Bangaladesh union leaders want the continuation of a 5 per cent annual increment of wages for garment workers. They argue factories cannot bypass this legal requirement and should provide additional facilities to tide workers over through such tough times. Many workers have become jobless since some factories had to shut down production since March 27 last year
However, knitters demand the government let them suspend it for the next two years for mitigating the Covid-19 fallout. Mohammad Hatem, Sr. VP, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) says, they have sent a letter to the labour ministry seeking suspension, citing the severe effects on exports. And the government will take a decision as a neutral body, reviewing the export situation of the garment sector. He argues, many factory owners have not been able to ship the goods made over the past seven to eight months.
It maybe recalled that the increment provision was incorporated in the labour law through a 2013 amendment. Currently, nearly Tk 5,000 crore is disbursed as salary to the garment workers in a month. Meanwhile experts say suspension would put workers in trouble in such challenging times. And the labour ministry does not have the jurisdiction to suspend the increment. Only the minimum wage board for garment workers can do it. However, the board has turned defunct as it had already recommended a minimum wage which was implemented earlier. Moreover, once any benefit is given, it cannot be taken away or curtailed under section 336 of the labour law.