The government on Sunday formed minimum wage board to review the wages for the readymade garment workers through the appointment of owners’ and workers’ representatives of the apparel sector to the board.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Md Sidiqur Rahman and Jatiya Shramik League women affairs secretary Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan have been appointed as the owners’ and workers’
representatives respectively to the wage board, state minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque said at a press briefing in Secretariat on Sunday.
He expressed his hope that the new wages for the RMG workers would be announced before ending five years of current wages which were set in 2013.
Mujibul said considering the market prices, inflation and strength of the sector the wage board would recommend a minimum wage for the RMG workers within the six months of its formation.
After getting the recommendation from the board the government would announce the wage structure with necessary scrutiny, the junior minister said.
He said that the appointed owners’ and workers’ representatives of the RMG sector would work with the four-member permanent board headed by senior district judge Syed Aminul Islam.
Others permanent members of the board are: Bangladesh Employers’ Federation representative Kazi Saifuddin Ahmed, workers’ representative Jatiya Shramik League executive president Fazlul Haque Montu and independent member Dhaka University professor Kamal Uddin.
‘It’s a good practice that the BGMEA had requested the government this year to form the wage board to review the wages of the workers as the factory owners realised that there should be a new wage structure for workers,’ Mujibul said.
He said it was difficult task to finalise the name of workers’ representatives to the wage board and the ministry held several meetings with the labour leaders to this end.
Responding to a question, the junior minister said he was not aware whether the newly appointed RMG workers’ representative had any trade union affiliation, but she was well known to the workers in Gazipur and Tongi industrial belt.
Earlier, the government formed wage board for the RMG workers following workers’ unrest but this year BGMEA proposed government to form the board so that workers did not take to the street for increase in wages, the BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman said.
He urged workers and labour leaders to remain alert so that no quarters could provoke them to go for unrest during the board’s functioning.
Former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry AK Azad said the country’s RMG sector has been passing through a critical time as competitor countries have been garbing the market share of Bangladesh.
‘If any labour unrest take place in the country the RMG sector would be ruined as we are facing challenges in the global market due to lack of basic raw materials, deep sea port and poor infrastructure,’ he said.
Azad alleged that some trade union organisations were trying to create unrest in the RMG sector.
On November 8, last year, the BGMEA sent a letter to the labour ministry requesting review of the existing wages of workers and formation of a minimum wage board to uplift the image of the sector at home and abroad.
The issue was discussed in the cabinet meeting presided over by prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her Tejgaon office on November 20.
Following Rana Plaza building collapse in April 24, 2013 that killed more than 1,100 people, mostly garment workers, the government was under constant pressure from the national and international community to take a measure to review the wages for RMG workers.
In December 2013, a minimum wage board set the lowest wage for garment workers at Tk 5,300 which was earlier Tk 3,000 and set in July 2010.
There are around 4,500 export oriented RMG units with 44 lakh workers, mostly located in Dhaka, Ashulia, Narayangonj, Gazipur and Chittagong.
Several labour organisations, however, denounced the government decision for selecting Jatiya Shramik League leader Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan as workers’ representative in the newly formed minimum wage board.
Garment Shramik Karmachari League claimed that the selection was clear violation of labour law as it says that no one except workers’ representatives can be a member of wage board.
‘Shamsunnahar was never represented workers and she still doesn’t,’ said a press release issued by Garment Shramik Karmachari League.
Bangladesh Garment Shramik Federation in another press release said, ‘Shamsunnahar was picked up as a representative of workers in the wage board formed in 2010. She, however, never belonged to the workers and she still doesn’t.’
Jago Bangladesh Garments Shramic Federation in a statement, received in Dhaka on Sunday night, said, ‘We call for immediate withdrawal of the name of Shamsunnahar from the wage board and urge the government to include somebody, who would earnestly represent the working class.’