The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) has recommended Tk17,568 as the minimum wage for garment workers in the country.
Considering inflation and the living cost of four-member families, the private think tank proposed this wage for workers in grade seven, the entry-level in the sector.
On the other hand, worker leaders said that the minimum wage should be Tk23,000-25,000, considering the soaring inflation.
Industry leaders, however, expressed concerns that any irrational wage hike could risk the sector's competitiveness. They stress the importance of a rational wage adjustment to maintain the industry's overall capability.
These proposals were presented at a discussion on "Readjusting Minimum Wages in Garments Sector: Observations and Recommendations" at a city hotel on Sunday, jointly organised by CPD and Christian Aid.
Minimum Wages Board Chairman Liaquat Ali Mollah, however, said, "His board has taken a middle position in reviewing RMG workers' salary structure to satisfy both workers and owners."
CPD Research Director Khondokar Golam Moazzem emphasised that a mere $0.07 increase in the manufacturing cost (CM) of a garment product by buyers would be adequate to offset the heightened labor expenses.
Also at the programme, CPD Senior Research Associate Tamim Ahmed presented the report of a survey that found that 42% of RMG workers are getting salaries below Tk8,000, 31.1% of workers are not even aware of what grade they work in and 32% are unaware of how much time is required to get her/his next grade promotion.
The CPD survey collected data from 228 RMG workers in 76 factories located in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur, and Chattogram.
However, Siddiqur Rahman, representing RMG sector owners on the Minimum Wage Board, raised questions regarding the survey's methodology.
The former BGMEA president cautioned against wage increases that could lead to factory closures, especially for global disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Mohammad Hatem, executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), criticised international brands and buyers for imposing additional costs on the Bangladeshi apparel industry under the guise of ethical practices.
Hatem also sheds light on the challenges faced by garment industry entrepreneurs, stating that many are burdened with bank loans, individual debts, lawsuits, and warrants.
He cited the global economic uncertainty stemming from the Russia-Ukraine war as a significant factor affecting their survival.
Faruque Hassan, president of the BGMEA, called for a balanced approach, emphasising the need to consider both inflation and affordability when increasing wages.
Sirajul Islam Rony, RMG sector worker representative to the Minimum Wages Board, advocated for a minimum wage of over Tk20,000 due to rising inflation.
He also proposed the introduction of a rationing system, extended maternity leave, regular salary increments, auto-grade promotions, and provident funds for RMG workers.
Sirajul Islam also urged buyers to act responsibly and called for increased monitoring in industrial areas to mitigate the impact of rising house rents.