TSSU MMC in solidarity with Ready-Made Garments (RMG) Workers of Bangladesh

TSSU Membership Mobilization Committee (MMC) along with the Asian Canadian Labor Alliance (ACLA) BC and Vancouver Committee for Domestic Care Workers and Caregivers Rights (CDWCR) stands in solidarity with Ready-Made Garments (RMG) Workers of Bangladesh in their fight for a living wage. As an union with an international membership, we are well aware of the struggles of Garments Workers to win a dignified standard of living given the cost of living crisis in Bangladesh. We categorically condemn the use of state violence and mass arrests to stifle worker’s protests and job actions.

As graduate students and workers who are also grappling with the cost of living crisis, we understand the importance of having a living wage in an era where inflation has skyrocketed. A living wage is not one which merely keeps up with inflation but rather is meant to be the level of income that enables workers to cover the cost of food, housing, and living costs for their families. This makes the monthly Minimum Wage of USD 113 (BDT 12,500) set by the Bangladesh Minimum Wage board insufficient and its prior offer of USD 94 (BDT 10,400) insulting. With inflation hovering in between 5-7% over the past 5 years and Monthly Average Inflation hitting 9.3%, these increases are not sufficient to cover the cost of living for a family of 4 after 5 years of stagnant wages.

The demand of BDT 23,000 by Garments Workers Unions is on the lower end of what can be considered as a living wage. Reports by the Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies and Microfinance Opportunities studies estimate the living wage to be between BDT 21,000-BDT 26000.* This means that the worker’s demands are reasonable in terms of getting them closer to a living wage.

We were heartened to see the display of solidarity and worker power in the protests by various labor organizations through November 2023. Even after the minimum wage was increased to BDT 10,400, the RMG Workers maintained their principled stance for a living wage by continuing to stand strong in protest leading to the subsequent increase to BDT 12,500. Simultaneously, we were shocked to see the use of violence to stifle these protests by the police and even the Bangladesh Border Guard.

We condemn the use of mass arrests of protesters and the mass sentencing to intimidate labor organizations. As part of the larger Canadian labor movement, we demand the immediate release of all those who have been jailed unfairly whilst protesting for living wages.

Finally, we call on other labor unions in Canada to stand in solidarity with not only the RMG workers but also examine the role of Canadian companies in extending the exploitation of these workers. It is important to recognize that as Canadian consumers, our consumption of RMG at low prices makes us complicit in the exploitation of Bangladeshi garment workers and keeping their wages low. As such, TSSU MMC commits to not only reach out to other unions to show their support for RMG workers but also to examine ways to pressure Canadian companies buying RMG made in Bangladesh to pay fair prices.

*Microfinance Opportunities estimates this to be BDT 21,900-BDT 26,300 in July 2023 and Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies estimates it to be between BDT 21,900 to BDT 26,300 in January 2023.

Since 1978

The Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU)