Garment factory owners on Sunday said that the government must give them tax or cash incentives as the wage of the workers would be raised.
Leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association in a joint emergency general meeting at the BGMEA office in Dhaka also criticised intellectuals, economists, civil society members and labour leaders, who raise voice for increasing workers’ wage, terming them ‘conspirators’.
The BGMEA and the BKMEA held the meeting with their members as the minimum wage board formed to review the wages for garment workers is working to make recommendations on increasing wages for workers.
Leaders of the associations claimed that any increase in the workers’ wage on top of the amount suggested by the owners’ representative to the wage board would be a threat to the survival of the country’s readymade garment sector.
The owners’ representative to the board, Md Siddiqur Rahman, also the president of the BGMEA, recently proposed Tk 6,360 as minimum wage.
Md Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said that the garment sector leaders should engage in a negotiation with the government so that they got tax cut if the government wanted to increase the wages of garment workers.
Mohiuddin, also a former president of the BGMEA, urged the factory owners to be united for strong negotiations with the buyers to ensure fair prices for their products.
He also proposed that BGMEA leaders negotiate with the government for a proposal that the garment sector people would not sit in every five years for reviewing workers’ wages, rather the sector people would adjust the wages for inflation every year.
‘There are some of so-called civil society members in the country who have no idea about the RMG sector but always criticise the sector. No doubt they are anti-development,’ said Mohiuddin.
Asif Ibrahim, vice-president of New Age Group, a garment manufacturer, said, ‘The BGMEA president proposed Tk 6,360 as the minimum wage to the wage board and we are with the proposal. If we have to increase the amount, the government would have to provide direct or indirect incentives to the factory owners.’
Labour rights groups are demanding Tk 16,000 as the minimum wage while the workers’ representative to the wage board, Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan, a ruling party-backed labour leader, proposed Tk 12,020 as the minimum wage.
At the meeting, former BGMEA president Md Atiqul Islam said that cost of production went up while the product prices went down in the global market and all parties should have to realise the practical situation in setting the minimum wages for workers.
He also said that if RMG exporters were not forced to pay additional amount to customs-related points, there were many scopes for paying workers more.
Atiqul alleged that the banks’ owners were not complying with the prime minister’s order and the interest rate was yet to come down to single digit.
BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman said that they would negotiate with the government to protect the interest of factory owners but all had to bear in mind that this was an election year.
‘We will try to get incentives from the government in return of wage hike. If necessary, we will go to the prime minister,’ he said.
BKMEA president Salim Osman said that he was apprehensive that the wage hike would increase cost of doing business.
He said that the civil society members who criticised factory owners in TV talk-shows did not know about the profits of garment exporters.
Moinuddin Ahmed, first vice-president of the BGMEA, said that those who criticised garment factory owners in TV talk-shows wanted to embarrass the government and the prime minister.
He requested the BGMEA president to prepare a list of people who criticised garment factory owners over wage issue and to submit it to the prime minister so that the persons could never criticize the sector.