Dhaka: Bangladesh has vowed to review any discrepancy in the newly introduced wage structure for garment sector workers, a day after four people were killed in violent clashes between demonstrators and the police in southeastern Chittagong city.
"There could some disparities when a new wage structure is introduced... let the government know it so the discrimination could be removed through discussion," Labour Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain told newsmen yesterday.
His comments came as senior factory workers said the new wage structures benefited the junior workers, while they remained underpaid, while Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association leaders said there were little scope to review the wage structure.
Home Minister Sahara Khatun, meanwhile, said that the unrest, which sparked in industrial zones across the country including the capital Dhaka after it had originated from the port city of Chittagong was part of conspiracy to create instability.
Four people were killed and dozens injured when police used rubber bullets and tear gas canisters as tens of thousands of garment workers took to the street in Chittagong, attacked several garment units and damaged or set on fire a number of vehicles.
Under the new wage structure, 4,500 garment factories are supposed to pay workers at least 3,000 taka (USD 43) a month -- up 80 per cent on the 2006 minimum wage.
But unions have said many manufacturers had not raised salaries, despite the government`s warnings, and that some experienced workers had been demoted to deny them higher wages.
The Korean management of a major garments industry alleged "outsiders" were behind the violence at his factories in Chittagong, where the four people including a rickshaw driver was killed during the violence.
Youngone Group chief Kihak Sung said the simultaneous attacks on their seven factories in Chittagong Export Processing Zone were "very mysterious".
"It is our fervent appeal to the authorities that they should identify the miscreants and their backers...(otherwise) the world will think Bangladesh is not a safe place for businesses," he said, adding they were forced to temporarily shut down all 17 of their factories following the violence.
“Garments accounted for 80 percent of the country`s USD 16.2 billion of annual exports last year. Bangladesh`s factories employ more than three million workers, about 85 percent of them women.
Bangladesh`s garment products are mainly destined to the US and Europe earning the country more than USD 12 billion a year, nearly 80 percent of the country`s export income with Wal-Mart, Tesco, H&M, Zara, Carrefour, Gap, Metro, JCPenney, Marks & Spencer, Kohl`s, Levi Strauss and Tommy Hilfiger being bulk importers from Bangladesh.