Workers of readymade garment factories yesterday staged demonstrations in Dhaka, rejecting the government's decision of fixing their minimum monthly wage at Tk 8,000.
They demanded a minimum monthly wage of Tk 16,000 instead of Tk 8,000 for the 4.4 million garment workers during the demonstration in front of the Jatiya Press Club in the capital.
Over a hundred workers, led by Garments Sramik Trade Union Kendra, staged a sit-in at around 11:30am blocking a side of the two-way road and halting traffic movement on the road for half an hour.
The workers' leaders said they would announce tougher programmes if the government does not meet their demand soon.
Later, they brought out a procession chanting slogans, which ended at Naya Paltan intersection.
The government on Thursday raised the minimum monthly wage for the garment workers by around 51 percent to Tk 8,000 from the existing Tk 5,300, with effect from December this year.
Md Mujibul Haque Chunnu, state minister for labour and employment, announced this at a press briefing at his secretariat office after the fifth and final meeting of the wage board formed in January.
Expressing solidarity with the workers' demand, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) President Mujahidul Islam Selim said the minimum salary of garment workers should be Tk 21,000, considering the price hike of daily necessities. Even then, workers are demanding Tk 16,000, he said.
He said it is not acceptable that the gross salary of a sweeper at a government office is Tk 17,000, while minimum wage of a skilled garment worker is Tk 8,000.
Speaking at the rally, Joly Talukdar, general secretary of Garments Sramik Trade Union Kendra, said the current government is an owner-friendly government.
He said the government should accept the demand of the over 40 lakh workers, rejecting the demand of only 5,500 garment owners.
Garments Sramik Front, Bangladesh Garments Sramik Sanghati and Garments Sramik Adhikar Andolan, a platform of 12 organisations, staged demonstrations over the same issue and held separate rallies in front of the Jatiya Press Club at the same time.
Julhas Babu, general secretary of Bangladesh Garments Sramik Sanghati, said revenue-earning through exporting goods has increased 25 percent in the last five years, raising questions how the owners of the government are claiming that they are not capable to meet the demand of Tk 16,000.
He warned the government and garment owners that they will otherwise be liable for any untoward situation.
Socialist Party of Bangladesh, Ganosamhati Andolon, Garments Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad (G-SKOP), Garments Sramik Front and Bangladesh Sanjukta Garments Sramik Federation, among other orgaisations, also rejected the minimum wage set by the government.
Meanwhile, addressing a discussion of Garments Shramik Samannay Parishad (GSSP) in the city, Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan said if owners of RMG factories look after workers' interests and wellbeing, tensions in the sector will be reduced while production will be increased significantly.
The minister, also the convener of GSSP, said the owners have to ensure that workers are getting wages and festival bonuses on time.
“Many factories are well capable of paying higher salaries to workers,” he said, adding if the workers get additional money they will work happily.
Responding to a query, the minister said defying the announced wage structure would only create scope to agitate the workers, but not help resolve the problems.
At the discussion, worker leaders demanded to reconsider the wage structure and fix it at Tk 16,000, and urged the government to monitor the sector so that owners cannot deprive workers.