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DHAKA – Unions in Bangladesh are demanding an increase in the minimum wage for garment workers from BDT8,000 (US$75) to BDT23,000 (US$215). The demands are in response to soaring inflation which recently hit 9 per cent.

Bangladeshi labour law requires the formation of a new wage board every five years to settle wage structures for all industries The government last reviewed garment workers’ wages in 2018, when the minimum wage of an entry-level garment worker was fixed at BDT8,000 (US$75).

IndustriALL affiliates are calling on the government to immediately form a minimum wage board to review minimum monthly wages.

The demands include the minimum wage of an-entry level garment worker fixed at BDT23,000 (US$215), with a yearly increment of ten per cent as opposed to the current five per cent. Other demands of workers’ unions include ration facilities for workers, “considering the rising cost of living.”

The inflation rate in Bangladesh crossed 9.5 per cent in August 2022, the highest in eleven years. Ready-made garment exports from the country increased by 14.31 per cent to US$27.41bn during the period July 2022 to January 2023.

“The government must immediately reconstitute the national minimum wage board that includes workers’ representatives. Rising inflation has put garment workers in a dire situation. Their wages need to be revised accordingly, along with adequate social security measures,” said Amirul Haque Amin, president of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council.

The unions are demanding that the basic wage is made 65 per cent of the total wage, which includes both the basic wage and allowances. Currently, the basic wage for a garment worker is less than 60 per cent of the total wage. This is significant as termination payments, like severance and gratuity are calculated based on the basic wage.

There is also a demand that the government removes two grades from the existing seven-grade wage structure for garment workers as the current grade system keeps the workers under-graded despite long work experience.

“IndustriALL fully supports the demands to increase minimum wages of garment workers. The current wages are extremely low and much less than what is needed for mere survival,” added Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary.

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