More than 50,000 employees of the clothing industry have rallied in the capital of Dhaka to demand – at the very least – a doubling of the minimum wages. The demand follows the collapse of a textile shop earlier this year, which left more than 1,000 people dead.
Peaceful protest, despite “backs against the wall”
250 factories in the industrial region of Ashulia, near Dhaka, had to halt their production earlier this month, after disgruntled workers blocked access - an action that led to violent outbursts with local law enforcements. This time, this turned out to be a peaceful protest.
"Our backs are against the wall, so we don't have any alternative unless we raise our voice strongly", said Nazma Akter, president of the United Garments Workers' Federation. The protesters want the minimum wages to increase to 8,000 taka (76 euro per month) while, at this point, it is 3,000 taka (28.5 euro per month), a number that has not changed since 2006.
Employers only want a 20 % increase
Employers had previously suggested raising the minimum wages 20 %, stating that much more would not be possible because of the economic crisis in the West. Labour unions described the proposal as inhumane and degrading.
The Bangladeshi textile industry employs some 4 million people, mostly unschooled workers. It is the largest employer within Bangladesh, exporting sixty percent to the European Union.