Published in Dhaka Tribune on January 14, 2018
Photo: Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune
The board will set new wages for the RMG sector within six months
The government has formed a new wage board for the RMG sector to formulate a new wage structure for apparel workers.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu made the announcement in his office in the capital on Sunday.
In 2013, aftermath of the Rana Plaza incident, the then minimum wage board set Tk5,300 as minimum wage with a basic of Tk3,000 for entry-level garment workers with a 5% yearly increment on the basic.
“Trade union leaders were making demands for a new wage board. Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) also urged the government to form new wage board for the sector,” said Mujibul.
BGMEA has set an example by urging the government to form new wage board officially, he said.
Considering the demand from both sides, the government has decided to form a new board, the state minister said.
The board will be led by Senior District Judge Syed Aminul Islam as chairman. BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman and Women’s Affairs Secretary of Jatiya Sramik League Shamsun Nahar Bhuiyan will represent the owners and workers respectively.
Kazi Safiuddin Ahmed of Employers Federation, Fazlul Haque Montu and Kamal Uddin, a professor of Dhaka University, will remain as independent members of the board.
As per the law, the new board has to finalize a new wage structure for the sector within six months after taking into consideration prices of essentials and other expenses of the workers.
State Minister Chunnu said it was very tough to select a workers’ representative in the board.
“But after receiving the official call from the BGMEA, the Labour Ministry spoke to stakeholders. Since over 75% workers are women, the government selected Shamsun Nahar as a workers’ representative, who will protect workers interest as she was a wage board member in 2010,” he said.
After having a wide discussion with the stakeholders, the board will recommend a new wage structure based on the inflation rate, living costs, present status of the economy and also on the capacity of sector, he added.
“We will set a wage for the workers considering the living cost and inflation rate and based on the capacity of the industry, a perfect wage structure will be declared after having a discussion with stakeholders,” said Mujibul.
“I think, RMG sector is the driver of Bangladesh economy. We will try to come up with a perfect salary structure,” BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman said.
“If we can set a salary structure based on the industry’s capacity, there will be no necessity for demos and it would be better for the industry,” said Siddiqur.
In the aftermath of Rana Plaza, the apparel industry is on its way to restoring its lost image, the business leader said.
“The industry people and the government should be very cautious so that no one can provoke workers over the wage issue,” he added.
“For garment workers, it is very tough to meet basic needs with the existing minimum wage. The house rent and prices of commodity keep going up. My focus will be to ensure a wage that can help meet our basic needs and then some to spare,” Shamsun Nahar Bhuiyan told the Dhaka Tribune.
“We will need to consider the inflation rate, living expenses in the factory area and the wage structure of neighbouring countries,” said Shamsun.
“It will only be possible when I am able to make factory owners understand the benefits of better payment for workers,” she added.
“But there are challenges for me as I do not have enough data, which may weaken the argument. I think I will be able to do as there are some organisation working on the issues, she added.