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Bangladesh Preps for Protests as Workers Reject Minimum Wage Proposal

Labor unrest may be around the corner for Bangladesh.

Workers and their representatives in the Southeast Asian nation have been seeking a minimum wage increase to 16,000 Bangladeshi taka ($189) per month—that’s triple the 5,300 taka ($63) rate they’re currently making. Those who pay them, however, aren’t backing the boost.

This week, amid meetings with the Wage Board in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) proposed raising the wage to 6,360 taka ($75), but workers rejected the offer, according to BD News 24. Workers’ representative organization Jatiya Sramik League even proposed raising the rate to 12,020 taka ($142), but workers rejected that too.

The garment workers are set on fighting for their requested wage rate. A protest is slated for Friday and it’s expected to span every industrial city in Bangladesh.

Minimum wage earners in Bangladesh haven’t seen a raise since the 5,300 taka increase took effect in December 2013. The nominal pay rate remains far from what could be considered a living wage.

In fact, according to Joly Talukder, leader of the Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre in Bangladesh, the wage would have to reach the sought-after 16,000 taka to come in line with the International Labour Organization’s convention on wages, when current commodity prices, inflation and workers’ standards of living are considered.

“The owners’ offer has made it clear that they, in collaboration with the government, are going to stage a farce in the name of raising workers’ pay,” Talukder told BD News 24.

Of particular concern for garment workers in the country, appears to be why their pay has remained substantially lower than that of workers in other factories—this, especially in light of the fact that the garment industry leads the economy in Bangladesh and it continues to post growth.

“Why was Tk 12,000 proposed as a minimum wage for garment factory workers while the minimum pay for workers at loss-making government factories has been fixed at Tk 15,000?” Garment Workers’ Federation leader Fakhruddin Kabir Atik posed to the publication.

If Friday’s protest doesn’t result in desired demands being met, workers have promised to further escalate their demonstrations.