2018-07-08 14:42:34 BdST

Rights groups again demand Tk 16,000 as minimum wage


The global and local rights groups have again pressed for fixing Tk 16,000 as the minimum monthly wage for the country's readymade garment (RMG) sector workers.

The workers' representative to the Minimum Wage Board for RMG sector is likely to propose the said amount in its second meeting, to be held today (Sunday), sources said.

Their proposals also include reducing the number of grades in the wage structure to five from the existing seven, they added.

Besides, the global rights group in a recent letter to top 25 brands that source garment products from Bangladesh urged them to continue sourcing from here after the proposed wage hike.

They also asked for increasing the prices of their sourced garment items to implement the wage hike in practice.

The Wage Board in its first meeting on March 19 asked both the representatives of workers and owners to submit their proposals on the minimum monthly wage for the sector's workers.

When asked, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Md Siddiqur Rahman said they are yet to decide whether they will place their proposal in the meeting on Sunday or will do it later.

On the other hand, Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan, workers' representative to the Board, said: "We will submit our proposal on Sunday."

She held meetings with representatives of different trade union federations of the garment sector on Saturday, sources said.

Majority of the federations pressed for proposing Tk 16,000 as the minimum wage, while a few of them recommended Tk 17,000 and Tk 18,000, they added.

Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan further said their proposal will also include lowering the number of grades of workers in the wage structure to five from the existing seven.

"Majority of the trade union leaders have proposed five grades, as the number of workers in grade one and grade two is very low," she added.

On the other hand, a large number of workers have been poorly paid in the grades from four to seven for a long time, and also deprived of promotion in due time, the labour leaders alleged.

Meanwhile, expressing solidarity with the demand of the Bangladeshi rights groups, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), a global alliance of the RMG worker rights groups, urged the Board on Friday to propose the minimum monthly wage for garment workers to Tk 16,000.

"The workers in Bangladesh are paid some of the lowest wages in the global garment industry. The current minimum wage of Tk 5,300 (the equivalent of about US$ 63) has not been revised since 2013, and it is far below any credible living wage estimate."

The labour unions started voicing the concrete demand for fixing Tk 16,000 as minimum wage, and organising related actions earlier this year, CCC said in a statement.

Since then, many workers and their representatives have been again subjected to extreme pressure, including arrests and other threats to freedom of association and other human rights, it claimed.

The platform also condemned the repression and called upon the government of Bangladesh to ensure that the workers' rights are fully respected.

CCC also requested 20 major brands sourcing from Bangladesh to show leadership on the way towards ensuring living wages for the garment workers.

The brands are: H&M, Gap, Walmart, Tesco, Inditex, C&A, VF, Levi's, Marks & Spencer, Primark, Next, Takko, Aldi, Lidl, American Eagle, Hugo Boss, Esprit, El Corte Ingles, Sainsburys, HBC, A&F, Kik, Carrefour, Li & Fung, and Benetton.

"Many garment brands have been claiming for years that they support and strive for a living wage in their supply chain. Now is the time to demonstrate that those are not just empty words," said Ineke Zeldendrust of CCC.

Besides the minimum wage hike, other proposals of CCC include introduction of a promotion criteria, a 10 per cent annual pay increase, and reducing the workers' apprenticeship period to maximum of three months along with a wage increase for the apprentices from Tk 4,180 to Tk 10,000 per month.

The government issued a gazette notification on January 31, announcing the name of the owners' and workers' representatives to the board to review the monthly minimum wage for the garment workers.

The minimum wage for the RMG workers was fixed at Tk 3,000 in 2010, while it was Tk 1,662.50 in 2006, and Tk 940 in 1994.

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