Jon Emont and Refayet Ullah Mirdha of The Wall Street Journal report factory owners in Bangladesh are saying that for them to hike wages in a big way, Western brands that are their top buyers will need to pay more for the clothes they order. They write:
Bangladesh—The armies of people who make clothes for Western brands—some of the lowest-paid factory workers in the world—are protesting for better wages, a fresh sign that the era of ultracheap labor, and ultracheap clothes, on which many companies rely is increasingly under strain.
Garment workers in Bangladesh make as little as $3 a day, or about $75 a month. In recent days, tens of thousands have refused to work, calling for the minimum wage to be raised to nearly three times that amount. Demonstrations have spiraled, with factories set ablaze and machines smashed. Some three hundred factories were forced to stop operations.
The core of the protests, that workers need higher wages to make even a basic living, has drawn widespread support, including from fashion giants H&M, Gap and Zara-parent Inditex, which source from the country. But no one can agree on who should foot the bill.
Factory owners in Bangladesh say that for them to hike wages in a big way, Western brands that are their top buyers need to pay more for the clothes they order. Although the big names in fashion publicly support higher pay, in practice they balk when costs go up and threaten to shift their orders to other countries, said Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. […]
Workers’ advocates generally acknowledge that the industry is now safer, but say wages are still too low. Recent calls by Western brands for higher pay ring hollow, they say.
“They are trying to insulate themselves reputationally from a sourcing model that is deeply inhumane,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor-rights organization based in Washington, D.C.
Mosammat Champa Khatun, who works in a garment factory and is protesting for higher pay, says she opted for inexpensive Islamic schooling for her child. Even so, her earnings of $110 a month go toward rising transport, food, and housing costs.
“I cannot save,” she said.
Read more here.