Sweater factories have to pay workers minimum wages during off-season

November 28, 2014

Govt finalises guidelines, to issue gazette notification next month
The government has finalised guidelines for the sweater factories with a provision that the owners will have to pay their workers, who work under piece rate system, minimum wages during off-season. The sweater factory workers usually remain unpaid during off-season (three to four months every year) as the business is largely seasonal. The workers, however, receive more than the minimum wages during pick season, industry insiders said.
In the first week of January this year the labour ministry had formed an 11-member sub-committee comprising representatives from factory owners to identify wage-related problems of the sweater factory workers.
The government’s move had come following frequent demonstrations by the sweater factory workers and demand from labour leaders for guidelines for the workers under piece rate system as they think that such workers are being deprived of benefits of legal service and the new wage structure for the garment workers as there is no clear indication of wage hike for the piece rate workers.
The committee on Wednesday finalised the guidelines and it will be effective from the next month after publishing gazette notification, labour secretary Mikail Shipar told New Age on Thursday.
He said that both the workers and owners representatives agreed that the sweater factory workers would be entitled to get minimum wages during off-season and during pick season they would be paid as per piece rate.
According to the guidelines, the categorisation of grades of the workers should be based on workers’ efficiency, factory owners should pay workers as per the piece rate during pick season, should pay workers on the basis of the piece rate or grade, whichever will be higher, during dull season and should give workers basic pay during off-season.
The guidelines also include that owners should discuss with representatives of workers before setting piece rate.
Former Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association vice-president Mohammed Hatem said that owners had agreed that the workers, who are working on piece rate basis, would be paid the gross amount of the grade VI under the minimum wage board during off-season.
During off-season workers will get only the basic pay of the grade VI under the minimum wage board, he said.
Hatem said during dull season a sweater factory worker would receive Tk 5,678 as monthly pay while during off-season the amount will be Tk 3,270 a month.
Sirajul Islam Rony, president of National Garment Worker Employee League, said that after a long struggle the government was going to resolve the disputes over payment, workers’ grades and other benefit-related issues in the sweater factories.
Sirajul, also a member of sub-committee, said that after visiting a number of factories and consulting good number of workers the committee finalised the draft guidelines and it would be helpful to get rid of unrest of the workers in the sweater factories.
Sirajul said there would be a clear indication in the guidelines about providing appointment letters and identity cards to the workers.
In the country there are at least eight lakh sweater and knitwear factory workers who are paid on piece rate basis.

-With New Age input

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