RMG workers demand Tk 5,000 minimum wage
Garment workers yesterday announced a month-long peaceful agitation programme to press home their five-point demand, including a minimum wage of Tk 5,000.
The leaders of Bangladesh Garment Workers' Unity Council at their national convention in Dhaka also demanded the right to trade unionism, amendment to the labour laws, cancellation of the government's decision to form industrial police, and ration.
The existing minimum wage for the readymade garment (RMG) workers is Tk 1,662.50, which was set in 2006.
Meanwhile, the cost of living has increased by two times, said the speakers at the programme at National Press Club.
The garment workers will form human chain, and hold seminar and discussion as part of their 27-day agitation programme that begins today.
They also threatened with tougher movement if their demands are not met by July 27.
A nutritionist at the convention said a person needs at least 3,400 kilocalories a day to remain physically fit.
"The workers cannot afford it as around Tk 7,000 per month is needed to meet such a calorie intake," said Dr Wazedul Islam, coordinator of Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad, another platform of workers.
The worker leaders said the recent labour unrest took place as the workers in the RMG sector do not have any access to trade unionism.
In absence of trade unions, the workers cannot express their frustration or anger in case of sudden closure of their factories, exploitation and over their outstanding wages, they said.
This compels the workers to go for street agitation to press home their demands, they added.
If the government relaxes the ban on the activities of the trade unions in the RMG sector, labour unrest will ease to a certain extent, said many workers.
The labour leaders said some of the clauses of the labour law go against the workers' interest. So the law should be amended, they said.
In the existing labour law, there is no clause regarding compensations for the workers in case of a relocation of a garment unit from Dhaka to other cities, they added.
There is also a provision in the law to terminate the workers with minimum compensation, said a garment worker.
The leaders also urged the government not to form industrial police, saying the workers will face more 'torture' in that case.
They demanded the government provide rations for the RMG workers.
"If the law enforcers are entitled to rations, then why not the RMG workers as they contribute around 77 percent to the national export earnings?" questioned Wazedul Islam.
"Let's wait for the Wage Board's recommendations to come out on July 27," said lawmaker Israfil Alam, also the chairman to the parliamentary standing committee on labour and employment.
He also urged the RMG workers to shun destructive activities. "If the garment owners shut down factories, the workers will lose their jobs."
Alam also assured the garment workers of his all-out support to help meet their demands, including that for the minimum wage.
He said a vested interest group was behind the recent labour unrest, and urged the garment workers to be unified.