Oxfam in Bangladesh, an international organization working to eliminate inequality, is expressing solidarity with the demands of workers, workers and trade unions to raise the minimum wage of ready-made garment industry (RMG) workers to Tk 23,000. In addition, the violent oppression of the police in this peaceful movement of workers has highlighted the discrimination against the workers, about which this international organization is expressing deep concern.
This was stated in a statement sent to the media on Monday (November 6).
According to the statement, Oxfam in Bangladesh believes that the incidents of violence in this peaceful movement of workers have revealed how hostile the working environment of workers in Bangladesh is. So far, two workers have been killed and hundreds injured in this movement.
According to Oxfam, the minimum wage for garment workers generally increases every five years. But almost every time the workers take to the streets to get their demands. Most recently, in 2018, there were incidents of garment workers’ agitation and violence ahead of setting the minimum wage at Tk 8,000 (US$72, the lowest in the world and blatant labor discrimination). Hundreds of workers lost their jobs.
The same incident is repeating itself after five years, when the highest policy-making body of the country’s garment industry, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) proposed Tk 10,800 against the minimum wage of Tk 23,000 demanded by the workers on October 22. Given the country’s ongoing economic crisis and rising food and other commodity prices (according to Bangladesh Trading Corporation (TCB), food prices are set to rise by 21 to 50 percent in 2022 and 2023), this proposed minimum wage is not sufficient. Besides, BGMEA is making ‘no pay if not work’ rule to suppress the agitating workers, which is reprehensible.
Oxfam supports workers’ fair demands through the Global Living Wage Coalition. In addition, in May of this year, the United Nations representative on extreme poverty and human rights visited and during that visit, he highlighted the importance of the right of all workers to receive fair wages in fighting poverty in Bangladesh. Not only that, recently a study by Bangladesh Institute for Labor Studies (BILS) said that any wage below Tk 23,000 is not enough to cover the expenses of the worker and his family.
In such a situation, Oxfam in Bangladesh demands that the peaceful movement of garment workers should be stopped and the minimum wage should be implemented at Tk 23,000. The current minimum wage is only 35 percent of what workers need to make a living. Wages should be paid for 48 hours/week and should cover the worker’s basic needs including nutritious food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, childcare, transportation and savings. Freedom of expression of trade union opinion and security of rights-based movement should be provided to workers. International fashion brands that buy clothes from Bangladesh will express their solidarity with the demands of the trade unions for increased wages to improve the living standards of the local workers and strongly support them in realizing these just demands.