Friday, April 19, 2019

Govt to review garment worker wage amid protests

  • Staff Correspondent
    Published: 2019-01-08 19:44:24 BdST


The government is going to commission a 12-strong panel to review the wage of garment workers and take measures in a month amid labour protests in Dhaka.

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi made the announcement after a meeting between garment factory owners and labour leaders on Tuesday.

The new minister urged the workers to “refrain from causing disorder in the street and return to work”.

The committee will comprise five owner representatives, as many from the workers and the secretaries to commerce and labour.

The RMG workers hit the streets in Dhaka on Sunday blocking key Airport Road for hours amid the process to form the new government over several demands, including implementation of the new wage structure announced one and a half months ago.

The labour and employment ministry called the meeting as the protests continued for the third day on Tuesday.

Besides Munshi and representatives of the workers and owners, law enforcers also attended the meeting chaired by Monnujan Sufian, who has been brought back to the government as the state minister for labour and employment.

“We will solve the problems, if there is any, with wage through discussions within a month,” Munshi said.

No worker would be paid less in January, he said. If someone’s pay drops due to wage grade, it will be readjusted and paid as arrear, according to the minister.

The government on Nov 25 last year gazetted the new wage structure for RMG workers setting Tk 8,000 as the minimum monthly pay. It ordered the garment factories to implement the new structure from Dec 1.

Different leftist workers’ groups have demanded that the minimum wage for garment workers be raised to Tk 16,000. They have also been organising programmes like rallies for the demand for months.

Md Mujibul Haque Chunnu, the then state minister for labour and employment, had said there had been attempts to create unrest by giving different types of explanations though the minimum wage of around 4 million workers in the sector was raised by 51 percent.

The law enforcers also beefed up monitoring so that no-one can take political advantage from the unrest before vote.

After the election, the workers started protest alleging the owners were not paying them as per the new wage board. They also alleged different forms of injustice.

Tipu Munshi speaking at a press conference on the Dhaka International Trade Fair on Tuesday. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

Tipu Munshi speaking at a press conference on the Dhaka International Trade Fair on Tuesday. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

Like the outgoing state minister for labour, the new commerce minister also thinks that “outsiders” were influencing the current unrest.

“The workers are being misled,” he said and asked them not to pay heed to rumours. But he warned them that any more “action against the industry” after Tuesday’s announcement will be dealt with a “tough response”.

“You must keep in mind that owners and workers are like the two tyres of a bicycle. They must go ahead together,” he added.

Munshi, a former president of the garment exporters’ body BGMEA who owns Sepal Garments, said, “Cybercrimes have started. Leaflets are being distributed online. I’ve seen it before. Such misdeeds are happening after every incident. Everyone must remain alert to these.”

Monnujan said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is a “friend” of the workers. “She herself arranged the rise in workers’ wage. There should not be any more disorder after we have decided to resolve all the problems. Please return to work.”

Bangladesh Textile Garments Workers Federation President Mahbubur Rahman Ismail and National Garments Workers Federation President Amirul Haque Amin also urged the workers to get back to work.

BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman, FBCCI President SHafiul Islam Mohiuddin, BGMEA leader Abdus Salam Murshedy and Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia, among others, attended the meeting.