Public rally in support of the 16,000 taka minimum wage demand (Photo: Taslima Akhter)
Inditex (owner of Zara) has become the first major apparel brand to respond positively to a joint request from the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), International Labor Rights Forum, and Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) to publicly support Bangladeshi garment workers’ demands for a significant increase in the country’s minimum wage.
Prior to an August 29 meeting of the Bangladesh government-appointed Minimum Wage Board, CCC, ILRF and MSN jointly urged 25 international apparel brands that source products from the country to publicly support the demand of the union federations affiliated with the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) for a monthly minimum wage of 16,000 BDT ($US191); commit to continuing to source from Bangladesh after such a minimum wage increase is implemented; and speak out against harassment against union leaders advocating for a significant minimum wage increase.
Unlike the IBC, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) is represented on the Minimum Wage Board, and has proposed a minimum wage of only $75 a month. The current $63 monthly minimum wage, one of the lowest in the world, has remained the same since 2013.
While not explicitly supporting the 16,000 BDT minimum wage proposal of the IBC, Inditex’s statement, which was published on its website, expresses the company’s support for the right of workers to a living wage and collective bargaining. Inditex states: “we expect the collective demands of workers, expressed through their legitimate unions including IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, to be taken into account, and the current negotiations used to reach agreement for a fair increase in the minimum wage that preserves the right of workers to a living wage.”
In its statement, Inditex also reiterated its commitment “to source in the long term from Bangladesh” and “that the current negotiations must be carried out without any pressure on or harassment of legitimate union officials.”
CCC, ILRF and MSN are now calling on other apparel brands to issue their own public statements in support of Bangladeshi garment workers’ demands or to publicly support the Inditex statement.