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Minimum wage negotiations continue in Bangladesh

7 November, 2013Western media incorrectly reported yesterday that the minimum monthly wage for Bangladeshi garment workers had been increased by 77% to 5,300 taka (US$67). In fact discussions continue, with the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council holding firm in its demand for a rise to a living wage of US$120.

The BGMEA-BKMEA employers associations publically condemned the 77% increase proposed by the wage board and threatened to close factories in protest of any figure above 4,500 taka.

Working people have been hit by sharp recent increases to the price of essential commodities and food. The six-member National Minimum Wage Board is a government-appointed tripartite body that reviews the minimum wage of all industrial sectors in Bangladesh. The IBC was surprised by the swift announcement from the wage board especially without comprehensive consultation. The IBC has previously criticised the choice of worker representative on the board.

The 5,300 taka proposal includes allowances for food, travel and housing. These allowances worth approximately 300 taka are often already paid to workers.

IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) Chairman Nazrul Islam Khan and Secretary General Roy Ramesh Chandra in a joint statement today on behalf of the IBC highly criticised the minimum wage board’s latest minimum wage declaration and the factory owners’ aggressive reaction.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina told the press today:

An absolute priority for IndustriALL Global Union is that the Bangladeshi garment workers throughout the country's industry start to receive a living wage. IndustriALL supports the principle of fair pricing. The next round of purchasing contracts with the brands must take account of the increased salary.

I have discussed with BGMEA-BKMEA that one essential part of making the Bangladeshi garment industry safe and sustainable and to ensure its future is to raise the wages of workers from today’s low levels towards living wages. The others are fire and building safety and freedom of association.

IndustriALL has been in discussions on the issue of minimum wages with the brands and has not received any opposition to a significant increase. H&M, Primark and Inditex have all been vocal in encouraging an increase, while even Walmart have been quoted this week as supporting the review of wages.

The 109 brands and retailers to have signed the historic Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh with IndustriALL and UNI all commit to staying in the country for the long term. The Accord brands constitute a critical mass of the industry in the country and their commitments through the Accord will both raise standards and protect jobs. We want the garment industry to stay in Bangladesh, but with safe and sustainable jobs and living wages.

The 109th company signatory to the Accord joined the broad coalition with IndustriALL and UNI today.