Press Conference Today: Bangladeshi Worker Killed - Garment Workers Need Your Support!

Press Conference Today: Bangladeshi Worker Killed - Garment Workers Need Your Support! On June 6th, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) and ...

Press Conference Today: Bangladeshi Worker Killed - Garment Workers Need Your Support!

On June 6th, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) and Remake co-hosted a press conference to highlight the findings of AFWA’s latest consumption study and report, which revealed concerns about the levels of nutritional deficiency among Bangladeshi garment workers and their families. These findings put a spotlight on ready-made garments (RMG) workers’ persisting struggle to make ends meet in the aftermath of the pandemic and under inflationary pressures — just as minimum wage negotiations in Bangladesh had commenced in May, for the first time in five years. 

After months of organizing, several worker unions across Bangladesh in a remarkable show of solidarity, have rallied around one figure, Tk 23,000 (209 USD), for the new minimum monthly salary. In the days leading up to the Wage Board’s decision on November 1st, workers are united in their ask for global solidarity and brand support behind this specific figure, especially given the disappointingly low proposals offered by the workers and owners representatives' (Tk 20,393 and Tk 10,400, respectively) at the last wage board meeting on October 22nd. 

Bangladesh remains one of the largest exporters of garments globally, with over 4 million, predominantly women, garment workers carrying its economy. The country’s RMG sector accounts for over 80% of its total export earnings and contributes more than 11% to the national GDP. In the past five years, RMG exports have only increased, and yet, growing profits have not been shared among workers.

It has been brought to our attention that Md Rasel Hawlader, aged 25, a maintenance machinist at Design Express Garments Ltd. was shot and killed by the Bangladeshi police yesterday (October 30). Md Rasel is a member of the Design Express Sommilito Sramik Union, which is affiliated with the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation union. This is a developing story.

Per Nazma Akter, President of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, “Workers were protesting for the 23,000 Tk basic minimum wage outside the factory as they have been for several days across ready-made garment factories. Rasel was inside shutting down the boiler, fans and lights and was not even a part of the protest. By the time he came out, there was already a clash between workers and police. Protesting workers assert that they did not vandalize anything and were still severely beaten up by the police. Rasel rushed to a nearby petrol station, fearing for his safety and was chased and gunned down by the police. A worker next to him notes that he begged for his life. The police insisted on taking him to Dhaka Medical Hospital where he later died. His family is asking for the return of his body, which is in a morgue pending an autopsy.” Ms Akter implores the international press to focus on the increasing challenges the workers are facing during this critical period, as these workers are merely advocating for a fundamental minimum wage that would enable them to afford basic necessities like food.

At this pivotal juncture in the wage-setting process, workers, who continue to advocate for their demands in the face of violence and adversity, need support to ensure that the government sets a wage that at least ensures basic resources to survive. AFWA and Remake support worker unions in their demands to increase the monthly minimum wage from Tk 8,000 (USD 73) to at least Tk 23,000 (USD 209), and to adopt an annual wage review process to ensure wages keep up with rising living costs.

Please join us on Tuesday, October 31st at 10:00 am EST / 7:00 am PST / 3:00 pm CET / 7:30 pm IST / 8:00 pm BST (Bangladesh Standard Time) to learn more about what the current wage gap has meant for workers’ ability to lead lives of dignity, why we need to collectively rally around one wage figure, and how brands can play a crucial role in leading global solidarity. 

During the call, you will hear from:

  • Abiramy Sivalogananthan, South Asia Coordinator, Asia Floor Wage Alliance
  • Jahanara Begum, Sewing Operator, RMG Worker for 18 years, currently sews for H&M
  • Kazi Rahima Akter, President, Garments Workers' Unity League (GSUL)
  • Shelly Heald Han, Chief of Staff and Director of Engagement, Fair Labor Association 
  • Nazma Akter, President of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, co-chair of Asia Pacific Women’s Committee of IndustriALL Global Union, founder and Executive Director of Awaj Foundation
  • Moderated by Ayesha Barenblat, Founder & CEO, Remake
We are asking the global press to please pay attention to the escalating violence against workers during this difficult time when workers are simply asking for the most basic minimum wage to be able to afford food and necessities. We hope to see you today during this critical juncture when Bangladeshi workers urgently need your support! 

In solidarity.

Asia Floor Wage Alliance
The Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) is an Asian labor-led organization and social alliance across garment-producing countries in Asia and consumer regions of the USA and Europe. Founded in 2007, AFWA aims to build regional unity among Asian garment unions to overcome the limitations of country-based struggles in global production networks and holds global fashion brands accountable. AFWA’s historic cross-border living wage formulation for Asian garment workers is also the only women-centred formulation of its kind. For more queries, please contact:

Remake is a global advocacy organization uniting changemakers in the fight for human rights and climate justice in the clothing industry. Founded in 2015, Remake drives real change towards a more equitable and sustainable future by empowering the next generation of activists, scaling worker-led campaigns, and building radical collaborations. 

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