After massive protests, and some of the Bangladesh’s biggest rallies in history for the 8000BDT minimum wage for garment workers; the Minimum Wage Board 2013 declared its suggestion for 5300BDT as the minimum wage decided on a 4 to 2 majority with the agreement of the worker representative in the wage board and also with the rejection of the garment owner’s representative. Since this declaration, there has been massive rejections and arguments laid against this minimum wage by activists, NGOs, academicians along with other worker leaders, trade unions and even the garment owners.
Garment owner’s staged a walkout in protest against the minimum wage of 5300BDT, saying that they are incapable of giving this amount as the minimum wage, and if this is forced upon them then many of the factories will close. They further reminded the government about their contribution to the economy, and how it would suffer if the garment factories close down. They complained that buyers only look for cheap products and they will go to new destinations in search of cheap labor.
Workers’ representatives had earlier sought a minimum wage of Tk 8,000, they later scaled down the sum to Tk 6,000, and Tk 5,500 before and finally agreeing to to Tk 5,300. On the other hand, the garment owners’ primary offer of minimum wage was Tk 3,600, which they raised to 4,250 later.
“Owners remained unyielding on their proposal of a minimum wage of Tk 4,250. I was compelled to have the issue resolved through votes in line with the minimum wage rules-1961,” said Mr. AK Roy, district judge AK Roy, independent member and Chairman of the Minimum Wage Board 2013.
Although the minimum wage of 5300BDT was agreed upon by the worker’s representative in the board, however later other trade unionists quickly rejected this proposal in separate statements. The proposed minimum wage includes 3,200BDT as basic salary, 1,280BDT as house rent, 320BDT as medical allowance, 200BDT for conveyance and 300BDT as food subsidy. IT must also be noted that these two new headings increase the overall wage, however take away the weight from “basic salary”, and as overtime payment depends solely on basic salary – thus the garment worker’s suffer from a big financial loss. Most garment workers earn the biggest part of their income through their long overtime hours.
Garment Sramik Oikya Forum President Moshrefa Mishu told that they rejected this minimum wage. We stick to our demand for 8,000BDT as the lowest remuneration. She announced that their movement for realising the demand would continue.
Bangladesh Textile Garments Sramik Federation termed the wage ‘unacceptable’. Its President Mahbubur Raman Ismail and General Secretary Saidul Islam alleged in a statement that the Wage Board decision had been influenced by the factory owners.
Garment Sramik Trade Union Kendra Joint General Secretary Jolly Talukder in a separate statement said: “The demand for Tk 8,000 as the minimum wage would be realised through a strong movement.”
Another workers’ leader, Tapan Saha, said the workers’ expectations had not been reflected in the new wage proposal. He demanded that transport and food allowances be included in the wage.
Garment Sramik Karmachari League President Lima Ferdousi said wage “could in no way be less than Tk 8,000”.
Garment Sramik Oikya Parisad demanded a review of the recommendation.
Two Left parties – the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal (BaSad) – in a joint statement described the proposed minimum wage as “unacceptable”, saying the workers “would not accept this decision.”
The statement, signed by CPB President Mujahidul Islam Selim and BaSad General Secretary Khalequzzman, said Tk 8,000 was the minimum the workers needed to survive.
Ganasanghati Andolon Chief Coordinator Zonaid Saki in another statement said they would be with the workers in their movement to achieve their demand.
National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) President Amirul Haque Amin said the authorities concerned should revise upward the minimum wage to 8114BDT for the wake of the workers and the industry. In his statement he rejected the 5300BDT wage structure calling it inaccurate with loopholes, he mentioned that it will ultimately affect the poor workers.
Nazma Akter of SGSF highlighted the fact that wage increase did not occur proportionately for all the grades, rather only for the helpers while operators making about 75% of the workforce and who are considered the backbone of the garment sector did not get their wages increased equally. She also mentioned that overtime rates depend on the basic wage, thus as basic wage is not increased enough, therefore the overtime rates will not increase, and garment workers earn most through their overtime hours.
She further mentioned how garment owner’s have always pressurized the government with their unfair demands and forced it to submit to them.
Mr. Abul Hossain, President of Bangladesh Textile-Garments Workers Federation warned that if their one point demand is not met within the next 13 days left out of 15 days for the wage board to reconsider their proposal, they will go out together with all other garment worker federations on a tougher protest.
Currently the Minimum Wage in Bangladesh compares like this to the world:
The proposed 5300BDT would mean = 67 USD
The demand of 8000BDT, if met, would mean = 102 USD