Industry Desk: Workers have proposed that the authorities form a new wage board every three years instead of the existing five years and announce the national minimum wage for all local sectors.
They have also called for increasing compensation for the death of a worker to Tk15 lakh from the existing Tk3 lakh.
Two influential local labour platforms – the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council and the Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad – have sent the proposals to the committee formed for revising the labour law.
Tawhidur Rahman, a former secretary general of the council, said they called for the “new wages every three years” to protect workers as a rapid inflation eats into their real income. “Since the government is not able to stabilise commodity prices, real income is reduced as workers have to wait for five years for new wages. This triggers a massive malnutrition crisis among them,” he told.
IndustriALL Bangladesh Council Secretary General Rashadul Alam Raju said it had sent the proposals in July. The organisation was told that the committee is now reviewing the suggestions made by the stakeholders.
However, the factory owners do not agree on new wages every three years.
Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, executive committee member of the Bangladesh Employers Federation, said, “It is necessary to take into consideration whether owners can afford new labour wages every three years.”
Ehsan, who is also vice-president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said apparel workers get 5% in increments every year.
However, Jafrul Hasan, a legal expert who was involved in the last labour law amendment, told that the demand for new wages every three years is rational as the pinching inflation sets commodity prices in a hurry.
Inflation has been on the rise globally since the Russia-Ukraine war in February following the Covid pandemic.
According to the state-run statistics bureau, price gains hit 9.5% in August – the highest in 12 years.
However, economists insist the rate is even higher than that. They said the rapid pace of the price gains has largely eroded the purchasing power of the middle and lower-middle classes and the poor.
According to the labour law, a new wage board could be formed even before five years have elapsed for special reasons. In the local readymade garment sector, new wages were fixed in 2013 even though the previous one was announced in 2010.
Labour leaders say if there is legal backing for fixing wages every three years, all sectors will get the benefits.
Factory owners agree with the workers’ demand for the national minimum wage as Fazlee Shamim Ehsan said it should be announced and implemented for all sectors.
About the Tk15 lakh death benefit, labour leaders said they had taken into account the compensation paid to workers after the Rana Plaza garment collapse in 2013. Factory owners said it is not possible for all local sectors to pay workers Tk15 lakh as compensation.
The country currently has government-announced minimum wages in 42 sectors. There are about 50 other sectors, such as the domestic work and transport sector, which are not covered by the national wage structures.
Earlier, the labour law was amended twice. The government took initiatives for new reforms after talks with international development partners and various local parties, according to sources.
So far, 17 organisations, including those of workers, employers and government stakeholders, have submitted proposals regarding the next amendment.
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