The readymade garment workers will get 60 percent of their salary for April, instead of the full amount. They could not work for the first 25 days of this month as nearly all factories were closed due to the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
Those who resumed work from April 26 will get 60 percent of their wages for the previous 25 days, and full wages for the last five days of this month. Besides, factory owners will not lay off workers before Eid.
The decisions were made on Tuesday in a tripartite advisory council meeting chaired by State Minister for Labour and Employment Monnujan Sufian.
However, no formal announcement was made after the meeting, because no workers' leaders belonging to the RMG sector were present there.
The state minister for labour, along with RMG owners and workers' leaders, are set to formally announce the decision at 12 noon on Wednesday.
As per the labour law, after a worker is laid off, he or she is entitled to receive 50 percent of their basic wage and house rent allowance from the factory owner. So, a worker gets around 55-60 percent of their wage after being laid off.
Owners of factories both large and small will pay their workers in accordance with this law.
Present at the tripartite meeting, a labour ministry official told The Business Standard, "Workers who did not work during April will get 60 percent of their wages. Those working for the whole month will get 100 percent wages.
"Besides, those who resumed work after April 26 will get 60 percent wages for the previous 25 days and full wages for the remaining five days."
He further said, "The decision has been finalised in the meeting, but formal announcement is pending. It will be made on Wednesday in the present of RMG owners' and workers' representatives.
"In the meeting, a discussion was held on paying workers the festival bonus before Eid, but no decision has been made in this regard yet. Another meeting will be organised to discuss this issue."
Responding to a query, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association's (BKMEA) First Vice President Mohammad Hatem said, "Our business is suffering a slump and many export orders have been cancelled. So, we have reached a consensus to pay 60 percent of the total wages to workers who did not work during April.
"Those who worked this month will get full wages for each day. Workers' representatives, who were present at the meeting, have agreed to this decision. We will send a letter to the central bank after getting the meeting minutes."
He added that the RMG workers will get paid from the government fund after the central bank issues a circular in this regard.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association's (BGMEA) former president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said, "The RMG owners are in a serious predicament, because factories mostly remained closed in April.
"Another meeting has been called at 12pm on Wednesday. Formal announcement will come after the meeting."
Another former president of the BGMEA, Abdus Salam Murshedy said, "The buyers are even rejecting orders already shipped to their ports. Some are taking discounts from us. No one among us [RMG factory owners] is in a good situation.
"We are opening factories to cater to buyers who are still with us. The buyers themselves are facing difficulties."
He continued, "Some of the workers' wages for March are still due. We have decided to pay them as soon as possible. Most factories were closed during April. We made the decision [to pay 60 percent wages] considering all factors."
Razekuzzaman Ratan, a workers' representative, said after the meeting that a decision has been made on not laying off any worker before the Eid.
Meanwhile, Sammilita Garments Sramik Federation's President Nazma Akhter said, "We will not accept any such decision. The government has announced a Tk5,000 crore fund to ensure that the workers get three months' salary from April.
"They are trying to deprive the workers from their fair wages amid Ramadan and before the Eid. This is not acceptable."
BGMEA President Rubana Huq, BKMEA President AKM Salim Osman, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industries' former president AK Azad, BGMEA's former president Anwarul Alam Chowdhury were present at the tripartite meeting among many others.
Dr Wazedul Islam, ZM Kamrul Anam and several others represented the workers at the meeting.
The government had announced a Tk5,000 crore fund to help export-oriented industry owners pay wages and allowances to their workers, in a bid to prevent layoffs during the general holiday.
Factories, which export at least 80 percent of its products, can apply for the incentive as a soft loan from the stimulus fund to provide wages to their labourers and workers.
The central bank will not charge any interest against the loan, but commercial banks can take a maximum 2 percent service charge for the lending.
Even after the incentive package was announced, some factory owners continued to lay off their workers.
Under the circumstances, the finance ministry on April 20 informed the central bank in writing not to provide financial assistance to factory owners who are announcing layoffs.