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DHAKA – Union organisations in Bangladesh have reiterated calls for a trebling of monthly wages for ready-made-garment workers from the current 5,300 BDT (US$62) to 16,000 BDT (US$188). They are also calling for an annual ten per cent increase in wages to reflect ongoing increases in the cost of living. A shift to annual wage rises would appear eminently more sensible than the current, farcical situation whereby in Bangladesh, the minimum wage is only revised every five years. In 2013, the minimum wage was fixed at 5,300 BDT (US$62), an increase from 3,000 BDT (US$35) adopted in 2010.

It does seem surprising – and perhaps explains the current worker frustrations – that wage issues have still not been resolved. It was as far back as January that the government of Bangladesh set up a minimum wage board consisting of the representatives of employers, national trade union federations and government officials. In July 2018, employers’ representatives proposed to increase the monthly minimum wages to mere 6,360 BDT (US$ 75), while a trade union representative in the minimum wage board proposed an increase up to 12,020 BDT (US$ 142).

In a recent press conference Salauddin Shapon, secretary general of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) said: “Existing lower minimum wages proposals are not acceptable to garment workers. Before formulating our demand for 16,000 BDT as minimum wage, the IBC conducted a study and carefully considered various aspects including cost of living, inflation trends and minimum wages in major countries that are producing readymade garments. We will continue to organise various actions to convey garment workers’ demands to the government.”

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia Regional Secretary said: “The demand for increasing minimum wage is one of the most crucial issues for Bangladesh readymade garment workers. The government should consider the reality of workers’ lives when debating on the minimum wages to improve the decent work and sustainable development of the readymade garments sector. IndustriALL supports the demands of our affiliates.”

In addition to the minimum wage increase, the IBC also demanded workers categorisation, based on the skill level should be reduced from the current seven to only five grades. It suggested an employee promotion policy should be adopted to ensure workers are promoted to higher grades within a reasonable period of two years.

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