11/14/2013, 00.00
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Some 200 Bangladesh garment factories reopen with bigger paycheques for workers

by Nozrul Islam
Dhaka plants owners agree to a higher minimum wage. The "offer is good" but only a "promise". The danger is that wages will be raised and workers fired.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - More than 200 Bangladesh garment factories reopened Thursday after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and factory owners agreed to a 77 percent increase in the minimum wage for new unskilled garment workers to 5,300 takas () a month. However, a local source, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews that "For the moment it is a promise. We should wait and see the paycheques. In the past, employers have agreed to wage hikes but never delivered."

At first, workers had demanded 8,114 taka (100 dollars), which owners refused. A government-appointed panel convinced employers to agree to 5,300 taka. "The government can give orders but in practice it is factory owners who decide," the source told AsiaNews. "We shall have to wait to see what they do."

For the source, "In and of itself, the offer is good, but the owners could raise wages and fire workers. When labour was cheap, they could employ many workers. Now they'll do the math based on higher wages. If three people did the job before, now two will suffice. This way, they can recoup their costs."

Demands for higher minimum wages follow large-scale industrial accidents at Tazreen Fashion and Rana Plaza, which highlighted the degrading conditions in which workers are forced to work.

Bangladesh is the largest garment exporter in the world, second only to China with the industry accounting for over 10 per cent of the country's GDP.

About 4,500 factories are in operation, with more than 2 million workers, 70 per cent women.

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