• The minimum wage for workers in Bangladesh's garment industry is currently around US$68 per month. 
  • The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has "strongly recommended" Bangladesh "raise its minimum wages to ensure a decent living for all workers and their families."
Bangladeshs government has been called on to to improve workers’ rights, in the field of wages, labour legislation and employment injury insurance

Bangladesh's government has been called on to to improve workers’ rights, in the field of wages, labour legislation and employment injury insurance

The Bangladesh Government has come under pressure again to ensure a decent wage for all of its workers, as well as revise its labour laws and "make haste" with the adoption of a national employment injury scheme.

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has "strongly recommended" Bangladesh "raise its minimum wages to ensure a decent living for all workers and their families" and to reduce the gender pay gap.

Currently, the minimum wage for workers in the garment industry, the majority of whom are women, is BDT5,300 per month (US$68), while unions are demanding a tripling to BDT16,000.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights consists of elected experts that consider self-assessments submitted by states on their compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The committee says it assessed the submission by the Bangladesh government on 15 and 16 March and this week offered its conclusions.

These contained strong recommendations to improve workers' rights in the country, in the field of wages, labour legislation and employment injury insurance.

In the field of labour legislation, the committee concluded the Bangladeshi government should "revise the Bangladesh Labour Act" to ensure its labour laws cover the whole industry, including the informal economy and Export Processing Zones (EPZs).

The committee is calling for independent and effective labour complaint mechanisms and strengthened labour inspection mechanisms and for a revision of procedures and requirement for trade union registration.

At the moment, the committee says the requirements are "overly restrictive," while the registration process is arbitrary and rejection rates are high. The committee further recommends the government "promptly and thoroughly investigate all reported cases of discrimination, harassment, intimidation and dismissal against trade union activists and effectively guarantee trade union rights; and bring the perpetrators to justice and provide victims with adequate remedies."

To ensure workers involved in workplace incidents receive proper compensation and treatment, the committee urges the government of Bangladesh to speed up its commitment to adopt a national employment injury insurance scheme to "ensure all victims of occupational accidents and their families are provided with adequate compensation, which should include, as a minimum, necessary medical treatments for their physical injuries and psychological trauma".

Since the Rana Plaza collapse workers have continued to be killed and injured in over 100 smaller workplace incidents, according to the committee, but in absence of a national employment injury scheme they have largely remained uncompensated.

The government of Bangladesh committed to creating such a national scheme in 2015 to be established until 2020. Yet the committee says it is vital the government "makes haste" in creating and implementing such a system.

"The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights' conclusions confirm many of the concerns and demands raised by the ILO, Global Unions and Human Rights Organisations about the lack of progress in Bangladesh," says Ben Vanpeperstraete, lobby and advocacy coordinator for Clean Clothes Campaign. "Workers are in dire need of wages they can actually live from and those involved in factory incidents cannot continue to wait in dire poverty for compensation.

"Furthermore it is high time that the Bangladesh government make good on its commitments to improve its labour legislation and guarantee workers' right to join or form a Union of their own choice. The international community including the EU has to stop standing at the side and watch while Bangladeshi workers can't enjoy even the most basic rights."

Last month, under the banner of the IndustriAll Bangladesh Council (IBC), trade unions in the country once again proposed hiking wages to BDT16,000 (US$192) a month from the current US$68 set in 2013 after the Rana Plaza collapse.

While earlier this week, a new minimum wage board in Bangladesh, which was set up to recommend a minimum salary for workers in the country's US$28bn garment industry, called for proposals to be submitted later this month.

Bangladesh unions renew call for garment wages to triple

Bangladesh wage board wants proposals this month