Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Support The Bangladeshi Garment Workers!


DHAKA — Garment manufacturers in Bangladesh said they would reopen all factories closed Tuesday in the country's major industrial hub after authorities pledged to protect key plants from protests. Tens of thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers, employees at some 700 factories that supply top names in Western retail, have been on strike since Saturday, demanding higher pay and forcing the closure some 700 factories.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), which represents factory owners, said the factories would be reopened Wednesday following a government pledge to put down the protests.

The decision marked a dramatic about face by factory owners, who earlier Tuesday declared that all factories in the affected area, Ashulia, which make clothing for global retailers like Wal-Mart, Tesco, H & M and Carrefour, would be closed indefinitely.

About 800,000 workers are employed in the 700 factories in the area and "tens of thousands" have taken their grievances to the streets, forcing the shuttering of businesses, Dhaka's deputy police chief Monowar Hosain told AFP.

"We've stepped up security, brought in reinforcements but the problem is there are too many protesting workers," Hosain said. The workers are demanding wages of at least 5,000 taka (70 dollars) per month. The current minimum wage, set in 2006, is just 25 dollars.

70 dollars a month would definitely be an improvement, and would hasten the day when the average wage in Bangladesh becomes comparable with that in the UK - and we can make a few things again. Mind, the skills will have been long lost. But maybe they'll outsource some of the less skilled stuff to us.


Hexe Froschbein said...

People are forever quoting those low wages as if Bangladeshis could afford to work for nowt.

But hang on... those wages are NOT low!

$ 25 (or whatever) pays all their food, rent and keeps their (often many) children alive! Try that on the minimum wage here, no can do...

So, it's not their pay that is broken, but the exchange rate and/or the tax system that we have gouges us big time.

The result is, that if you make anything, it's got to be total tat that is cheap and quick to produce, because by the time inflated material costs, taxes, rates, rent, National whatsits and so on is added, plus the cut for the shop (usually 40% to producer, 60% to the shop) the product you're selling has to cost multiples of what it actually costs to make.

Our wages here are in real terms often far less than comparable wages within the social class or similar jobs -- IT workers in India live a far higher quality of life than our guys here and so on (they can actually afford servants... think about this for a moment...)

dan said...

OT Laban but just watching C4 news about housing benefit. Genuinely astonishing. They present as a victim a lone mother of 5 (presumably the children of aliens) who is currently receiving £30,000+ pa in housing bennies and will see this fall to £20,800 pa.
Telly literally as big as her dining table which quote 'is (now) a questionable extravagance'.
To get 30k pa after tax u wd need to earn c 50k and that's without money for food or clothes or widescreen tvs.

Laban said...

I was listening to a delightful Welsh single mum of two explaining how she'd need to take home £200 a week - not exactly a fortune - to be better off than on benefits.

I wasn't sure she'd done her sums - so many things, from prescriptions to council tax, are free when you're 'on the broo'.

Hexe Froschbein said...

Well, some BTL landlord somewhere will have issues with paying the hefty mortgage I guess (in Dan's example). Good, because housing benefit currently puts an artificial floor on rental values at the moment, meaning people who rent a home are in direct competition with claimants. In other words, your paying taxes so the rents stay high, and you get to stay in the cheap hovel whilst the lay-abouts get to lord it for free in the local BTL palace.

But let's say she rents a bit more sanely and the hovel costs her 1k a month (about ball park). That's 12k for the roof (or £230 per week), way more than the minimum wage yields already.

See, it's impossible to live on a single normal wage in the UK, and tax credits actually subsidises employers nowadays, since there is no way you could afford to pay a manual worker producing piecework anything near the wages they'd require to live without handouts.

And I think that it should be possible to have kids and a home on the minimum wage without needing handouts -- that is not a luxury, but a basic human need.

The Bangladeshis can afford their homes and their kids on manual jobs without needing to go and beg, ergo, I claim that Bangladesh has a higher standard of living than the UK in general.

mark said...

Hexe - I suspect that the wages of say USD25 per month would only be enough if the workers receive protection from the government in terms of food/fuel subsidies.

Just as we in the west can't compete with the low wages in the East, workers in the East are very vulnerable to rises in the prices of international traded essential commodities such as rice, other grains & oil. Our over-valued currencies mean that we can buy oil and grains on the cheap (although sometimes it doesn't feel that way).

The Canadian economist Jeff Rubin makes the point that the whole wage arbitrage model only works where energy costs are low. He notes that a couple of years back when oil hit USD140 per barrel it was actually cheaper to make steel in the US again than make it in China and ship it to the US. All the advantage of the cheap chinese labour was more than wiped out by the increased cost of ore mining, producing the steel and transport costs due to increased fuel.

Hexe Froschbein said...

"Hexe - I suspect that the wages of say USD25 per month would only be enough if the workers receive protection from the government in terms of food/fuel subsidies. "

Hmm... suppose the govt. gives generous handouts to the tune of 100% here, then we'll go up to $50. (Bangladesh is not known as a welfare state btw)

Sure, $25, $50 or even $100 does not buy a huge TV and heating isn't needed in Bangladesh either, but they can afford kids -- we can't.

Children are the true measure of wealth, not how large your TVs are.

And about the rest you mentioned, well, don't let TPTB salami slice your thoughts. Don't just look at the small harmless looking micro taxes that accrue, look at the sum of the whole!

Basically... you need to ask why it is that you only get to keep about 20% of all you make when all is said an done.

And don't let the huge sums in your paycheck lull you into the belief that you're rich, because it just looks that way(think Italian millionaires before the Euro came in...)

Bottomline is: if your wife needs to abandon the home (and kids, if any) and work for your family to make ends meet, you're poor by definition.

Revolution Harry said...

This is all part of a much bigger picture in my humble opinion.

Laban, can I tempt you into watching this series of videos?

The subjects covered include the disastrous banking system we currently operate under, the myth of free enterprise and how society is structured in a pryramidical fashion. The great mass of people being the servants (slaves) of a parasitical elite.

As he points out this is no 'conspiracy theory'. What he gives you are hard facts based on mathematical calculations. This should convince even the most sceptical out there that, at the very least, all is not what it seems.

I can't recommend these videos highly enough.

moriarty said... society is structured in a pyramidical fashion. The great mass of people being the servants (slaves) of a parasitical elite.

'Twas ever thus. As far as I can see, the only difference between any two political philosopies is about just who gets to be the parasites.

Gallimaufry said...

Purchasing power parity, income and wealth distribution and economic growth should be considered. UK GDP adjusted for inflation in 2010 is about eight times what it was in 1900 or four times that of 1950.

Macheath said...

HF - 'but they can afford kids -- we can't.

Children are the true measure of wealth, not how large your TVs are.'

I always thought that children came along whether you could afford them or not.

Those large Bangladeshi families are more likely to be the result of a lack of availability of reliable contraception and of the desire to be provided for in old age(leaving aside religious principles for the moment). In a country where child labour is common, a large family means extra income rather than 16+ years of a drain on resources.

I agree that their overheads are far lower - which makes nonsense of the occasional shrill NGO campaign to pay them the same as British workers - but their household incomes (even augmented by children working from a young age) often leave nothing to spare for education, medical treatment or savings, eliminating any chance of social mobility.

Anonymous said...


毅筠毅筠 said...


Chuckles said...

'But maybe they'll outsource some of the less skilled stuff to us.'

Doubt it, no work ethic...Perhaps they'll slip us a bit of foreign aid?