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AMSTERDAM – The newly announced minimum wage for Bangladeshi garment workers has been branded outrageous by Clean Clothes Campaign. The NGO is now calling on apparel brands to oppose the new wage of US$95 per month which, it claims, is nowhere near a living wage. “Brands and their associations have repeatedly expressed support for a living wage and for fair negotiations involving legitimate trade unions, so they cannot possibly approve of an 8,000 taka minimum wage nor of this process, both of which are strongly rejected by workers’ legitimate representatives,” said Ineke Zeldenrust of Clean Clothes.

The Bangladesh Minimum Wage Board for readymade garment workers set Tk8,000 (US$95) as the new minimum monthly salary.  Employees will start receiving the new level in December 2018. The rise represents a 53 per cent increase, albeit the last rise in wages workers received was five years ago.

“The declaration of minimum wage of 8,000 taka totally failed to fulfill the expectations of the workers and workers’ organisations,” said Shapon Salauddin, the secretary general of the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC).

Clean Clothes Campaign said it supports the IBC’s call for a review of the announced amount, in light of the demand of workers’ unions for the new minimum wage to be set at 16,000 taka, and, “due to serious concerns about the wage board composition and process.

Added Ineke Zeldenrust: “The 8,000 taka as a new minimum wage is outrageous. As we have done all along, we are fully backing the demand for 16,000 taka that the IBC had clearly communicated to the Minimum Wage Board, and support them in requesting an immediate review given that the wage board process was deeply compromised.”

Does Clean Clothes have a valid argument? Apparel Insider has been in touch with several textile mills in Bangladesh and the consensus appears to be that the wage rise received by workers is actually too high. There is even talk that some mills could go to the wall.

This illustrates the complexity of the problem. This issue has come about, we believe, because of the protracted nature of wage negotiations. Five years is way too long to wait for a pay rise. Whatever wages were set at, one or both of factory owners and worker representatives were going to be unhappy.

There is talk of making minimum wage reviews annual in Bangladesh moving forwards; such a move cannot come soon enough.

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