On Monday, garment workers in Bangladesh took to the streets to demand a higher minimum wage than the one being offered by the government and were met with water cannons and rubber bullets, according to Reuters.
After a factory collapsed in April and killed 1,127 people, the Bangladeshi government promised to raise the country’s minimum wage and make it easier for workers to unionize. Last week it announced a 77 percent raise in the minimum wage, or the equivalent of $66 more a month, but workers had been calling for $100 more. Even with the 77 percent raise, the country’s garment workers would still be the worst paid in the world. They make just 14 percent of what would be considered a living wage and half of what similar workers make in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Since the tragedy in April, workers have repeatedly protested for higher wages and better working conditions, with a protest in September leaving 50 injured after they were met with tear gas and rubber bullets. While the government came through on its promise to make it easier for workers to unionize, the workers who organize have been met with violence, threats, bribery, and other forms of retaliation.
Other progress since the disaster has been slow. Victims of the collapse and the family members of the deceased still haven’t received all of the money they were promised as compensation. While 70 retailers have signed a legally binding agreement to upgrade the country’s factories and others led by Walmart and Gap have offered their own, they have yet to result in factory inspections. Those inspections that are taking place are being done cheaply and are easily gamed by factory owners. Even so, some preliminary inspections found that a majority of the country’s factory buildings are vulnerable to collapse.
The cost of making the buildings safe isn’t overwhelmingly vast, however. It would likely take about $3 billion, which comes to just 10 cents more per garment made in the facilities.