Most Garment Workers Not Expecting New $207 Monthly Wage

Most garment workers are expecting a new monthly minimum wage between $160 and $180, according to the results of a recent survey, far lower than the $207 some unions say they plan to seek in fast-approaching negotiations with the factories.

The survey of how much garment workers spend each month was commissioned by labor rights groups to inform their stance during next week’s three-way negotiations between unions, employers and the government on the sector’s minimum wage for next year. DC Research surveyed 745 workers across the country and found that their median monthly spending, including remittances to their families, came in at $207.50.

The current minimum wage is $128, but the typical worker takes home closer to $160 when bonuses and overtime pay are factored in.

Some of the sector’s independent unions say they want to use the $207 figure as their starting point in negotiations with factory owners, most of whom say they cannot afford any raise at all. But according to the same survey, the vast majority of workers are expecting much less.

The labor groups that commissioned the survey have yet to release the full results, and DC Research said it would not discuss the findings until they do.

But according to a summary of the findings presented to unions at a closed-door meeting on Wednesday and obtained by reporters, just over half the garment workers surveyed, 53 percent, said they were expecting the new minimum wage to be $160 or less. A significant majority, 81 percent, were expecting no more than $180.

The Labor Ministry’s failure to meet workers’ expectations of a new $160 minimum wage in 2013 sparked nationwide strikes and protests that crippled the industry for weeks and cost factories millions of dollars. The protests stopped only after a government crackdown that left at least five workers dead.

The latest survey asked workers to score their satisfaction with the current minimum wage on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being completely satisfied. Of those surveyed, 88 percent gave a score of 5 or less.

Ninety-five percent of the workers said they ate three meals a day, though the median spending on those meals combined was less than $2.

After reviewing the results on Wednesday, unions failed to reach a consensus on how much of a raise to push for, disagreeing on what should be considered a necessary expense for garment workers. They agreed to try again on Monday.

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