Demand for BDT 16K minimum wage surfaces again in Bangladesh RMG industry

Bangladesh Garment Worker
Image Courtesy: rmgbd.net

A pro-labour force in Bangladesh has pushed for BDT 16,000 as the minimum wage for apparel workers months ahead of the settlement of a fresh wage board for the 3.6 million workforces.

The demand was placed afresh by IndustriAll Bangladesh Council (IBC), a platform of 20 pro-labour unions and associations, at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity on February 25, 2018.

At present, the minimum wage for apparel workers in Bangladesh is BDT 5,300, which was set by a wage board five years ago. Now, a fresh wage board is working to fix a new wage structure by July 2018.

“In the present wage structure, it is hardly possible for a garment worker to bear their family expense. Prices of daily essentials as well as the house rent are climbing and with only BDT 5,300, a garment worker can hardly survive,” said Md Tauhidur Rahman, Secretary of IBC, at the press conference.

Meanwhile, at a separate press conference, another group unveiled a study titled ‘Moving towards Living Wage: What will it take?’, conducted by the South Asian Network of Economic Modelling on garment workers in Dhaka and Gazipur, and funded by CARE Bangladesh under its OIKKO project. The report suggests that the minimum wage must be fixed after considering the living cost.

While unveiling the report at a hotel in Dhaka, Selim Raihan, a professor at the Dhaka University’s Economics Department, said: “The prevailing minimum wage can barely suffice the minimum living standard of a garment worker.”

BDT 5,300 in 2013 was not adequate for maintaining a decent life, Raihan said while adding, “So, this time the minimum wage for garment workers should be fixed following the living wage concept.” However, an exact sum of the minimum wage was not proposed by the group.

This is not the first time that pro-labour organisations are pushing for a minimum wage of BDT 16,000. Earlier, Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, a garment workers’ rights group, handed a memo to the wage board formed by the Government mentioning the figure as the needed wage sum.

The upside this time is that the leading body of apparel manufacturers and exporters – the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) – has moved on its own accord for a new wage board and to avoid any labour unrest.