Washim Mia, Staff Correspondent: Finally, BGMEA, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, has been made its mind to increase the wage of the garment workers by the local or overseas pressure. The association requested Afroja Khan, provisionary labor secretary, through a written letter to form a minimum wage board for the garment workers.
‘In spite of the adverse conditions, to retain the image at home and abroad and keeping the minimum wage revision after five years in line with the provisions of the Labor Act, it is needed to form the minimum wage board for the garment sector’ said BGMEA in the letter.
The sum 5,300 BDT was the latest amount of minimum wage fixation for the RMG sector which had been come into play since December 1, 2013. Basic salary 3 thousand taka, house rent 1200 taka and medical, transportation and food allowances 1100 taka are all the occupants in that very total. Only 3000 taka was fixed as minimum wage before that. Each and every wage formation is defined for five years.
International Labor Organization (ILO), through a report named ‘Minimum wage on World Garment Sector-2015’, has unmasked that now, the minimum wage of Bangladeshi RMG workers is $68, India’s $78, Indonesia’s $92, Pakistan’s $99, Cambodia’s $128 and in Malaysia it’s $225 USD. It’s quite unfortunate for the garment workers of Bangladesh than any other competitive countries in terms of wage. They get lesser than that of others though the workers of Bangladesh have placed their country as the second highest RMG exporter country in the world.
‘We have seen in the past that a self-seeker plump to fan the flame of the workers and try to raise labor unrest on the streets prior to the formation of the remuneration board. That’s why we have requested the Govt. to form a remuneration board to avoid such villainy incidents’ said Siddiqur Rahman, President of BGMEA, on cell phone from Singapore. When asked if there was any pressure, he said, ‘No one has pressed but Industrial Bangladesh Council (IBC) and three other federations appealed in written to increase the minimum wage’.
But some other leaders of the worker federations claimed that the lifestyle of the workers is getting worse for the price hike. If minimum wage is not pushed up within a short period of time, there can be huge labor unrest. Moreover, the pressure of local or international federations is prevailed. For all these, BGMEA has been forced to take a positive step in terms of increasing the minimum wage.
The workers of Ashulia came out on a movement last December demanding wage increment. The owners closed 59 factories down to stop that very movement. Almost 1,500 workers were eliminated from their job. The owners filed nine cases in this context. Many of the workers and leaders had been arrested by the police. This incident flew to the overseas media and unfurled worldwide. By the pressure from ILO, almost 20 brands and buying houses including H&M, GAP, INDITEX requested Hon. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through a letter to ensure labor rights and review the minimum wage.
Soon after the Ashulia incident, the leaders of 12 different worker federations submitted a 7 clauses memorandum to Labor state minister which come across with the demand of 16,000 taka as minimum wage (basic 10,000 taka). Then BGMEA leaders sat with IBC in a meeting in a meeting last month. IBC requested to BGMEA to handle the issue forming a board.
‘At present rice is 60-65 taka per kg and moreover house rent increases in each and every end of the year. The lifestyle of the workers is being harder day by day. If they a have better pay, will have a better life. We have been demanding the increment of the minimum wage in our country since mid of the last year, hopefully, it will work out very soon’ said Taslima Akhter, Vice-President of the garment workers welfare trust.