The new wage board announced for private-sector transport workers through a recent circular has sparked conflicts between transport workers' and owners' associations over accepting it.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment has finalised the minimum wage for transport workers including drivers, helpers and contractors recently after a board was formed on July 11, 2019 to review the wages fixed in 2010.
The new wage came into effect on July 27. The board fixed 13 categories of minimum wages for four types of workers-heavy with passenger service vehicles, heavy vehicles, medium and light vehicles, raising wages almost double from existing ones.
It also fixed different wages for city and other areas in the form of basic, house rent etc.
Though existing wages have hardly been maintained by transport owners after passing of 10 years, Shahjahan Khan-led Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation (BSPSF), however, rejected it on grounds of no reflection of workers' rights in the wage fixation due to lack of their representation in the board.
In a statement, Federation President In-charge Shahjahan Khan and general secretary Osman Ali demanded announcement of new wage board as, they said, the latest one was not prepared considering work, working hour, economic contribution, productivity, livelihood, inflation etc.
The BSPSF leaders said the board member who represented the workers in the wage board was a leader of rickshaw van workers.
However, Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik League (BSPSL) criticised the BSPSF for issuing such a statement and called upon all to implement the new wage as it was prepared considering labour issues in the Labour Act and Road Transport Act 2018.
In a statement on Wednesday, BSPSL President Mohammad Hanif Khokon and General Secretary Ensur Ali said the new wage board has considered all aspects including minimum wage, overtime, festival allowance, conveyance, house rent, medical allowance, appointment, attendance book etc according to Labour Act and RTA.
While talking to the FE over phone, Hanif Khokon said that the federation has been disqualified to be the member of wage board for not holding its council meeting since 2011 as per guideline of the Labour Act 2006 and its amendment 2018.
The labour ministry appointed Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association vice-president Md Abul Kalam as the owners' representative and BSPSL general secretary Md Ensur Ali as the workers' representative.
However, Khandaker Enayet, Secretary General of Dhaka Sarak Paribahan Malik Samity, raised the issue of not having the ability to implement the new wages amid a huge loss the sector is facing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Admitting that many owners are unwilling to implement the new wage, he said workers even want daily basis earning instead of monthly salary as directed by the wage board.
"Considering Covid-19 and overall situation, creating awareness and imparting training to transport operators and players are needed before execution of the new wage," he told the FE over phone.
According to the new wage, drivers with light licence will get Tk 15,440 including Tk 9,600 basic while medium licence holder driver will get Tk 16,600 including Tk 10,400 basic. The drivers with heavy licence will get Tk 17,800 including Tk 11,200 basic but heavy licence drivers of passenger service vehicles will get Tk 20,200 including basic Tk 12,800.
Other unskilled staff including trainees will get 10,750 with basic starting from Tk 6,500. There will have a difference in wages for both drivers and workers working in the city and other areas ranging from Tk 600 to Tk 2000. House rent for city and other areas will be 50 per cent and 40 per cent of the basic respectively.
The minimum wage set in 2010 was Tk 6,300 as monthly gross pay including basic pay Tk 4,000, house rent Tk 1,600, medical allowance Tk 500 and travel allowance Tk 200.
The monthly minimum gross pay was set at Tk 4,900 for the employees in the sector in the year.