Apparel workers continued demonstration for wage hike at Savar and Ashulia, on the outskirts of Dhaka, in Gazipur and capital’s Mirpur for the fifth consecutive day on Thursday despite call for joining work.
The labour unrest forced to shut at least 100 factories at the industrial belts as the workers continued demonstration since Saturday to press home their demand.
The government-formed committee on review of the newly announced wage structure for the readymade garment workers on Thursday, however, said they thought the wage structure was not the only reason for the recent labour unrest in the RMG sector, rather ‘conspiracy’ of a quarter instigated the unrest.
‘We think wage structure is not the sole issue for the ongoing labour unrest. There might be some other issues involved as there are some factories in which the workers received higher amount than wage structure but the units were vandalized,’ labour secretary and head of the committee Afroza Khan said at a briefing following the meeting of the committee held at Bangladesh Secretariat.
In the press briefing, director general of Industrial police Abdus Salam said that the defeated force of the country was trying to create instability in the RMG sector.
He, however, declined to elaborate his remark.
Moreover, police said several hundred workers from Starling Group garment factories, Sharmin Group’s AM Design, Yagi Group, Maksuda and other factories at Zamgora of Ashulia went out of their factory in the morning.
The agitated workers blocked the busy Dhaka-Tangail highway halting traffic movement for an hour.
At least 20 workers injured as the police charged baton and tear gas shells to disperse the workers from the spot, said witnesses.
Superintendent of Dhaka industrial police Sana Shaminur Rahman said that the workers also pelted stones at the police while they asked them to leave the highway.
At the same time, workers at Kathgora of Ashulia blocked Jirabo-Bishmail road to press for their demand.
At least 10 workers were injured as the police charged baton and fired tear gas shells to disperse them, said workers.
The workers also demanded justice for Sumon Miah, one of their fellow, who was allegedly killed in police firing on Tuesday at Savar during the protest.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Syed Mamun Mustafa said that workers from different factories blocked the road at Shewrapara in the capital and demanded proportionate wage hike.
Witnesses said workers at Kalshi in Mirpur also demonstrated for wage hike.
New Age Gazipur correspondent reported that several hundred workers from different garment factories at Tongi, Vogra, Barabaria and other places demonstrated for wage hike.
Gazipur Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Sharifur Rahman said that the workers tried to block Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway, but police intervened and quickly dispersing them.
Additional police personnel were deployed at the industrial belt to avoid any untoward incident.
The government on November, 2018 announced new minimum wage of apparel workers in the seventh grade to Tk 8,000 from Tk 5,300. Workers alleged that the wages in other grades did not increase proportionately and they took to the street rejecting the new wage structure.
The government on Tuesday formed the committee comprised of the representatives of the government, garment factory owners and labour leaders amid unrest in the industry.
The committee was asked to submit the recommendations through reviewing the wage structure within one month.
Citing the observation of the committee, labour secretary said that the increase of basic wages of RMG workers in grade 3, 4 and 5 were not at an expected level and the committee would resolve the issue soon.
‘We would not take one month. The committee will sit again on Sunday to scrutinize the wage structure as there arose a necessity of adjusting the basic wages of 3rd, 4th and 5th grades in line with the increase in other grades,’ Afroza said.
She requested the workers to join works and said that the wage-related issues would be resolved within a very short time.
Labour secretary assured that the wages of the workers would not be decreased, rather they would be increased.
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Md Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Md Siddiqur Rahman, former BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedy, IndustriALL Bangladesh Council secretary general Salahuddin Shapon and former IBC president Amirul Haque Amin, among others were present at the meeting.
According to new wage order, minimum wage was fixed for RMG workers at Tk 8000, which was earlier Tk 5,300.
Under the wage structure, a grade 7 worker will get Tk 8,000 including basic Tk 4,100 per month.
A 6th grade worker would get monthly gross wage of Tk 8,405 including basic Tk 4,370, a 5th grader Tk 8,855 including basic Tk 4,670, a 4th grader Tk 9,345 including basic Tk 4,930, a 3rd grader Tk 9,590, including basic Tk 5,160 per month.
A 2nd grader would get Tk 14,630 gross wage including basic wage Tk 8,520 and a 1st grader Tk 17,510 including basic wage Tk 10,440.
Labour research organisation, Bangladesh Shrama Institute found that according to the new wage structure, basic wage for a beginner was increased Tk 272, for a 6th grader Tk 196, for a 5th grader Tk 164, for a 4th grader Tk 79.
Basic wage for third grader saw a reduction of Tk 42, for second grader a reduction of Tk 414, while basic wage for first grader saw a reduction of Tk 409.
Bangladesh Shrama Institute trustee Ghulam Murshed said that reduction of basic meant reduction of all other benefits including overtime, festival, attendance, service allowances as well as gratuity.
Workers’ representative at Garment Workers’ Wage Board Shamsun Nahar Bhyuiyan admitted to New Age that there were some disparities in the newly framed wage structure declared by the government.
‘Particularly wage of 3rd and 4th grades was not increased up commensurate with 7th grade wage increase for there was not enough time to discuss the matter,’ she said.
She also said that the board gave more emphasis on minimum wage (7th grade) and had no time to analyse other six grades.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association additional secretary Monsur Khaled said that to avoid untoward incidents management decided to shut down 102 garment units for the day.
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