The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Diseases Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) will increase salaries of 4,625 of its scientists, officials and employees yielding to their demands.
"At an extra-ordinary meeting, the authorities yielded to some of our demands. It is finalised that salaries will be increased by 6.20 per cent with retrospective from April this year and festival bonus will commence from ensuing Eid-ul Azha," said Dr Firoz Ahmed, General Secretary of Staff Welfare Association (SWA). The association recently launched a movement at the ICDDR,B for the first time since its inception in 1978.
He told the Daily Observer that an agreement between ICDDR,B and SWA has been finalised and will hopefully be signed on Wednesday (today).
The movement was started on June 25 as the ICDDR,B authorities declined to accept the nine-point demands of the employees under the banner of SWA and continued until June 6. SWA later postponed the movement till Eid-ul Fitr celebration, Firoz said.
But he added, "We will continue the movement (after Eid-ul Fitr) as the authorities have not met the demands fully. "However, we are yet to fix the date for resuming the movement," he further declared.
The authorities declined to dismiss Ingrid Renaud, Chief Operating Officer and abolish the post, a major demand of SWA. The ICDDR,B also ruled out the demand of SWA that lease with BRAC allowing them to use 40,500 square feet of ICDDR,B's space for 49 years for only Tk 1 (one) be scrapped. The authorities also declined to publish Population and Nutrition journal that is sold to Biomed Central, a publishing house.
"As they refused to meet the three major demands, we will continue the movement," he said.
The ICDDR.B authorities agreed to decrease the number of administrative officers, Feroz said. But the COO alone gobbles up huge portion of its annual budget which can be saved by scrapping his post, without affecting services at the country's pioneer hospital and research centre for diarrhoeal diseases, a major killer in Bangladesh.
Feroz Ahmed said that ICDDR,B agreed to give 25 per cent subsidy on rice-peas-vegetables, fixed the price of egg-curry at Tk 10. However, the authorities will decide on the subsidy on fish-mutton-beef- chicken next week, he said.
Sources in the ICDDR,B said that the Bangladesh government is the major donor of ICDDR,B. Total infrastructure of the institution, the 4-acre land where it is set up have been given by the government.
The government is continuously giving monetary allocations to ICDDR,B through Economic Relations Division.
SWA General Secretary Firoz Ahmed in his speech at the meeting said that the government revenue is transferred abroad unnecessarily as ICDDR,B pays huge amount of salary and provide other facilities to foreigner officials which cannot be tolerated. He pressed for initiating probe by health ministry over corruption in ICDDR,B in line with the request of ACC.
Sources said from 1978 to 1994 the subsidy on meal was 100 per cent while it was 60 per cent until 2001. Later until January it was 40 per cent. But the subsidy was made zero dramatically in February which angered the employees and later the movement started.
ICDDR,B arbitrarily had increased transport fare to Tk 1,800 from Tk 275 for the staff members. Now, they have agreed to decrease the fare to Tk 650, the SWA General Secretary said.
The decisions were taken at the extra-ordinary meeting attended by Christine Dennehey, Director of Human Resources, Dr Emily Suzanne Gurley, Director, Communicable Diseases, Dr Md Abdus Salam, Director, Research Administration, SWA President Dr Azharul Islam, Vice-President Mahbubul Alam, Firoz Ahmed and Cultural Secretary Dr Rafiqul Islam.
The nine-point demands include paying salaries and allowances consistent with the UN pay structure as per the ICDDR,B Ordinance of 1978, cancelling unfair contract with the NGO BRAC through which 40,500 square feet of ICDDR,B's space was leased out to it for 49 years, restoring previous rates of food at canteen and transportation costs, offering festival bonuses, increasing retirement age to 65 years, and abolishing the post of the COO, who has been receiving US$ 200,000 as salary every year and $20,000 as house rent, full time car and driver facilities from the ICCDR,B.