Bangladesh hikes minimum wage for garment workers after protests

DHAKA (Reuters) -Bangladesh will raise the minimum wage for garment workers by 56.25%, the first hike since 2019, the junior labour minister said on Tuesday after a week of protests calling for higher salaries.

The minimum wage for workers will be increased from 8,000 taka to 12,500 taka ($114) per month from Dec. 1, State Minister for Labour and Employment Monnujan Sufian said. There will also be a 5% annual increment.

The protests, which led to clashes with police that killed two workers and wounded dozens more, pushed the government to form a panel of factory owners, union leaders and officials to consider the demand for higher pay.

“We are announcing the minimum wage for garment workers as per Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directive,” Sufian told reporters after a meeting with the panel.

Low wages have helped Bangladesh build its garment industry, with some 4,000 factories employing 4 million workers, supplying brands such as H&M and GAP. Readymade garments are a mainstay of the economy, accounting for almost 16% of GDP.

All parties involved agreed to the rise, said Siddiqur Rahman, the owners’ representative on the wage board.

“(Government welfare) cards will be provided to the workers, later the ration cards will be given to them so they can buy essential commodities at cheaper rates,” Rahman, also a former president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Reuters.

Workers, however, are not happy with the rise at a time when inflation is running at 9.5%.

“The increase is not enough when prices of all items and rent have gone up sharply. We work to survive but we can’t even cover our basic needs,” Munna Khan, a garment worker, said.

($1 = 110.0000 taka)

(Reporting by Ruma Paul, writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar, editing by Ed Osmond and Angus MacSwan)