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Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina Stands Firm on Pay Rise Amid Workers’ Unrest

In the midst of escalating clashes and deadly protests over pay, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has delivered a stern response to striking garment workers. After unions rejected a government offer, Prime Minister Hasina firmly rejected the workers’ demands for a higher pay rise, urging them to accept the current offer or “return to their village.”

The unrest, which has resulted in at least three deaths in the past two weeks, follows a government-appointed panel’s decision to raise the minimum wage by 56.25 percent to 12,500 taka ($113). However, unions swiftly rejected the offer, demanding 23,000 taka ($208), leading to continued protests.

Bangladesh’s garment factories, comprising about 85 percent of the country’s $55 billion annual exports, are crucial suppliers for global brands such as Levi’s, Zara, and H&M. Despite their significant contribution to the economy, conditions for the sector’s four million workers, mostly women with a starting monthly pay of 8,300 taka ($75), remain challenging.

Prime Minister Hasina addressed the workers, emphasizing the need to work with the current pay increase, cautioning against further protests that could lead to job loss. The protests have already resulted in three deaths and the ransacking of over 70 factories.

The prime minister’s stance has raised concerns among union leaders, who fear it could escalate violence from police and security forces. Police have already arrested over 100 protesters, including union leaders, over charges of violence and vandalism.

Critics argue that the offered pay increase does not align with the rising costs of living, including food, rent, healthcare, and school fees. The Clean Clothes Campaign, a textile workers’ rights group, labeled the new pay level as a “poverty wage” and called on brands like ASOS, Uniqlo, H&M, C&A, M&S, Aldi, and Next to support the workers’ demand for a higher wage.

The United States, a major buyer of Bangladesh-made garments, has condemned the violence against protesting workers and advocated for a wage that addresses the economic pressures faced by workers and their families.

For more updates stay tuned to FELA News!

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