Primary links

WELCOME TO THE ARCHIVE (1994-2014) OF THE MAQUILA SOLIDARITY NETWORK. For current information on our ongoing work on the living wage, women's labour rights, freedom of association, corporate accountability and Bangladesh fire and safety, please visit our new website, launched in October, 2015: www.maquilasolidarity.org

Editorial

November 5, 2013

Clearly, wages and compensation are central to workers' struggles around the world. In the globalized garment industry, they are also among the most difficult issues on which to win advances, as they have a direct impact on pricing and profits.

In addition to demanding safe workplaces and fair compensation for the victims of factory disasters, garment workers in Bangladesh are also fighting for wages that will meet their basic needs in a time of the skyrocketing rise in the cost of food, rent and other basic necessities.

Factory owners have enraged the workers by insisting they can only afford an increase in the minimum wage from US$39 a month to $46, because of the global economic situation. They argue that the low prices paid by international brands and retailers make it impossible to pay higher wages.

Tens of thousands of workers responded by taking to the streets in protest, and shutting down hundreds of factories to press their demand for a minimum wage of $103 a month.

The Bangladesh government was supposed to announce a new minimum wage on Monday, October 28, but that announcement has been postponed. With the world's attention still focused on Bangladesh in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster, factory owners seem to recognize that they will have to accept a higher increase, but the amount is still not clear.

To win a living wage that meets basic needs and provides some discretionary income, workers must overcome many institutional barriers to organizing workplace unions in Bangladesh in order to be able to negotiate increased wages in collective bargaining agreements.

The demand for a living wage is going global. On October 23, the Clean Clothes Campaign launched its "Pay a Living Wage Campaign." On October 31, over 3 million workers in Indonesia launched a national strike demanding a 50 percent wage increase.

One thing that the Bangladeshi garment manufacturers are right about is that the giant brands and retailers also need to take responsibility for the poverty-level wages workers are being paid by increasing the prices they pay to their suppliers so they are able to pay a living wage.

Lynda Yanz
for the MSN team

 

Share this

Filed under: