Unions have launched a campaign aimed at securing better wages and worker rights for those employed in Ethiopia's textile and garment industry.

IndustriAll global union affiliate the Industrial Federation of Textile, Leather and Garment Workers Trade Unions (IFTLGWU) is amongst those leading the campaign to "end poverty wages."

They claim workers are paid around ETB600 (US$20) per month – and are campaigning for minimum wages above ETB3,373 ($121). These, they say, can be pegged using the official minimum wage ETB1,800 ($64), or the consumer price index, ETB2,400 ($86). Current wages average below $50.

The campaign targets the industrial parks set up by the government including Bole Lemi in Addis Ababa, Hawassa and Mekele. The unions say they see minimum wages as a starting point in reversing the low wages, and want them to be included in the new labour laws under consideration. Eventually the unions want to shift the campaign to living wages.

"Salaries are not enough for workers, over 90% women, to pay for transport, food and housing, or to support a family," the unions say. "These workers are part of Ethiopia's working poor, while making clothes for brands from Europe, the US and Asia including H&M, Tchibo, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein."

Meetings are understood to have taken place between the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) and various stakeholders including the ILO. There were also meetings with the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to discuss minimum wages.

"We support Ethiopian unions on the introduction of minimum wages to set at a level of a living wage," says Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriAll director for the textile and garment sector. "We demand further that workers be paid what other garment workers earn globally.

"Therefore, we are promoting global framework agreements in the sector to stop global brands from exploiting cheap labour in developing countries. Living wages can lift workers out of poverty."