary of workers,” he told The Daily Star over phone.
The BGMEA sent a proposal to form the wage board to the labour ministry in August last year.
A four-member permanent wage board already exists. Whenever a board is announced afresh, two additional members representing owners and workers are usually included.
The permanent board is led by Senior District Judge Syed Aminul Islam.
The other three members are Kazi Saifuddin Ahmed, labour adviser to the Bangladesh Employers' Federation (owners' representative); Fazlul Haque Montoo, executive president of Awami League's workers front Sramik League (workers' representative); and Kamal Uddin, a teacher of the University of Dhaka (independent member).
The state minister appointed Begum Shamsunnahar, women affairs secretary of Awami League, as workers' representative, and Rahman of the BGMEA as owners' representative as the new members.
The minimum wage was last fixed at Tk 5,300 in 2013, up from Tk 3,000 in 2010, Tk 1,662.50 in 2006, Tk 940 in 1994 and Tk 627 in 1985.