In the new wage structure announced after five years, the government has finalized the wages which are several thousand rupees less than the demands of the workers. A group of garment workers has announced a protest rally in protest.
According to the structure set in 2018, the minimum monthly wage of a garment worker is currently eight thousand taka. Considering the country’s inflation, most of the labor unions demanded a new minimum wage of Tk 23,000. But on Tuesday, the government fixed it at 12 thousand 500 taka.
State Minister for Labor and Employment Begum Mannujan Sufian told reporters at the Secretariat on Tuesday after the meeting of the Wage Board that this wage has been fixed “on the verbal instructions of the Prime Minister”.
In dollar terms, the new wage equals $113, compared to the 2018 wage of $95.
After announcing the wages, the state minister urged the workers to join the work peacefully and said, “If the industry is damaged, the workers will suffer first.”
Most of the trade unions have rejected the new wages announced by the government. Some organizations have also announced a protest program for the demand of 25,000 taka wages next Friday.
However, some organizations consider the government’s new wage structure acceptable considering the ‘real situation’.
Bangladesh has been dealing with high inflation for the past two years.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), food price inflation in the country was over 12.5 percent in August last year, which is almost the highest in a decade. Inflation has increased more in October than in August, according to the data released last Monday.
‘acceptable’ in reality
In the meeting held on October 22, Sirajul Islam Roni, the representative of the labor side in the wage board, proposed a minimum wage of Tk 20,393. Although the wages announced by the government are much lower than his proposal, he considers the wages announced as ‘acceptable’.
In response to questions from reporters at the secretariat, he said, “The actual situation must be taken into consideration. So that they (workers) don’t have to go home after losing their jobs, they should also think about it.”
Incidentally, he is the president of the Bangladesh National Garments Workers and Employees League.
However, with the way product prices are increasing in Bangladesh, the new wages announced by the government will make life difficult for the workers, said Touhidur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Apparel Workers Federation and former secretary general of the Industrial Bangladesh Council.
“Not satisfied” with the wages announced by the government, Khokon Mia, a worker at Jamuna Denims in Gazipur, told Benar, “At least 15,000 taka would have been reasonable.”
Rejection of workers
Soon after the wage announcement, some organizations protested at Topkhana Road in the capital, calling it a farce wage. Taslima Akhter, the coordinator of the alliance, which is made up of 11 labor unions, said, “They do not consider workers as human beings. If he had thought, he would not have made such a proposal.”
He demanded the Prime Minister’s intervention and said, “There are reports of labor protests from various labor areas. If the workers take the field…they will continue their agitation.”
In a statement, this alliance has announced a rally on November 10 to demand 25,000 taka wages.
“This wage is not acceptable in any way, we refuse. We demand fresh wage determination,” Najma Akhtar, president of the Combined Garments Workers Federation, told Banner.
He said, “When the wage was announced in 2018, it was $95. After the new increase, it is $113. So wages have not increased much in dollar terms.”
Meanwhile, the workers of some factories in Gazipur’s Konabari staged a protest on Tuesday demanding an increase in wages. Angry workers set fire to at least two buses.
Industrial Area Police Additional Superintendent of Police (Gazipur) Md. Imran Ahmed told Benar, “Two buses were set on fire on the Dhaka-Tangail highway. But it was not the workers who did it; We couldn’t be sure.”
Low wages in Bangladesh
Despite the announcement of new wage hikes, wages in Bangladesh are lower than in nine competing countries. The new minimum wage for workers in Bangladesh is $113 in dollar terms.
According to a report published last January by Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies (BILS), an organization that works with workers, at that time the minimum wage for garment workers in China was 262 dollars, 128 dollars in India, 137 dollars in Indonesia, 194 dollars in Cambodia, 250 dollars in Malaysia, 244 dollars in the Philippines, 168 dollars in Vietnam. and $307 in Turkey.
The number of export-oriented garment factories in Bangladesh is about 3500 and 84 percent of the export earnings come from this sector, which amounted to about 47 billion dollars in the last financial year 2022-23.
Due to the high rate of inflation in the country for the last two years, the workers demanded the formation of a new wage board. A new wage board was formed last April. After six months, on October 22, when the owner proposed an increase in wages of Tk 10,400, the workers became angry.
The next day, workers took to the streets in Gazipur to demand a wage of 23,000 taka. After that, workers’ dissatisfaction started to increase in various places including Dhaka. Two workers were killed in Gazipur on October 30.
Meanwhile, a delegation from the European Union is coming to Bangladesh next week to review the labor situation in Bangladesh, according to the UNB news agency.
UNB said that the delegation will review the progress according to the roadmap of the International Labor Organization for the purpose of labor progress in Bangladesh.