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Sunday, 10 November 2013

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Bangladesh garment workers demand higher wages

Bangladesh's Wage Board has proposed raising the minimum salary for garment industry workers by 77% to 5,300 takas ($68; 42) a month.


A Bangladeshi garment factory

A string of fatal incidents has raised concerns over working conditions and low salaries in the sector - a key contributor to the country's economy. Workers have resorted to various strikes in recent weeks demanding higher wages. However, the proposed increase is less than what unions had demanded. They had sought more than 8,000 takas per month.

"The Board proposed this amount considering the present reality from the point of owners and workers," said chairman of the Wage Board, A K Roy.

The wage increase needs to be approved by the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

Bangladesh is the world's second-largest exporter of ready-made garments. According to some estimates, the sector is a $22 billion (13.5 billion) industry.

However, safety standards in Bangladesh's garment factories are notoriously poor. The working conditions at factories came under increased scrutiny earlier this year after the collapse of a garment factory in April killed more than 1,100 people.

The incident sparked global concerns prompting calls for better conditions and higher wages.

But factory owners have argued that while they are willing to hike wages, a sharp increase would damage their competitiveness.

"We will appeal to the government to consider our inability, and it should not take any decision out of emotion or political benefit," said a representative of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Arshad Jamal Dipu.

For their part, workers said that despite the proposed rise, the minimum wage in Bangladesh will remain among the lowest in the world.

"We will urge owners to implement it without any opposition, otherwise there will be a deadlock in the sector," said a workers' representative on the board, Sirajul Islam Rony.

BBC

 

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