Sept. 7 - Unrest in Bangladesh's garmet industry has workers and buyers worried. Julie Noce reports.
Bangladesh's garment industry is worth 19 billion dollars this year alone. Retailers world wide depend on the country's cheap labor to keep their costs down. But poor working conditions and low pay have prompted protests by the country's some 4 million workers. One of them is Nazma Begum. She earns $51 a month- a third of which goes to pay for a room where she can raise her three children. Nazma says unless standards improve, workers will continue to demonstrate. (SOUNDBITE) (Bengali) GARMENT FACTORY WORKER, NAZMA BEGUM, SAYING: "Now I get 4,200 taka ($51 USD) per month, which should be raised at least to 6,000 taka. I spend almost one-third of my wage for hiring a one room shelter while the prices of all daily necessaries are going gone up. Unless our pay is raised accordingly, there will be more unrest." Worker unrest spells bad news for companies like H & M, JC Penny, Mark's and Spencer and others who buy clothes made in Bangladesh. Besides delayed shipments, companies say they're worried about poor working conditions and low wages , their own reputations at stake. The CEO for H & M was in Bangladesh earlier this week to make clear his company's dedication to fair working conditions. (SOUNDBITE) (English) H&M CHIEF EXECUTIVE KARL-JOHAN PERRSON SAYING: "As a company with a clear commitment towards workers' rights, as well as business in Bangladesh, we look forward to a prompt resolution regarding increased minimum wages, and yearly wage reviews." For now, government officials say they have no plans to review the wage structure. Rather than increase wages, they have said they will bring down the cost of food.