• Bangladesh's National Minimum Wage Board is set to hold a second meeting on Sunday (8 July) to review pay for ready-made garment workers.
  • Currently, the minimum wage for the country's clothing workers is BDT5,300 per month (US$68). Unions are demanding a tripling to BDT16,000.
As well as a payrise, workers have been demanding a statutory framework to govern pay grades

As well as a payrise, workers have been demanding a statutory framework to govern pay grades

The Bangladesh Government is meeting this weekend to discuss a new minimum wage for employees in the country's US$28bn ready-made garment sector.

The second meeting of Bangladesh's National Minimum Wage Board on Sunday (8 July) will review salaries for RMG workers. It follows an earlier meeting on 14 March and is expected to see workers' representatives submit proposals for a recommended wage to the board.

Currently, the minimum wage for workers in the garment industry, the majority of whom are women, is BDT5,300 per month (US$68), which was set fiver years ago in 2013 after the Rana Plaza collapse. Unions have been calling for the new wage to be tripled to BDT16,000.

The board was set up by the Bangladesh Government in January following labour unrest and calls for the implementation of a more transparent and regular wage review mechanism. It is tasked with recommending a minimum salary scale for the country's 3.6m garment workers within six months.

As well as a payrise, workers have been demanding a statutory framework to govern pay grades and promotion, the streamlining of the job grades that determine worker's pay from seven to five, the introduction of promotion criteria, a 10% annual pay increase, and a shortening of apprenticeship periods to a maximum of three months, along with a wage increase for apprentices from BDT4,180 to BDT10,000.

A number of rallies have taken place, including one on Monday organised by Bangladesh Garment Workers Solidarity. Another took place yesterday organised by the IBC members National Garment Workers Federation, Bangladesh Revolutionary Garments Workers Federation and Akota Garment Workers Federation, which together represent more than 100 trade unions.

The president of the National Garment Workers Federation, Amirul Haque Amin, said: "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."

The Clean Clothes Campaign has appealed to garment brands to show leadership on the way towards living wages for garment workers in Bangladesh by publicly supporting the BDT16,000 minimum wage demand, making a long-term commitment to continue sourcing from Bangladesh after the wage increase, and agreeing to increase the prices they pay their suppliers.

"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," says Ineke Zeldendrust of Clean Clothes Campaign.

"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."