A move has been initiated to review wages of readymade garment workers against the backdrop of workers’ movement for pay hike and demands from national and international labour rights groups.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association has requested the government to form a minimum wage board in this regard as the apparel factory owners have expressed their willingness to raise the workers’ wages.
On November 8, the trade body sent a letter to the labour ministry requesting review of the existing wages of workers and formation of a minimum wage board to uplift the image of the sector at home and abroad.
A labour ministry high official said that they received a letter from BGMEA and the next course of action in this regard would be taken by the state minister and acting secretary of the ministry who were now abroad.
‘Although the readymade garment sector has been passing through hard time, we have requested the government to form a minimum wage board so that no vested group can use the wage-related issues,’ BGMEA president Md Siddiqur Rahman told New Age on Tuesday.
He said that recently three trade union federations, including IndustriAll Bangladesh Council, made apple to BGMEA seeking wage hike of workers.
Moreover, there was a negative campaign against the Bangladesh RMG sector at home and abroad as workers staged demonstrations at factories demanding wage hike, Siddiq observed.
Following Rana Plaza building collapse in April 24, 2013 that killed more than 1,100 people, mostly garment workers, the government under pressure from national and international community took a measure to review the wages of the RMG workers.
In December 2013, a minimum wage board set the lowest wage for garment workers at Tk 5,300 raised from Tk 3,000, which was set in July, 2010.
According to the sector insiders, the BGMEA requested the government for reviewing the wages of workers under strong pressure from global stakeholders.
The BGMEA president, however, said that as per the labour law minimum wages for the workers in any industry should be reviewed every five years and the trade body requested the government to form a new minimum wage board in line with the provision.
Labour rights activists, meanwhile, have appreciated the BGMEA move and they hope that the wages for the RMG workers will be set in the light of the living standard of workers in competitor countries.
‘It’s a good initiative and we appreciate that BGMEA requested the government to form a new wage board for the readymade garment workers,’ Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies executive director Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed told New Age.
He said that wages for the RMG workers should be set taking the real living cost and the living standard of apparel workers in other countries into consideration. 
In the letter, the BGMEA president said that the RMG sector was losing its competitiveness as production cost went up by 18 per cent in last two years.
A good number of garment factories have been closed for their failure to be competitive amid sluggish global demand and a declining trend in garment price, the letter reads.
In December last year, RMG workers in Ashulia industrial belt on the outskirts of the capital staged demonstration demanding Tk 16,000 as the minimum monthly wage for apparel worker instead of the existing Tk 5,300.
Apparel factory owners fired more than 3,000 workers and filed criminal cases against 1,500 workers for taking part in the demonstration demanding pay hike.
During the demonstration, the government and the BGMEA termed the workers’ demand illogical and unlawful.
State minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque had then said that there was no scope to form wage board for the RMG workers before December 2018.
Later on, BGMEA and the government withdrew some cases and released the detained workers under pressure from international rights advocates.
The recent announcement of Cambodia to raise minimum wage of its garments and textile industry workers to $153 from next year also put a pressure on the Bangladesh government and apparel factory owners, industry insiders said. 

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