Bangladesh increases garment workers' minimum wage

Workers in a Bangladesh garment factory Pay and working conditions in factories have long been a concern

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Bangladesh will almost double the minimum wage for its garment workers, a wage board official says, following months of violent protests over pay.

It will rise from 1,662 taka ($25; £16) per month to 3,000 taka. The labour ministry is to formally announce the deal on Thursday.

Workers wanted the rate, last raised in 2006, to triple to 5,000 taka a month.

Bangladesh makes clothes for Western brands such as Walmart, Tesco, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Zara and Carrefour.

The garments industry is the backbone of Bangladesh's economy, earning about $12bn a year - nearly 80% of the country's total exports.

Clashes with police

Following allegations they were using exploitative labour in the country's factories, some Western companies earlier this year asked the Bangladeshi government to raise the minimum wage for its workers.

An emergency wage board committee of government officials, garment manufacturers and union leaders has been negotiating the plan.

A garment worker holds a wooden stick during a protest in Dhaka in June 2010 In recent weeks, angry workers have clashed with police, demanding better pay and conditions

"The wage board has said the minimum wage will be set at 3,000 taka, which will include medical and housing allowances," Iktedar Ahmed, head of the government minimum wage board, told reporters after the board's final meeting on Tuesday, AFP news agency reported.

One union official who took part in the talks told the BBC they had agreed to the new minimum wage structure, although it was not immediately clear if all the unions would agree.

The deal affects nearly 2.5 million workers, among the lowest paid in the world.

In recent weeks, angry workers have clashed with police, demanding better pay and conditions.

Last month, 250 garment factories in one of Bangladesh's main manufacturing zones were shut after demonstrations by workers.

The current legal minimum pay has been described by labour activists as the lowest in the world for this type of work.

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