Bangladeshi Garment Workers Demand Higher Pay

The Bangladesh minimum wage was raised by more than 50 percent last week to 8,000 taka (£72.30) per month, however garment workers are rightfully not satisfied claiming the increase is still not enough to live on. The change in wage is the first increase since 2013, when a string of fatal factory accidents emphasised the poor working conditions and lack of pay for workers. “The new wages announced are not enough for workers to live a decent life,” said Mohd Raisul Islam Khan, field coordinator for the IndustriALL Global Union. “Workers were demanding 16,000 takas. They are not happy and many organizations are talking about an indefinite strike if the wages are not reconsidered,” he continued.

Only beaten by China, Bangladesh is the second largest garment producer; the $30billion industry employs over four million people, 80 percent of which are women. They are amongst the worst paid in the world with overtime income accounting for 20 percent of their salary. Workers are known to put in more than 60 hours per week despite the impact it has on their health. Unions have also stated that production targets should not be increased because of the change in wage. “After the last pay hike in 2013, we realized that many factories increased production target for workers and the work pressure built up tremendously,” said Nahidul Hasan Nayan, general secretary of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, which supports unions. “Workers came to us and said their pay had gone up but they did not even have a minute to drink water or use the restroom during their shift.”

Although the situation within factories has improved since the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, which killed 1,136 garment workers, Khan said fashion brands have a duty to do more. “Brands have to step up and pay more for the clothes they are buying,” he said. “After Rana Plaza disaster, the Bangladesh garment and retail manufacturing industry has made big efforts to meet international standards. Now international brands have to show their commitment to the workers.”