Highs and lows of a wage rise - the new garment minimum wage

Garment worker

The Bangladeshi minimum wage board has, after long negotiations, announced a 76% increase in garment workers’ pay, applicable to all seven pay grades. This has quickly been hailed as a great victory by some observers. We’ll go into the details to show that it’s not the result the workers continue to demand and that any gains may not be long-lasting.

The minimum wage increase being granted at this time is a result of particular circumstances. The past year has seen both the Tazreen fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse, bringing the combined deaths of over 1200 workers.

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!

Who can ride the garment tiger?

On Saturday September 21st there began a 10 day mass agitation by Bangladeshi Ready Made Garment(RMG) workers demanding a 170% increase in their minimum wage.

The reforms announced by government and industry in the aftermath of the Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza disasters[1] included a review of the minimum wage for garment workers. The wage was last raised in 2010 while the cost of living has risen 2.5 times. Workers struggle to survive and many are malnutritious.

A stitch in time: the ‘orchestrated networks’ of bloody Taylorism - John Barker

'All Enterprises' Factory on fire, Baldia Town, Karchi, September 2012

An analysis of the global clothing supply chain, its technology and organisation of labour; it's historical development and recurring high death rate for workers, with reference to recent factory disasters in Asia.

From its beginnings, the sewing machine’s role in shaping global capitalism has been crucial. In today’s high-tech and globalised production landscape, little about the actual machine has changed. A fact which keeps costs down and makes sewing a point of intensive value extraction in an assymetrical and retailer oriented system. John Barker ties together the threads linking the likes of Walmart and Primark to lethal garment factory conditions around the world

Making hesitant steps during the first half of the 19th century before its appearance as a mass means of production in the 1850s, the sewing machine was, Karl Marx said, the ‘decisively revolutionary machine’.

The legacy of the dead - the Savar collapse, part 2

A woman, Shefali, learns of the discovery of her sister's corpse.

The site of the Dhaka factory collapse is now cleared; new concessions and reforms are announced. Some further reflections...

1127 corpses; unionisation on the horizon

The House of Cards - the Savar building collapse

The latest human disaster in the Bangladeshi garment industry - a poorly constructed factory building collapses...

Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers strike after factory collapse

Hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike on Thursday in protest at the deaths of hundreds of workers in a factory collapse the previous day.

Workers downed tools and blockaded major highways in several industrial areas outside the capital Dhaka, forcing factory bosses to declare a day's holiday.

Factories where the owners did not grant the day off were attacked.

The chief of police told press that many of the workers also "wanted to donate blood to their fellow workers", over 1000 of whom were injured in the collapse.

Death-trapped in a burning cage - the Ashulia inferno

Comments on the horrific fire of Saturday 24th November 2012 that swept through a Bangladeshi garment factory.

Another fire in a Bangladeshi garment factory, over 120 lives lost and more than a hundred injured - the only difference this time from the many other factory fires in the past 30 years is the scale of the deaths and human suffering. It is this that makes it 'worthy' of comment, for a brief moment, in the international media.

Bangladeshi workers fight back against corrupt bosses

15,000 Bangladeshi garment workers blockade a key highway in protest at unpaid wages. Meanwhile, bosses at the company – who supply Primark and New Look – are arrested on embezzlement charges in the country’s largest ever corruption case

The last week has seen a series of violent clashes between Bangladeshi garment workers and the police, resulting in over 250 workers being injured.

Workers at the Hallmark Group in Hemayetpur are demanding that arrears in their salaries are paid with immediate effect, and that they receive their annual ‘Eid’ bonus, which is due later this week.

Return to work at Ashulia

Garment workers resume work with issues unresolved...

Thursday 21st June 2012, Ashulia, Dhaka; after a week of intense struggles for higher wages, followed by a 4-day lockout of half a million workers (see earlier article[1]), 350 factories in the industrial zone come to life again.