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Bangladesh garment workers call for increased minimum wage

5 March, 2018The current minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is US$68 and was set in 2013; now the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council is demanding an increase to US$192.

At the end of February, IndustriALL’s affiliates in Bangladesh’ garment sector, organized a series of actions including a joint press conference on 25 February and a human chain march on 28 February.

Under the banner of the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), unions are demanding an increase of the minimum wage to 16,000 BDT(US$192) per month, and other welfare measures for workers in the sector. The IBC submitted a memorandum containing workers’ demands to the chair of the newly constituted minimum wage board on 28 February.

The minimum wage has been the same for nearly five years, and increasing has been a longstanding demand of garment workers in Bangladesh. In December 2016 to January 2017 unions and workers faced a severe crackdown by the government when demanding increase in minimum wages.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL regional secretary, says:

It has taken the government of Bangladesh a long time to set up the minimum wage board, and now we hope that it will take swift measures to fulfil workers’ demands. An increase in minimum wage will have a progressive impact on the standard of living, and it will also go a long way to promote decent work and the country’s economy.

In addition to a new minimum wage, the IBC is demanding that job grades are streamlined; from seven to five, on which workers’ pay is based. They are also proposing a promotion criteria, absent in the current system, where workers in the 5th grade should be promoted to 4th grade after one year of work. Subsequently after every two years of continuous work, workers should be promoted to upper grades.

Furthermore, the IBC want a 10 per cent annual increase in payment. Piece rate workers are paid according to the production of each unit, and the piece rate is often decided only after workers complete a certain amount of work, a system which often leads to disputes. The unions say that payment for piece rate workers should be decided before the work starts.

The IBC also want to restrict the training period for apprentice workers to three months, as opposed to current practice of extending it to six months. Wages for apprentices should be raised from BDT 4,180 BDT (US$50) to 10,000 BDT (US$120).