The High Court on Wednesday (HC) will hear four amicus curiae's (friend of the court) opinions on the jurisdiction of the Bangladesh Bank to set the minimum wage for bankers and the legality of its recent circular on the matter.
The amicus curiae are Barrister Ajmalul Hossain QC, Barrister Rokon Uddin Mahmud, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin, and senior lawyer Probir Neogi.
The hearing comes weeks after their appointment by the HC bench of Justice Mamnoon Rahman and Justice Khandaker Diliruzzaman on 7 February, following Supreme Court lawyer Farhad Bin Hossain's writ petition challenging the central bank's circular.
The court also issued a rule asking the authorities concerned to explain why the circular setting the minimum salary structure for bankers should not be declared illegal.
The finance ministry secretary and the governor of Bangladesh Bank were made respondents to the writ, according to the petitioner's lawyer, Barrister AM Masum.
The court asked them to respond within a week but the hearing date was deferred to 23 February as the responding lawyers were unprepared to argue the matter on the date initially set.
On 20 January, the Bangladesh Bank issued a directive setting the minimum salary for bankers at Tk39,000 from March this year. The regulator instructed banks to set the minimum wage for office assistants, including security guards, cleaners, and messengers, at Tk24,000.
The central bank also asked banks not to deprive their employees of promotions even if they fail to achieve business targets.
The move came a month after BB Governor Fazle Kabir verbally instructed managing directors of banks at a meeting on 28 December to maintain a standard salary structure for entry-level posts.
Initially, the BB directive faced massive criticism from industry experts who said the new pay structure for banks will discourage good performers and reduce profitability, as reported by The Business Standard on 23 January.
The salary structure of Bangladesh Bank is completely unacceptable as it conflicts with fundamentals of the private sector, said Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
Amid the criticism, the Bangladesh Bank on 25 January published a clarification which stated that bankers should not be sacked or deprived of benefits if they failed to meet their deposit collection targets. At the same time, it directed banks not to force employees to resign or sack them on unfounded allegations of incompetence. However, if specific allegations can be proven against any employee, then there was no restriction on subsequent administrative action of banks based on their own rules.
Later, heeding to calls from private banks, the Bangladesh Bank on 1 February extended the deadline to 1 April, for private banks to implement the new pay scale.
The regulatory body also revised the minimum gross salary for trainee cash officers and general bankers to Tk 36,000 and Tk 39,000 respectively. The salary for office staff has also been revised.
The Association of Bankers, Bangladesh (ABB) welcomed the initiative, saying that region-based salary ranges will help to reduce disparities and discrimination among office assistants.