Striking Bangladeshi garment workers win a 77% pay rise

Striking Bangladeshi garment workers win a 77% pay rise

Following a four day shutdown of hundreds of factories by strikes and a series of violent confrontations involving tens of thousands of people, Bangladeshi garment workers have forced the bosses into a 77% rise to the minimum wage, although it is still the lowest minimum wage in the world. This victory will hopefully be a catalyst to other garment workers in India, China, Cambodia, and Laos, who are being held back from confrontation by the boss’s threats of relocation and dismissals.

Millions of workers are employed across the region in the garment industry accounting for over 75% of several countries’ GDP, so the bosses cannot stand a shutdown of longer than a few days. All power to the workers!

The garment industry has come under the international spotlight over the last year. The huge factory blaze in April that resulted in the deaths of 1,100 people highlighted the disgusting wages, conditions, and non-existent health and safety that run through the garment trade.

Despite huge multinational brands claiming they would pressure the Bangladeshi government into driving up standards, little had changed. The rise in the monthly minimum wage from $38 to $68 has been won by workers taking matters into their own hands. Although still ‘poverty pay’ by international standards, it will hopefully improve the lives of the four million Bangladeshi’s who work in the sector.

The pay rise has still to be officially rubber stamped by the government (expected later this week) but the factory bosses do not want to give any increase in pay claiming that:

Quote:
“The proposed wage for an unskilled newcomer would increase their production cost significantly and destroy the industry in a fiercely competitive global market.”

I understand their concerns – an increase in the production cost of a t-shirt from $1 to $2 which is then sold wholesale to Gap for $10, who the sell it for $50, is going to make a catastrophic dent in their profit margins. Unfortunately for the bosses a 20% drop in national production during the dispute has hit their margins harder than a pay rise would, and have subsequently withdrawn their opposition to the 77% rise.

There are still large numbers of people demanding a much bigger pay rise, and are still refusing to go back to work. Solidarity!

***Update – Monday 18th November***

Over 140 Bangladeshi garment factories have shut today as thousands of workers show their unhappiness at the new minimum wage. They say that the 77% does not apply to all skilled workers, and that some bosses have slashed food and transport allowances to offset the pay rise. The struggle continues!

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working class s...
Nov 14 2013 10:38

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  • The rise in the monthly minimum wage from $38 to $68 has been won by workers taking matters into their own hands. Although still ‘poverty pay’ by international standards, it will hopefully improve the lives of the four million Bangladeshi’s who work in the sector.

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Comments

Uncreative
Nov 14 2013 11:13

You say its a 77% rise, but then later say its gone up from $38 to $103 - is the percentage referring to this current victory and the numbers to a previous one, or what? Sorry, just finished work and my brain is knackered.

Red Marriott
Nov 14 2013 15:34

Correction needed; those figures quoted of $38 to $103 are monthly wages - not weekly, as this article claims.

Ed
Nov 14 2013 17:01

Article corrected. Cheers Red!

Alasdair
Nov 14 2013 18:11

This article say the wages are increasing to $68/month, $38 to $68 is about 77% (well 79%, but I guess the $38 and $68 are rounded) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24800279

working class s...
Nov 14 2013 19:21

Ta

C.Hélène
Nov 14 2013 19:46

Bangladesh garment workers set for 77% pay rise

But Scattered protests by garment factory employees continued on Thursday. Police on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital, fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse stone-throwing workers after they vandalised vehicles, said local police officials.

Factory owners who initially opposed demands for higher minimum wage agree to increase after PM's intervention

· theguardian.com, Thursday 14 November 2013 16.08 GMT

Wages for Bangladeshi garment factory workers are set to rise after owners said they had agreed to a proposed 77% increase in the minimum wage.

The powerful businessmen who run many of the factories in the country, the world's second biggest exporter of clothes after China, had initially opposed demands for higher wages.

The official wage board in the chaotic, overcrowded and politically unstable south Asian state had proposed 5,300 takas (£43) a month as the minimum wage after a string of fatal factory accidents this year highlighted poor pay and conditions.

In April 1,130 people died when a factory complex where garments for European retailers such as Benetton, Matalan and Primark were made collapsed.

Factory owners' resistance to the wage increase had led to street violence, protests and a four-day shutdown of many factories. However,Bangladesh's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, convinced business representatives to implement the rise at a meeting at her private residence on Wednesday night.
"We have agreed to the new wages after the prime minister assured us she would look into our problems," said Mohammad Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers' and Exporters' Association.

Hasina is facing an election within months in which her Awami League is likely to lose power. A pay rise to millions of workers will help bolster her popular support. The rate paid in Bangladeshi factories remains the lowest minimum wage in the world, however. Dozens of factory owners are members of parliament, many for Hasina's party.

Scattered protests by garment factory employees continued on Thursday. Police on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital, fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse stone-throwing workers after they vandalised vehicles, said local police officials. Workers' representatives had originally demanded 8,114 takas (£64).

Bangladesh earns more than $200bn (£125bn) a year from exports, mainly to the United States and Europe. The industry employs about 4 million workers, mostly women who come from rural backgrounds and for whom even poorly paid jobs are a route out of worse poverty in remote villages.

Three separate initiatives involving global brands, international unions, Bangladeshi authorities and multilateral bodies such as the International Labour Organisation have been launched in a bid to improve conditions.

This year Muhammad Yunus, who founded the pioneering Grameen bank in Bangladesh 30 years ago and won a joint Nobel prize in 2006, said there was no sense in foreign firms "leaving a country which has benefited a great deal from their business".

However, he urged foreign clothes companies operating in Bangladesh to jointly fix a minimum wage for workers in the industry.

Ian Schlom
Nov 15 2013 03:29

There's a discrepancy between the little block quote snapshot advertising the article and where that text comes from. Is it $108 or $68? Could the author correct it?
Ad

Quote:
The rise in the monthly minimum wage from $38 to $103 has been won by workers taking matters into their own hands. Although still ‘poverty pay’ by international standards, it will hopefully improve the lives of the four million Bangladeshi’s who work in the sector.

In the actual article

Quote:
The rise in the monthly minimum wage from $38 to $68 has been won by workers taking matters into their own hands. Although still ‘poverty pay’ by international standards, it will hopefully improve the lives of the four million Bangladeshi’s who work in the sector.
David Johnson
Nov 15 2013 15:03

Did not those 1000 plus workers die in a building collapse? Several hundred garment workers have also died in fires.

Red Marriott
Nov 15 2013 15:04

I'll be putting up an article in next few days that goes into more detail of this settlement, which is at best a partial victory so far for the workers - and arguably as much a victory (if finally accepted by the workforce) for self-appointed union leaders and their ambitions.

Novo
Nov 16 2013 22:03

Fuck yeah for them. Still, that's a pittance of what they deserve. Here's hoping they continue the struggle.

Ablokeimet
Nov 17 2013 03:45
Red Marriott wrote:
I'll be putting up an article in next few days that goes into more detail of this settlement, which is at best a partial victory so far for the workers - and arguably as much a victory (if finally accepted by the workforce) for self-appointed union leaders and their ambitions.

It this a victory? Hell, yeah! 77% is a massive rise, which should be judged from the fact that workers were actually surviving on the previous rate. Sure it's not huge from the point of view of the factory bosses, and only a pittance as far as the global brands go, but first things first - we're talking about a massive increase in the workers' standard of living.

Is it enough? No way! This is just a down-payment on a living wage for the garment workers of Bangladesh. It's now time to pause, re-group and assess what is required to mobilise the forces that can make the next breakthrough. This struggle was about eating into the super-profits in the industry. The next stage will be harder, because it will require not only (as this stage did) taking on the insane greed of capitalists who are making a phenomenal rate of profit, but also taking on capitalists who are making only an average rate of profit. This will require more than just spontaneous militancy. It will require conscious organisation.

vicent
Nov 17 2013 11:24

are there many anarcho syndicalists involved?

Bryan123
Nov 18 2013 18:15

Do not forget the capitalists can always:
1)inflate away their gains
2)outsource to an even poorer country
3)automate some of the jobs, putting downward pressure on wages
4)back away from their words of paying a raise
5)bribe/kill the trade-union leaders

but overall, this is a big step forward

Soapy
Nov 18 2013 20:20
Novo wrote:
Fuck yeah for them. Still, that's a pittance of what they deserve. Here's hoping they continue the struggle.

What they deserve, what we all deserve, is to never work again

C.Hélène
Nov 19 2013 08:45

bangladesh : 2 killed as RMG workers, cops clash in Gazipu
Published: Monday, November 18, 2013
r
Star Online Report
Two garment workers were killed and 50 were injured, four of bullet-hit, during a clash with police in Kashimpur of Gazipur this afternoon.
Badsha Mia, 32, dies of bullet injuries at Enam Medical College Hospital around 4:00pm, said Zahidur Rahman, public relation director at the hospital.
Ruma Akhtar, 22, died on the spot during the clash, reports our Gazipur correspondent.
Among the injured, four bullet-hit workers were shifted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital as their condition was stated to be critical.
Sources said the clash ensued around 3:30pm when a factory official physically assaulted a female worker. The workers protested the incident and got into a clash with the factory officials.
The workers later clashed with police who rushed in to bring the situation under control.
At one stage, the law enforcers opened fire to disperse the agitators.
Nazrul Islam, an inspector of Gazipur industrial police, told The Daily Star that some workers were injured after being pressed against the wall while rushing out of the factory.
Later, the injured were taken to nearby Enam Medical College Hospital in Savar where one injured worker died, he added.
He however did not confirm any incident of shooting there.

Red Marriott
Nov 20 2013 17:56