Road Transport Workers: 62pc wage hike proposed

The Minimum Wage Board has submitted a draft report to the government, proposing a 62 percent hike in the minimum wages of staffers and workers of the private road transport sector. It also recommended a five percent annual increase in the minimum wage for the workers. The draft would be finalised within two weeks of the gazette publication on December 12, if no objections are raised.

The new wage structure comes against a backdrop where the recommendations of the previous board, declared in 2010, remain unimplemented, and almost all drivers, conductors and helpers do not get their monthly wages. Their earnings depend on the number of the trips they make in a day. The trip-based payment system is one of the reasons behind road crashes as drivers often resort to rash driving to make as many trips as possible to earn more money.

Besides, most road transport workers have not gotten any appointment letters over the years and remained out of legal coverage in case of job-related issues. The new road transport act makes the issuance of appointment letters for workers mandatory. Experts said the implementation of the new wage structure for staffers and workers of the "highly disorganised" transport sector, in which more than 70 lakh workers are involved, will be difficult.

Under the new structure, top grade drivers of public service transport like bus would get basic salaries of 12,800 each, instead of the previous Tk 8,000. The total would rise to Tk 20,200 from Tk 12,700 in last wage board. Drivers living outside city corporations or divisional headquarters would get Tk 1,280 less than others.

The minimum wage of a helper would rise to Tk 6,500 from the previous Tk 4,000. They will get a total of Tk 10,750 (Tk 3,250, Tk 700 and 300 as house rent, and medical and transport allowance.) Helpers living outside city corporations or divisional headquarters would get Tk 650 less than others.

A trainee would get a total Tk 7,500 and his training period would be three months, and may be extended to six months. The wage board comprises its chairman Syed Aminul Islam (a senior district judge), three permanent members (one neutral, one owner and one workers' representative) and two temporary members (one owner and another workers' representative). The Labour and Employment Ministry on August 7 asked the chairman of the Minimum Wage Board to announce the minimum wage for workers of the privately road transport sector and appointed two temporary members.

The board held several meetings and considered the proposals of the owners and workers' representatives, the living cost of labourers, inflation, prices of essentials and other issues before giving recommendations. Insur Ali, a member of the board and a transport workers' leader, said it is true that the recommendations of the previous board were not implemented because no representatives of transport owners and workers was included in that board. "We hope the recommendations of this board would be implemented as both the representatives of transport owners and workers gave their approval," Insur, also the general secretary of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers League, told The Daily Star yesterday.

He said owners' associations will play the main role in implementing the recommendations. He, however, said giving appointment letters and service books to all transport workers is a necessity to implement the recommendations and this is a big challenge for which both the government and transport leaders have to work unitedly. Abul Kalam, a transport owners' leader and also a board member, said they have given the recommendation of the salary hike considering prices of essential commodities and house rent.

He said the previous board's recommendations were not implemented as the wages of drivers and others were very low. Kalam, also a vice president of the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association, hoped transport workers would accept it.  About giving appointment letters to workers, he said, "We will give appointment [letters] because it is necessary to bring discipline to the road transport sector."

Osman Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers' Federation, an umbrella organisation of 235 transport worker unions across the country, said they will make their comment after going through all the recommendations.

However, giving appointment letters and monthly salaries to transport workers is necessary to implement the new wage structure, he told The Daily Star yesterday.

Zafrul Hasan, executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), said the government, owners and workers have to work jointly to implement the new recommendations. 

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