Tens of Thousands of Workers Clash with Police Demanding a Minimum Monthly Wage Increase to 23,000 Taka ($208).
Dhaka, Bangladesh: Naim Pramanik, a skilled garment worker in Dhaka, finds himself unemployed after participating in protests demanding fair wages. Despite crafting clothing for top Western brands, Pramanik and many others face dire financial situations, as their monthly earnings fail to match the high prices their products command in global markets. he finds himself unemployed, terminated from his job for daring to demand better pay.
“Some clothes we make are sold at $100 a piece in shops in America and Europe,” Pramanik revealed, displaying labels from major brands. “We don’t get more than $100 a month.”
The global demand for apparel produced in Bangladesh has propelled the nation’s economic growth, but it has not translated into significant improvements in the lives of the industry’s four million workers.
Last month, Bangladesh witnessed its most severe labor unrest in ten years, as tens of thousands of workers clashed with police demanding a minimum monthly wage increase to 23,000 taka ($208), up from the government-set 8,300 taka five years ago. The protests resulted in at least five fatalities.
Pramanik, dissatisfied with his $75 monthly salary, joined the protests and subsequently lost his job. His former employer, Wear Mag, claimed his dismissal was due to prolonged absence. Now unemployed, Pramanik faces dire circumstances, with debts swallowing most of his severance package of 67,000 taka ($610).
Workers like Pramanik are not alone in facing unemployment. Unions report that hundreds of workers have lost their jobs for participating in the demonstrations. The economic consequences extend beyond individuals, affecting families like Akter’s, a single mother who struggles with less than four dollars in savings.
Despite a recent 56 percent increase in the minimum monthly wage to 12,500 taka, unions argue that it falls short of providing a living wage. The Clean Clothes Campaign labels it as “the bare minimum that is needed for workers to make ends meet.” Unions have temporarily halted protests following a police crackdown but warn of a resurgence if demands are not met by early January.
The garment industry’s contribution to Bangladesh’s economic growth contrasts sharply with the challenges faced by its workforce, underscoring the urgent need for fair compensation and improved working conditions.