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Unions in Bangladesh demand revision of new minimum wage

16 November, 2023Minimum wage protests in Dhaka continue as workers’ demand of a higher minimum wage remains unmet. Police has been violently breaking down the protests and to date four workers have been killed and several others seriously injured. Police has registered over 60 criminal cases, in which nearly a hundred workers have been arrested, including six local union leaders.

In light of the government’s announcement of a new minimum wage that is set at half of what unions were demanding, IndustriALL affiliates in Bangladesh organized a press conference on 15 November to reassert their longstanding demands.

Trade union leaders are demanding that prime minister Sheikh Hasina intervene in the matter and revise the newly declared minimum wage of BDT12,500 (US$112 ). Their demands include that the basic wage be made 65 per cent of the total wage, as opposed to the current 51 per cent, as well as be granted ten per cent yearly increment.

Unions are demanding that the arrested organizers be released immediately and that the harassment of trade union leadership by local police and intelligence agencies be instantly stopped. The killings of the protesting workers must be thoroughly investigated and the guilty parties be brought to justice. The families of the deceased workers must receive adequate compensated and the injured workers must be given immediate quality medical care.

Union leaders are also demanding that the factories which were closed due to the protests must be opened immediately and that workers be paid full wages. Leaders have pointed out that workers are also being blacklisted for taking part in protest actions, and that must be stopped.

IndustriALL steering committee for the textile and garment sector has issued a statement, reiterating the demands of affiliates in Bangladesh.

Atle Høie, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, says:

“Trade unionism is not a crime, but in this case in Bangladesh, it is punished by imprisonment, blacklisting and police brutality. Four workers have even been killed. Workers deserve a living wage and decent treatment, and this is what we demand from the government and employers in Bangladesh.”