Garment workers in Bangladesh have been protesting for higher pay since October, with dire consequences. FashionUnited contacted the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) about the latest status, as thousands of workers have now reportedly been laid off. "It is not quite clear yet but union leaders in Bangladesh assume that around 3,000 to 4,000 workers have been laid off so far. In addition, 131 workers are still stuck in jail," wrote a CCC spokesperson.
There has been political unrest in Bangladesh since October, with media outlets such as Reuters having spoken of an "authoritarian crackdown" in the country. Police responded to protests against the minimum wage with violence and intimidation. At least four people were killed in the protests, Reuters reported. This has not stopped workers from protesting.
Bangladeshi garment workers demand higher minimum wage
Workers in the textile industry, one of the main sources of income, are protesting against one of the lowest wages in the world. From the initial monthly wage that had started from 8,300 taka (70 euros) for textile workers, the government raised the monthly wage to 12,500 taka (100 euros) in November. "Outrageous," CCC called it. A living wage is at least 23,000 taka (195 euros) per month, according to research by the Dutch organisation. This is therefore the amount demanded by workers and trade unions - the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation, the National Garment Workers Federation and the Bangladesh Garments Workers Unity Council.
For several months, Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) has been calling on brands producing in Bangladesh, of which there are at least 60, to support the demand for higher wages. In response, brands such as Asos, Primark and H&M wrote in September that they recognised their role in "supporting wage developments". Words that mean little, Bangladesh unions said. They have argued that the dozens of Western brands producing in Bangladesh should do more to pay their suppliers more.
Unrest in Bangladesh has not yet subsided. There are still major protests over the renegotiation of minimum wages, especially in textiles, the country's main source of income. According to FashionNetwork, extra police officers and the army are being deployed across the country for fear of violence ahead of elections scheduled for Sunday 7 January.
Bangladesh is the world's second-largest garment producer after China. The garment industry employs more than 4.4 million workers, 70 percent of which are women. The country's readymade-garment sector accounts for more than 80 percent of total export earnings and contributes more than 11 percent to the national GDP.