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IWW Statement in Support of NGWF Campaigns to Increase the Minimum Wage and End Garment Factory Fires

Dear brothers and sisters,

This letter is to declare the strong support of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance (PASCA)for the National Garment Worker Federation's (NGWF) campaign to increase the minimum wage from 1,162 Tk. to 5,000 Tk. per month. We are also declaring our support of the campaign: "No More Fires - No More Gate Lock - No More Garment Worker Deaths.”

These campaigns are sorely needed in the garment industry in Bangladesh. In February of 2010, 21 workers died as a result of fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh. Many of these deaths were a direct result of the front gates of the factory being locked, trapping workers on the premises as the fire raged. Sadly this is not an isolated incident. Since 1990 more than 400 garment workers have been killed as a result of factory fires. These deaths could have been prevented if there were adequate fire and safety measures in every garment factory. Therefore we support the NGWF campaign to bring attention to these preventable deaths. In addition to raising awareness the NGWF is also advocating that new safety laws and regulations be put in to place across the country. If laws such as these are implemented we believe many lives will be saved.

Similarly, we strongly support our brothers and sisters in the NGWF as they demand that the minimum wage be increased from 1,162 Tk. (about 24 US dollars) to 5,000 Tk. (about 71 US dollars) by 27 July 2010. The current minimum wage is grossly inadequate for any person to survive in Bangladesh, especially in and around the capital city of Dhaka. Survival on these paltry wages has been particularly difficult as the price of food and essentials has rapidly increased over the last several years. As was pointed out by Brother Amirul Hoque Amin, Bangladesh’s garment workers are the lowest paid of the major garment producing nations.

The IWW also supports actions taken by, and on behalf of, the workers to meet these goals. We also share the belief that if wages are not increased and workers are not protected from early death because of fires and other industrial accidents, it is the government and the companies that share the blame for any unrest that may occur. Increasing wages to a livable level and protecting workers from fires is not too much to ask, but we believe it is too much to ask that workers keep working under these conditions. We hope that the government of Bangladesh and the garment producing companies will do the right and just thing and implement the NGWF demands.

You can help take action by signing the National Labor Committee petition asking Wal-Mart to support the wage increase for Bangladeshi Garment workers.

In solidarity,

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), International Solidarity Commission;

Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance (PASCA)