DHAKA – Hundreds of textile workers demonstrated in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Friday, protesting against the government’s new minimum wage offer for workers in the key economic sector.
In an announcement on Thursday the government fixed the total minimum wage for textile workers at 8,000 taka ($95), up from the existing 5,250 taka, which the authorities said would come into effect in December.
Workers from trade unions marched in separate processions in front of the national press club in Dhaka in the morning, chanting slogans against the wage announcement, which they called “inhuman” and “deceptive.”
At least one group built a blockade on the busy street where they gathered, and reiterated their demand for a minimum monthly wage of 16,000 taka.
“We demanded 16,000 taka as minimum wage two years ago. In the meantime the living costs got even higher. The announcement of 8,000 taka is an inhuman, unfair and deceptive behavior for the workers,” Joly Talukder, the general secretary of Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre, told the gathering.
“This government is (an) owner-friendly government. The new minimum wage is a gift for the owners from the government. We cannot accept it under any circumstance,” she said.
Anajan Das, the president of Bangladesh Garments Workers Unity warned the government it would have to bear the responsibility if the situation got out of their hands after the announcement of the new wage.
“It is impossible to make a living with the wage of 8,000 taka. We hatefully reject this new wage,” he said at a separate gathering.
At least one political party extended its support to the agitating workers.
“We did not come here for begging. We came here to ask for the price of our hard work,” said Mujahidul Islam Selim, the president of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, while speaking at the Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre.
The government in January created a panel headed by a retired judge to review the minimum wage for the sector, which was last fixed at 5,250 taka on Nov. 1, 2014.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association advocated for fixing the new wage at 6,250 taka, while the representatives of the workers proposed raising it to 12,000.
The textile sector has faced intense scrutiny for years because of its working conditions, especially after the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in 2013, in which 1,100 workers died and 2,500 were injured.
In fiscal year 2017-2018, Bangladesh exported textile products worth $30.6 billion, which represents more than 83% of its total exports, which in that period reached $36.6 billion.