Bangladesh garment factory owners recently proposed 20 per cent hike in the minimum monthly wage for the 4.4 mn garment workers in the country against the demand for 126.80 per cent hike by the workers’ representative. Siddiqur Rahman, President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said “We mainly considered the inflation rate in Bangladesh while proposing Tk 6,360 from the current minimum wage at Tk 5,300.”

Rahman, also the factory owners’ representative, made the proposal at the minimum wage board formed for recommending the monthly wage for the garment workers. “We also considered the rising cost of doing business and competitiveness of the industry in global apparel markets,” he said. Of the amount, Tk 3,600 has been fixed as the basic salary and the remaining money has been allocated for house rent, transport cost and others, the BGMEA President said.

On behalf of the workers, Tk 7,500 was proposed as the basic monthly salary of a worker and Tk 4,520 was proposed as allocation for transport cost, house rent and other costs in a month, Shamsun Nahar Bhuiyan, workers’ representative of the board, said after the meeting.

“In total we proposed Tk 12,020 as the minimum wage of a garment worker considering the inflation rate and cost of living. We proposed seven grades of the workers,” she said. “The next meeting has been scheduled to be held on August 29. I hope we can reach the final decision on fixing the minimum monthly wage of the RMG workers by September this year,” Shamsun Nahar added.

After receiving BGMEA’s proposal, the Ministry of Labour and Employment formed the minimum wage board for the garment workers in January this year to avert labour unrest. In 2013, the minimum wage was fixed at Tk 5,300, up from Tk 3,000 fixed in 2010. The minimum wage was Tk 1,662.50, Tk 940 and Tk 627 respectively in the year 2006, 1994 and 1985. Meanwhile, some union leaders have been demanding Tk 16,000 as the minimum wage for the workers. However, the exporters are saying that the prices of garment items have been falling due to slash in demand, especially to the Western world.