Sunday, October 20, 2019

Bangladesh to readjust three grades in wage structure for apparel workers

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2019-01-11 00:56:56 BdST

The government will readjust three grades in the wage structure for readymade garment workers after a review, the labour and employment secretary has said.

There were no issues with grades one, two, six and seven but ‘some observations’ about grades three, four and five, Afroza Khan told reporters after the first meeting of a committee to review the wage board on Thursday.

The committee took these observations into consideration and would sit on Sunday for “deeper analysis” to find out ways to readjust the grades, she added.

The government formed the 12-strong committee headed by Afroza on Wednesday to review the wage board after days of worker unrest in Dhaka and nearby industrial hubs Savar, Ashulia, Gazipur and Narayanganj.

Commerce Secretary Md Mofizul Islam, five representatives of the workers and as many of the owners are members of the committee.

They held the meeting at the Secretariat in Dhaka after another meeting with State Minister for Labour and Employment Monnujan Sufian.

“Please keep faith in the government. It is a new government. It has always favoured the workers,” Afroza said to workers. 

“We have taken the workers’ issue seriously. But we need the least possible time to finish the job. We urge our worker brothers and sisters to give us the time,” she added.  

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 be raised to Tk 16,000 considering the hike in commodity prices. They have also been organising programmes like rallies over the demand for months.

Amid the process to form the new government after the Dec 30 elections, the workers started protesting against the new wage board by blocking the key Airport Road on Jan 6.

They alleged the workers in some grades of the new wage board are facing inequalities. 

The monthly pay of the grades three, four and five workers have increased over 40 percent, according to the new wage structure.

The protesters say the basic salary of the grade three workers is supposed to be Tk 5,204 following the law that stipulates 5 percent annual rise in salary of the RMG workers but the new wage board has set it at Tk 5,160.

Beside the “Tk 44 less pay” for grade three workers, they protested against the rise by “only Tk 79 for grade four workers and Tk 164 for grade five workers” while the salary of new workers under grade seven has increased by Tk 2,700.

The protesters claim that the mid-level workers work more than the others but the lower-grade workers’ salary has increased more, the labour secretary said.

She urged the owners to consider the demand of the mid-level workers at their factories.

A worker will not get less in the new wage structure than what they were being paid earlier, Afroza added.

Like Monnujan, her predecessor Md Mujibul Haque Chunnu and Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, Afroza suspects “a third party was trying to destroy the sector” which contributes most to Bangladesh’s exports.