The government is expected to announce today a revised wage structure for apparel workers of grades 3, 4 and 5, in efforts to quell the labour unrest that has affected production in the country's largest forex-earning sector.
At an emergency meeting yesterday, the 20-member crisis management committee formed to resolve the matter agreed in principle to increase the basic pay in those grades.
The decision came four days after the tripartite committee was formed, as the protest entered its seventh day after Friday's holiday break.
“I hope the government will announce the adjustment of the basic pay in grades 3, 4 and 5 tomorrow [today] as agreed by all stakeholders in principle,” FBCCI President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin told reporters after the meeting at the labour and employment ministry.
Ministry Secretary Afroza Khan chaired the meeting, also attended by the commerce secretary, union leaders and law enforcers.
However, Mohiuddin declined to provide details of the adjustments to the wage structure.
There were major problems in grades 3, 4 and 5 out of the seven grades. But now, workers will not get less gross salary as the issue has been “properly addressed,” he said.
Asked, the FBCCI chief said a fresh gazette notification was not necessary for the adjustment to take effect.
“We sought adequate security from the government so that owners can open their factories without fear,” he said.
After the meeting, two representatives from the owner's association said their biggest worry was possible cancellation of work orders and the high cost of air shipment.
More than 100 factories have been affected so far by the unrest, said Siddiqur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
In some factories, production fell due to the weeklong protest. This needs to be resolved immediately, he said.
“We have been demanding a review of the basic pay for all grades. But the committee agreed to adjust only the pay for grades 3, 4 and 5 as major “mistakes” occurred in those while fixing the wages,” said Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation, who is also on the government-formed committee.
He feared that today's announcement may not bring complete normalcy in the sector.
“We have been asking the workers to go back to their workplaces as the government assured us of reviewing the wage in those grades, but they are not listening,” Amin said.
Asked if it was due to the weakness of the union leadership, he said there were indeed some problems in the leadership. “We cannot say that we have control everywhere in labour leadership. There are some problems in our organisations.”
Sirajul Islam Rony, a union leader and a former workers' representative to the wage board, echoed Amin's view.
“In many factories, workers returned to work. But in many places, they are still protesting. There are some misunderstandings among workers and labour leaders. The workers are going beyond our control,” he told The Daily Star by phone.
Montu Ghosh, president of Garment Workers Trade Union Centre, said they requested the committee to increase the basic pay for all grades keeping in mind the expectation of the workers.
Workers continued their demonstration yesterday, vandalising at least 20 vehicles and 25 garment factories in different areas.
They also blocked different roads in the capital, Ashulia and Gazipur for hours causing traffic gridlock.
The protest began on January 6 over the wage gap.
In September last year, the government raised the minimum monthly wage for RMG workers by around 51 percent to Tk 8,000 from Tk 5,300. The new wage took effect in December.
But when workers drew their pay in January, they found a huge disparity, triggering the agitation.
On the third day of the protest, the government assured the workers of addressing the discrimination in a month. The workers, however, refused to leave the streets.
“We don't believe in assurances. We want implementation,” said Momin Miah, who works at Alfa Knitting Wear at the capital's Shewrapara, while demonstrating in the area yesterday.
In Ashulia, workers vandalised at least 20 vehicles while demonstrating at different points of Dhaka-Tangail highway for about three hours since 9:00am.
At least 15 workers were hurt as police charged batons and used water cannons to disperse them.
A number of passengers were also injured when workers threw brick chunks randomly at vehicles.
Workers of at least 35 factories in Savar and Ashulia joined yesterday's protest, said Sana Shaminur Rahman, superintendent of Dhaka Industrial Police-1.
Eight platoons of Border Guard Bangladesh were deployed in the areas.
In the capital, workers vandalised at least five garment factories at north Ibrahimpur, Mirpur-14 and Kochukhet in the morning.
Workers also blocked roads at Technical Intersection near Bangla College, Mirpur-14 and Shewrapara.
In Tongi, workers vandalised at least nine factories in the morning. Five people were detained in this connection, said a Rab official.
Meanwhile, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia yesterday warned against creating anarchy centring on the protests.
“No one will be allowed to create anarchy over protests. Anyone or any quarter trying to capitalise on the situation will be brought to book,” he said, adding that intelligence agencies have already been asked to look into it.