Five years after Rana Plaza,the demands of Bangladeshi garment workers were finally invited to address their minimum wage concerns at a national Minimum Wage Board meeting, set to take place on July 8th. Workers propose an increase of the minimum wage from 5,300 taka (63 US dollars), some of the lowest wages in the global garment industry, to 16,000 taka (about 191 US dollars) per pay period.
In addition to a pay increase, demands included a fixed structure of job grades that will determine an employee’s pay, which is currently non-existent in the country’s garment facilities. An annual pay increase of 10 percent has also made the list of demands, as well as a shortening of apprenticeship periods to a maximum of three months, along with increased wages for apprentices from 4,180 taka to 10,000 taka.
The list of demands, which has been formally submitted to the Minimum Wage board, has been widely supported by trade unions and labour rights groups, according to a statement from Clean Clothes Campaign.
“The owners, the government and the buyers should consider that workers’ health and quality of life affect the production process and the products that come out of it. Large volume and quality production cannot be expected when workers are hungry, in poor health and unable to meet basic needs,” said the president of the National Garment Workers Federation, Amirul Haque Amin, in a statement.
The Clean Clothes Campaign has also taken action, by sending letters to major apparel brands currently sourcing out of Bangladesh, including Gap, H&M, and Walmart. The organization urged the companies to support the workers' demands.
In a press release, Ineke Zeldendrust of Clean Clothes Campaign stated: “Many garment brands have been claiming for years that they support and strive for a living wage in their supply chain. Now is the time to demonstrate that those are not just empty words.
“We fully support all workers’ demands and call for an immediate wage increase, so that workers’ earnings will enable them to finally lift themselves and their families out of the extreme deprivation they currently have to endure on a daily basis.” Zeldenrust added.
Image: Sustainable clothing production