Factory owners have threatened to shut down all facilities

Factory owners have threatened to shut down all facilities

Bangladesh's apparel manufacturers have reacted angrily to plans announced this week to raise the minimum wage for millions of garment workers by 77%.

Factory owners have threatened to shut down all facilities if the government-appointed national wage board does not review its recommendation to lift wages to BDT5,300 (US$68.17) within the next 15 days.

"The country's ready-made garment (RMG) sector is not in a position to afford this amount," says Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

The BGMEA chief also said the proposed new minimum wage for entry-level workers would be "suicidal" for the sector.

The leaders of the two main manufacturer platforms - the BGMEA and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) - are today (6 November) asking the wage board to review its recommendation.

"We'll request the board to revise its proposal to BDT4,500 (US$57.88) as the minimum wage," Islam said. "If it is not solved within 15 days, the BGMEA and the BKMEA will announce shutdown of all factories."

Worker representatives had been seeking a rise in the minimum monthly wage to BDT8,114 ($104.36) - up from the existing BDT3,000 (US$38.58).

Islam also claims the country's garment sector will lose 37% of its competitiveness if the recommended wage is implemented, since the cost of production has increased by 13% over the last few years.

"We don't want to shut our factories but we have no other choice," AKM Salim Osman, president of the BKMEA, said, adding that the industry is unable to support the proposed minimum wage.

Meanwhile, more than 50 factories closed yesterday (5 November) as several thousand apparel workers went on the rampage in the Gazipur industrial belt, protesting that the latest wage proposal is still too low.