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Bangladeshi garment workers rally for a decent wage

24 September, 2013200,000 Bangladeshi garment workers mobilise for three days in Dhaka and elsewhere calling for a living wage and strongly rejecting a derisory employers’ wage offer in negotiations.

IndustriALL Global Union has long supported the calls of its Bangladeshi affiliates for a rise in the minimum wage for the sector in line with a living wage. The IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) is united in its demand for an urgent increase in the minimum wage to well over US$100 per month.

Recent attention has focused on discussions inside the wage board created by the government to recommend an increased sector-wide minimum wage. IndustriALL has criticised the absence of a trade union representative on the wage board. One spark that ignited the mass worker demonstrations over the weekend however was the inadequate submitted proposal to this wage board from the BGMEA and BKMEA employers associations of 3,600 Taka per month, a raise of less than 20 per cent.  

IBC general secretary Roy Ramesh stated:

The IBC has proposed to fix the minimum wages based on the Millennium Development Goals and the cost of living which is equal to around US$120 per month.

Workers in the sector saw a prominent government cabinet minister this weekend supporting a raise to 8,000 Taka per month and directed their mobilisations’ anger in the industrial areas of Gazipur, Savar, Tejgaon, Ashulia, Mirpur, Uttara, Badda, Dhaka at the influential BGMEA and BKMEA as those blocking a significant increase.

IndustriALL Global Union regional secretary Sudhershan Rao stated:

There is a consensus among all sections of Bangladeshi society that wages are low and work place safety is negligible, wages need to be enhanced and there must be improvement in workplace safety. Now it is to be seen whether the employers and the government come with a proposal that meets the aspirations of the agitating workers.

The work for an increased minimum wage continues in parallel with other priorities including a new labour law in line with ILO minimum standards and the implementation of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina welcomed important newcomers to the Accord:

Arcadia Group, River Island, Uniqlo and others have taken our broad alliance with IndustriALL and UNI to 90 company signatories. The Accord will soon begin its important work on the ground to make the Bangladeshi garment industry safe and sustainable. We will continue to push for change across each of our priorities in Bangladesh. Those workers both need and deserve change.