The first meeting of a newly formed wage board for garment workers is scheduled to be held on May 24 on a proposal of major trade unions for offering workers a minimum monthly payment of Tk 23,000.
The amount has been proposed considering the needs of a four-member family alongside other major factors such as the current high inflationary pressure, house rent, medical allowance, transport costs and the overall cost of living.
It is very difficult to run a family below the proposed amount as inflation is high, said Amirul Haque Amin, president of National Garment Workers Federation.
This amount is logical also the value of the US dollar has increased since the last wage board for the garment workers was formed in December 2018, he said.
In 2018, each dollar cost between Tk 75 and Tk 76 and it is Tk 106 for exporters. In some cases, it is Tk 115 in informal markets. So, if the dollar rate is considered the amount is valid, said Amin.
Moreover, if inflation had been a minimum of 5 per cent over the last five years, the amount is logical, he added.
“So, we have already proposed the amount to the labour ministry for fixing it as the minimum monthly payment to garment workers,” Amin told The Daily Star over the phone.
Echoing him, Nazma Akter, president of Sammilito Garment Sramik Federation, also said the wage of Tk 23,000 per month has been considered based on the needs of a four-member family.
Many workers suffer from malnutrition because of deficiency in calorie intake as their purchasing capacity is low because of high prices of basic commodities, she said.
With the current monthly salary, after paying the house rent, the workers can spend a low amount for buying basic commodities and can hardly save for the future, she added.
Md Towhidur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Apparel Workers Federation, echoed the views.
Some studies were conducted by different trade unions and finally they came to the decision to fix this amount as the monthly salary, he said.
The current minimum wage of Tk 8,000 per month is low if the living wage is considered, said Selim Raihan, executive director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM).
And at the same time there is an inflationary pressure in the markets for which the purchasing power of the workers has declined, he said.
The international retailers and brands should also contribute a fair share in the wage upgradation of the workers, he said.
Faruque Hassan, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association declined to comment, saying a separate board would fix the amount in consultation with the stakeholders.