Garment makers call for fresh wage board
Garment makers have called for a fresh wage board for recommending a salary hike for workers with a view to quelling any outbreak of unrest in the sector.
The last pay hike was in December 2013, and the next one is due in December next year.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufac-turers and Exporters Association's proactive stance comes as every year a section of the workers' leaders agitate the workers and get them to stage demonstrations to drive home their demand for a salary hike.
For instance, last December a section of the workers took to the streets and rampaged the factories at Ashulia and Savar, said BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman.
“The workers were agitated by some workers' leaders although they knew that the salary is hiked every five years.”
The BGMEA's request for formation of the wage board, which came by way of a letter last week to the labour ministry, will carry a message that the government is working to hike the salaries.
“And hopefully, they will not start demonstrating again,” he said, adding that the garment makers did not recommend any specific percentage of salary hike in the letter.
Nazma Akter, president of Sommilito Garments Sromik Federation, a workers' platform, demanded that the minimum wage be raised to Tk 16,000 from existing Tk 5,300.
“The prices of basic commodities increased in the local market, so the wage should also be hiked to this level,” she added.
On the other hand, Sirajul Islam Rony, the workers' representative in the last wage board, said the minimum wage should be Tk 10,000 to Tk 11,000.
“Our target is to double the current wage as inflation increased over the last four years.”
The minimum wages for garment workers were fixed at Tk 3,000 in 2010, up from Tk 1,662.50 in 2006, Tk 940 in 1994 and Tk 627 in 1985, when the garment sector was brought under the government's formal wage structure.
Inflation has been on the rise in recent months on the back of spiralling prices of rice, a key determinant of overall inflation as it accounts for 23 percent of the commodity basket in the consumer price index.
Food inflation fell 25 basis points to 7.62 percent last month after reaching a 38-month high of 7.87 percent in September.
In recent months, rice prices rose to record highs, reflecting the dwindling supplies following flood-induced losses to the main boro crop coupled with reduced production and imports in 2016.
This time, at least one lakh workers employed in the washing and dyeing units will finally come under the formal wage structure.
If the current number of workers in the garment sector is 4.4 million, the proposed board would recommend salary hike for 5.4 million workers, including those in the washing and dyeing units, according to Rony.
The union leaders are yet submit their proposal to the labour ministry.
Mujibul Haque Chunnu, state minister for labour and employment, could not be reached over telephone despite repeated attempts.