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.
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!
Protesting garment workers in Cambodia have clashed with police leaving scores injured. Workers employed at SL Garment processing – who make clothes for Nike, H&M, & Gap - marched on the Prime Ministers house, demanding better pay and working conditions. They were met by heavily armed police who were intent on violence, using live bullets and tear gas to disperse the marchers. A woman selling rice at the side of the road was shot and killed by the indiscriminate shooting of the security forces.
A spokesperson for the Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union said that:
“The crackdown conducted by police this morning against workers was very cruel and unacceptable. Workers were unarmed, why did the police use live ammunition to crack down on them?”
Three million workers across all sectors (mainly textiles) have begun a week-long strike to demand a nationwide pay rise of 50%, stricter rules on outsourcing, and universal health cover. Indonesia’s economy grew by 6% last year and the workers want a bigger piece of the pie. A group of 37 huge companies – mainly in the textile industry – have submitted a statement to the government demanding no wage increases in 2014, or they will close their factories and leave the country.
A spokesperson for the workers said that:
“Many workers can no longer afford to pay the rent and live under bridges or even the sewers. Instead of rice, they are forced to eat pre-cooked spaghetti. We have worked a lot to help the economic recovery, why are we being trampled on?”
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 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.
Lebanon after the Israeli nation (Faris, Fuad)
Poems (Lourie, Dick)
Four decades of change black workers in southern textiles, 1941-1981 (Fredrickson, Mary)
Poems (Wallace, Bronwen Becker, Robin)
Mothering, the unconscious and feminism (Houseman, Judy)
Sexuality and male violence (Bradbury, Peter)
Poem (Demeter, John)
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 site of the Dhaka factory collapse is now cleared; new concessions and reforms are announced. Some further reflections...
The latest human disaster in the Bangladeshi garment industry - a poorly constructed factory building collapses...