Hundreds of thousands of Garment Workers in Bangladesh gathered together on Saturday 21 September 2013 to rally against the proposed minimum wage of BDT3600 (USD 46.31) offered to the most important members of the most important export industry of Bangladesh, the Ready Made Garment Industry. This proposal in effect would be an increase of 20% of the minimum wage which is now at BDT3000 (USD 38.59).
The protests have brought together 52 garments workers’ federations of Bangladesh against the meager raise in the proposed minimum wage i.e. BDT 3600 at Sarawardy Uddan of the Bangladeshi Capital Dhaka. The demand from the garments workers’ federations is BDT 8114. The protest was lead and briefed by the marine-transport minister, Shah Jahan Khan MP. The protest, where hundreds of thousands of workers took to the streets, was also to voice against the statements of Allama Shafi, an extreme right Islamist religious leader who made obscene comments on how women should work and study, creating a concern for the women workers who represent more than 80% of the workforce in the garment industries of the country.
The rally has continued till its third day today, 23 September 2013, with unrest surrounding Gazipur which saw tens of thousands of Garment workers taking to the streets protesting what they term as a brutalization. The minimum wage of the Bangladeshi Garment Workers is the lowest in the world (IGLHR) and even after this meager hike it will still remain the lowest in the world for this second biggest exporter of ready made garments in the world. The garment workers along with national and international NGOs and labor organizations have been pressing for a minimum wage which should be equivalent to a living wage (which is approximately over BDT 11000/month) for a garment worker in Bangladesh.
The last minimum wage decision of BDT 3000 was heavily contested by human rights groups, national and international NGOs. The minimum wage declared has the minimum salary at the entry level fixed at BDT 3,000: BDT 2,000 in basic pay, BDT 800 in house rent and BDT 200 in medical allowance. The apprentice level wage was fixed at BDT 2,500, up from BDT 1,200, and all these were effective from November 2010.
Whether in Dhaka or Chittagong, the cost of living is very high, and the workers who are employed in the garment factories simply do not have enough money to spend on health care, child education or even a basic nutritious meal. They barely pay for some for some food and rent.
The protests and rallies are the most justified events at the moment in Bangladesh, and the workers of these industries now look upon the world for support with the famous slogans calling “Laborers of the World, Unite Unite!”