Bangladesh garment workers paid inhumanly low: PM

Bangladesh`s garment workers are paid the least in the world.

Updated: Jul 22, 2010, 11:27 AM IST

Dhaka: Bangladesh`s Prime Minister on Wednesday blasted the garment industry, a mainstay of the impoverished country`s economy, for paying inhumanly low wages, a burning issue that has fuelled unrest and crippled production.

In recent months, thousands of garment workers demanding higher wages have protested on the streets, attacked factories and blockaded highways in and outside the capital, Dhaka.

The country`s garment workers are paid the least in the world and are unable to buy food and arrange shelter on their monthly earnings, according to the International Trade Union Confederation, a Vienna-based labour rights group.

The official minimum wage is USD 25, and the government is negotiating a new minimum that it plans to announce by the end of this month.

"The wages the workers are paid ... is not only insufficient but also inhuman," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Parliament, as she fielded questions from lawmakers.

"They (the manufacturers) should feel that they make profit from exports at the cost of the labourers` hard work," she said.

Workers and labour rights groups have pressed for a monthly wage of USD 73, but Hasina said manufacturers were not willing to meet the workers` demand.

In June, about 700 garment factories in a major industrial hub near Dhaka were shut for two days after days of violent protests by tens of thousands of workers demanding better wages.