Nov 052013

“Review minimum wage or face shutdown”

garments- wage

Dhaka, Nov 5 :  Readymade garment (RMG) manufacturers and exporters of Bangladesh on Tuesday threatened to shut down all the factories in the country if the minimum wage board for the workers in the sector does not review its recommendation of the minimum wage at Tk 5,300.

At a press conference at BGMEA Bhaban, leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) also sought the government’s intervention to settle the dispute over the workers wage.

The wage board at its 9th meeting on Monday decided to fix the new minimum wages at Tk 5,300 through voting of the board members. However, two board members representing the owners’ side at the meeting refrained from voting.

Addressing the press conference, BGMEA president M Akiqul Islam said the wage board at its 9th meeting refuted the owners’ proposal for fixing the wage at Tk 4,300 and recommended Tk 5,300 without the consent of the owners’. “We’ll appeal to the wage board for a review in a day or two,” he said.

“We’ve had a meeting with the members of BGMEA and BKMEA today (Tuesday). None of them have accepted it. They said they’ll give up and called for an exit plan instead.”

They’re ready to accept an exit plan right now, and that must be without any provision to pay termination benefits or taking the responsibility for the liabilities, he added.

Atiqul said about 70 percent without of the RMG units are small and medium enterprises and can not afford to be in the business if the minimum wages are fixed at Tk 5,300. “We’ll never accept it if the minimum wage crosses Tk 4,300,” he said.

“All the factories in the country will be shut down if the decision is not reviewed by the wage board by 15 days,” he added.

Asked whether the owners will accept it if the government intervenes and proposes a figure between 4,500 and 5,300, Akiqul said, “Time will say. Our demand is to fix it at Tk 4,500.”

Asked whether he considers Tk 4,500 minimum wage to workers to be human, he said, “There’s no question of humanity here. Wages are fixed mathematically and scientifically.”

“We simply won’t accept any wage above Tk 4,500. And the workers have options. They can become Chatal workers (rice mill workers) or leather workers if they wish.”

BKMEA president AKM Salim Osman said none of the owners in his association are interested to accept the recommendation of the wages board.

“We are providing jobs to those who were once housemaids…to those who had no skills. We’re leaving our machines at their care. We’re taking risks on the capital,” he said, “Where from 40 lakh workers were born. Let us do it in our own way.”