The garment factory owners’ representative to the minimum wage board for reviewing wages of readymade garment workers on Monday proposed Tk 6,360 as minimum monthly wage while workers’ representative to the board proposed Tk 12,020.
In the wage proposal, the owners made an increase of Tk 1,060 from the existing minimum wage of Tk 5,300 which was set almost five years ago.
Trade unions in the garment sector rejected both the proposals as ‘inhuman and unjust’ and reiterated their demand for setting Tk 16,000 as minimum wage.
Severely criticising factory owners for their wage proposal, union leaders said that their proposal indicated that they did not consider workers as human beings.
The union leaders also claimed that the amount proposed by the workers’ representative was a clear signal that she made the proposal under pressure from the government and the factory owners.
In the third meeting of the minimum wage board held at the board’s Topkhana Road office in Dhaka, the owners’ representative to the board Md Siddiqur Rahman proposed Tk 6,360 as minimum wage that included basic pay of Tk 3,600, basic pay’s 40 per cent as house rent, Tk 300 as medical allowance, Tk 240 as travel allowance and Tk 780 as food allowance.
He said that they considered many factors, including cost of production, productivity, price of products and inflation, before coming up with the proposal.
In his written proposal, Siddiq, also president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said that along with the minimum wage, a worker of the lowest grade in the RMG sector could earn Tk 1,560 per month through overtime duty and at least Tk 400 as attendance bonus.
Unskilled and untrained workers get appointment in grade seven and they damage machines and fabrics for gaining skill, he added.
Proposing Tk 12,020 as minimum wage, workers’ representative to the board Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan said, ‘Although it is not possible for the workers to lead a decent life with the amount, I made the proposal considering the current situation of the country and several sectors’ minimum wages that were set recently.’
Shamsunnahar said that that she had discussed with trade unions over the minimum wage issue and most of the trade union federations demanded Tk 16,000 while two federations demanded Tk 18,000.
‘I did not make any commitment to the trade unions that Tk 16,000 would be proposed as minimum wage. I am involved with a big political party and a labour organisation. Considering all things, we need to set an implementable wage for the workers,’ she said.
‘We do not want to set such an amount which would make our workers jobless,’ Shamsunnahar added.
Syed Aminul Islam, chairman of the board, told reporters that the board would set the date of next meeting after completing some internal works on the proposals received from the representatives of workers and owners.
The board, he said, would collect data on productivity, inflation and some other issues from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics to analyse the proposals.
Aminul Islam said that the board would like to adopt a unanimous wage proposal for the RMG sector, which would be completed within the shortest possible time.
Replying to a question, he said that the board had already sent a letter to the labour ministry seeking extension of the board by three months (up to mid-November) and the board would finalise the minimum wage by that time.
Labour rights groups, meanwhile, staged demonstrations in front of the wage board office rejecting both the wage proposals.
Demanding Tk 16,000 as minimum wage, IndustriAll Bangladesh Council said that rights of workers were violated in the wage board as the government had appointed the workers’ representative to the board from outside the RMG sector.
Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre said that the factory owners’ proposal proved that they did not care about the lives of workers.
GWTUC leaders termed the wage proposals as a farce as they alleged that the government and the owners were trying to stage a joint drama in the name of fixing wages for garment workers.
Garments Sramik Sanghati claimed that the workers’ representative to the board had promised to propose Tk 16,000 as minimum wage but she breached her promise.
The organisation termed the owners’ proposal as inhuman and unjust.
Rejecting the proposals, Garment Shramik Odhikar Andolan, a platform of 12 labour organisations, will announce protests through a press conference today at Nirmal Sen Auditorium in the city.
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