Bangladesh Garment Workers Will Receive Higher Wages

Melissa Stusinski

Bangladesh garment workers will get higher wages after the government made known its plans to raise the minimum wage for them. The news comes in light of a factory building collapse, which killed more than 1,100 people.

The building collapse brought attention yet again to Bangladesh's textile industry and its poor pay combined with hazardous working conditions.

Textiles Minister Abdul Latif Siddiky added on Sunday that a new minimum wage board will issue a recommendation for pay raises in the next three months. After that, the Cabinet will decide whether or not to accept the proposal.

Siddiky added that the new wage board includes representatives of factory owners, workers, and the government. The building collapse on April 24 quickly became one of the world's worst industrial disasters. It raised alarm over the poor conditions in Bangladesh's massive textile industry.

About 80 percent of Bangladesh's exports are textiles, which are shipped all around the world to places like Walmart, Sears, JcPenney, and others. But despite the industry netting $20 billion per year, government corruption, desperation for jobs, and industry indifference have left working conditions extremely poor.

Minimum wages for Bangladesh garment workers were only raised in 2010 after massive protests by workers forced them to do so. The wage was then raised by 80 percent to 3,000 takas, or about $38 per month. But the new wage increase will likely need to be higher to appease workers devastated by the April building collapse.

Rescue workers are still sifting through debris of the former Rana Plaza building, looking for bodies. The count on Sunday night stood at 1,125 bodies. Major Moazzem Hossain, a rescue team leader, explained, "We are still removing the rubble very carefully as dead bodies are still coming up."

And after more than two weeks, identifying the rotting remains has become a difficult task. Hossain added, "If we get the ID cards with the bodies then we are lucky."

Along with raising wages for the Bangladesh garment factory workers, the Textiles Ministry has also started a series of safety inspections. So far, 22 factories have been ordered closed for violating safety and working standards.

[Image via Fahad Faisal]