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Bangladesh: unions demand better wages for garment workers

14 August, 2018IndustriALL Bangladesh Council held a human chain protest on 11 August 2018 calling for an increase of the monthly minimum wages of readymade garment workers from current 5,300 BDT (US$62) to 16,000 BDT (US$188).

In January 2018, the government of Bangladesh constituted a minimum wage board consisting of the representatives of employers, national trade union federations and government officials. In July 2018, employers’ representatives proposed to increase the monthly minimum wages to mere 6,360 BDT (US$ 75), while a trade union representative in the minimum wage board proposed an increase up to 12,020 BDT (US$ 142).

In a press conference on 28 July, Salauddin Shapon, Secretary General of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) said that, “existing lower minimum wages proposals are not acceptable to garment workers. Before formulating our demand for 16,000 BDT as minimum wage, the IBC conducted a study and carefully considered various aspects including cost of living, inflation trends and minimum wages in major countries that are producing readymade garments. We will continue to organize various actions to convey garment workers’ demands to the government.”

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia Regional Secretary said,

“the demand for increasing minimum wage is one of the most crucial issues for Bangladesh readymade garment workers. The government should consider the reality of workers’ lives when debating on the minimum wages to improve the decent work and sustainable development of the readymade garments sector. IndustriALL supports the demands of our affiliates.”

In addition to the minimum wage increase, the IBC also demanded workers categorization, based on the skill level should be reduced from the current seven to only five grades. An employee promotion policy should be adopted to ensure that workers are promoted to higher grades within a reasonable period of two years. Further there should be 10 per cent annual wage increase, which will ensure that workers can appropriately meet ever-growing expenses for food, shelter, children’s education and health care.

The IBC also called for improvement of the piece rate system, which is currently resulting in many disputes as payment is discussed after completion of work. In order to avoid disputes IBC demands that the payment should be decided before beginning of the piecework. Further the training period for apprentices should be restricted to three months instead of the current practice of six months. Apprentices’ wages should raise from 4,180 BDT (US$49) to 10,000 BDT (US$117).

In Bangladesh, minimum wage is revised every five years. In 2013, the minimum wage was fixed at 5,300 BDT (US$62), an increase from 3,000 BDT (US$35) adopted in 2010.