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Weak negotiation skills blamed for low RMG minimum wage

  • Published at 04:44 pm September 17th, 2018
On September 13, RMG workers’ demanded Tk12,000 as minimum wage Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Trade union leaders and an apparel sector expert said this wage is insufficient to cover the basic needs and living costs of workers

Weak negotiation skills and lack of pressure from the trade unions and federation have deprived Ready Made Garment (RMG) workers to receive the demanded minimum wage.

On September 13, amid the workers’ demand of Tk12,000 as minimum wage, the government set the minimum wage at Tk8,000 per month. 

Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, trade union leaders and an apparel sector expert said this wage is insufficient to cover the basic needs and living costs of workers. 

They blamed weak negotiation skills on the part of workers’ representatives and failure of trade unions in creating pressure on owners to reach a win-win situation in setting the minimum wage. 

“I was helpless as a workers’ representative on the board. The owners were adamant with their decision of Tk7,000 as minimum wage. The pressure in realizing the workers’ demands should have been created by the workers and trade unions,” workers' representative Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan told the Dhaka Tribune.

She added that the workers at factory level should have put in pressure on the wage board to realize the demand of Tk12,000 as the minimum wage.

“The number of workers who staged demonstrations in front of the wage board during the meetings was disappointing. There were not even 5,000 workers,” she added.    

“Negotiations for minimum wage this time were much weaker compared to the previous time. The workers’ representative should remain strong in their demands,” Centre for Policy Dialogue Research Director Khondaker Golam Moazzem told the Dhaka Tribune. 

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president represented the owners at the meetings and negotiations. He had other associates to assist him in handling the issue, said the analyst.

On the other hand, the workers did not have any organized approach to negotiate the issue based on factual information, he added.    

“I believe this is not true. In the previous years - 2006, 2010 and 2013, we had strong demonstrations,” Nazma Akter, president of the Sommilito Garments Sromik Federation told the Dhaka Tribune. “Did they increase the wage from Tk5000 to Tk10,000?” she questioned. 

Nazma Akter held a different opinion. She said they held meetings with BGMEA countless times in the past, as had been made public through various media outlets.

The fact that a trade union leader was affiliated with the government and did not make proper representation of the majority of workers was highly criticized. 

“Many trade unions are also very fond of foreign operators and they are mostly affiliated with foreign companies. They are busy collecting funds in the name of NGOs,” a trade union leader seeking anonymity told the Dhaka Tribune.

He cited this as a reason for the failure to create pressure on the owners to meet the demands.

Trade unions linked with the political parties did not object to the government decision, nor did they take part in demonstrations or any other activities to press for the raise in the minimum wage, he claimed.  

Refusing the allegation, Nazma said they are focusing on workers’ awareness on their rights and training them to be better skilled.

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