In a national workshop on the living wage held on 22 and 23 April 2016 in Dhaka, Bangladeshi unions resolved to intensify their campaign for a living wage.
The workshop, jointly organized by IndustriALL and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, brought together union representatives from different sectors, including garment and textiles, steel, chemical, energy and shipbreaking.
The participants held intensive discussions on a living wage for workers in Bangladesh. In the face of price rises and the diminishing value of real wages, the existing minimum wage - which is one of the lowest in the world - is too low to meet the basic needs of workers. Union representatives agreed that a wage increase is a key issue for workers across sectors in Bangladesh.
Activists evaulated past struggles to raise wages. They discussed current wages and wage setting mechanisms, and analysed the advantages and disadvantages of using national minimum wage fixing structures, and creating industry wide collective bargaining agreements to take forward the demand for wage increase.
Unions underlined the need for comprehensive and technical details backed with concrete research to decide an appropriate living wage for workers in various sectors. Such research on wages will also support workers’ demands at the national level.
Speaking at the workshop, IndustriALL policy director Jenny Holdcroft called on the unions to recognize the impact of brands’ purchasing practices, as they take the major share of profits in the ready made garments sector.
Employers’ capacity to pay depends on what they receive from buyers. She argued that unions need to mount international pressure on brands to contibute to ensuring a living wage for workers in Bangladesh.
Participants decided to convene the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, made up of Bangladeshi affiliates, to come together to discuss the issue with union representatives across the sectors, commission research and develop consensus on the demand for a living wage.
Because the demand for a wage increase is not just economic, but also a political issue in Bangladesh, they decided to engage with political leaders to seek their support for workers’ demand.
They also expressed the need to take forward the message to workers and ordinary people across the country to build broad-based support.