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DHAKA – Union leaders in Bangladesh have called for an immediate review of the new minimum wage, which they want to be doubled. The IndustriALL Bangladesh Council – made up of IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Bangladesh – claims the Taka 8,000 (US $95) per month minimum wage is inadequate to meet the living costs of Bangladeshi garment workers. The council suggests rent has increased by up to 50 per cent, and other living costs have also increased.

The new minimum wage, due to be implemented in December, a 51 per cent increase on the current minimum wage, which was set in 2013 as part of the government’s response to the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory that killed 1,130 people.

Unions reject the proposed wage, saying it should be doubled to Taka 16,000 (US $190). “No other wage rates have been announced yet, but the minimum wage is crucial because it is a baseline for all other wage levels, covering millions of factory workers. Workers rely on overtime and other supplements to survive,” said a note from Industriall. “Overtime pay, festival bonus, service benefits and retirement benefits are all determined by the minimum wage.”

Unions are calling for a wage settlement that outlines wages for other grades, as well as the reduction of grades from seven to five. They also want a policy to promote workers to a higher grade after two years, an increase in the apprentice wages from Taka 4,180 (US $49) to Taka 10,000 (US $118), and a reduction of the training period from six to three months.

Industriall assistant general secretary Jenny Holdcroft said: “This decision once again shows the inadequacy of the minimum wage system to support living wages for Bangladesh’s garment workers. Sectoral collective bargaining between employers and trade unions is urgently needed to enable wage increases to be agreed for all categories of workers that take proper account of rising living costs.”

Last year, Bangladesh produced US $30 billion worth of garments for major global retailers. The industry accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s exports, and employs mostly women.

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