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28 Jan 2021

Bangladesh: Manufacturers urge govt. to suspend planned 5% minimum wage increase for garment workers due to pandemic

Garment manufacturers in Bangladesh are urging the government to suspend a planned 5% rise in the minimum wage for garment workers due to the COVID-19 crisis. In January 2021, the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) wrote to the Labour Ministry requesting the minimum wage be frozen for two years to help its members survive the economic impact of COVID-19.

The planned 5% increase for 2021 would see garment workers' wages increase from Tk 8,000 (US$94) to Tk 8,400 (US$99) per month. According to Asia Floor Wage Alliance the estimated living wage is Tk 48280 (US$569) per month.

Unions are urging the government to reject the BKMEA's plea. The Samilito Garments Sramik Federation says garment workers - who are already facing abject poverty - have borne the brunt of the pandemic and desperately need the additional money to support their families. The National Garment Workers Federation has also opposed the move, calling on the government, buyers and factory owners to provide additional support to vulnerable garment workers.

In a roundtable discussion in January, it was reported that H&M's regional manager advocated for increasing garment workers' minimum wages and confirmed H&M will pay higher prices for garments in line with any wage increase. Further comments are included in the articles below.