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Bangladesh: Wage dispute turns serious

Unrest has hit Bangladesh’s readymade garment industry. At least 26 trade unionists and garment workers in Bangladesh have been jailed for participating in a strike since December last year following demands to increase the minimum wage.

In addition, more than 1,600 workers have been fired and police have filed cases against 600 workers and trade union leaders, including charges of terrorism. There is growing international concern around Bangladesh’s clampdown on trade unions in the country’s garment sector. Bangladesh’s garment workers remain the lowest paid in the world and have not received a pay rise in over three years, despite soaring inflation in the cost of basic goods.

The Bangladesh garment and textiles industry is progressing towards its goal of increased value of exports but this can only be based on profitable businesses that support decent employment for workers whose rights are respected.

Opening a dialogue on strategies to secure a more sustainable apparel supply chain from local and global perspectives may help. Employers say minimum wages in the apparel industry in the country have risen 219 per cent over the last six years and that they have created a Workers’ Welfare Fund, which will invest 10 million dollars this year on workers’ insurance, education, healthcare and other welfare activities.