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We don’t support low wages says Ethiopian labour minister

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12 July, 2019Low wages in the textile and garment sector of less than US$30 per month are being widely condemned by trade unions in Ethiopia. Now the government is also calling for minimum living wages.  

“We support living wages, not low wages. We are not for cheap labour,” said Dr Ergogie Tesfaye, the Ethiopian Minister of Labour and Social Affairs at the programme launch of the ILO’s Advancing Decent Work and Inclusive Industrialization Programme on 3 July in Addis Ababa.

According to a survey by Mywage and FNV Mondiaal, over 90 per cent of the garment workers in Ethiopia earn less than the 4130 Ethiopia Birr (US$144) needed to cover monthly living expenses. To reverse this, the Industrial Federation of Textile, Leather, and Garment Workers Trade Union (IFTLGWTU), affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, is campaigning for living wages. 

The Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions, to which IFTLGWTU is also affiliated to IndustriALL, said at the meeting that it is unacceptable to pay Ethiopian workers such low wages.

IFTLGWTU president, Mesfin Adenew, said the union is waiting for the government to make an announcement on the minimum wages:

“The new labour law amendments passed by parliament are recommending the setting up of a wage commission to study the national and sectoral minimum wages. As part of our living wage campaign, we are waiting for the commission to make announcements first, make careful considerations, and then consult with the workers on what action to take.”

Global fashion brands, H&M and PVH, also said they were working with their suppliers to ensure that they pay better wages and improve working conditions.

Said Christina Hajagos-Clausen, the IndustriALL Director for the textile and garment sector:

“The emphasis on social dialogue is an important step towards minimum living wages and better working conditions for the textile and garment sector, especially for the women who are the majority in the factories. Global brands sourcing in Ethiopia need to join ACT in order to work with the trade unions to increase wages in the sector.”

ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) is a ground-breaking agreement between global brands and retailers and trade unions to transform garment, textile and footwear industry and achieve living wages for workers through collective bargaining at industry level linked to purchasing practices. Find out more here.