Mining wage

The Wage Crisis in South Asia | IndustryALL

According to the ILO’s Global Wage Report 2020-2021, labor productivity in South Asia increased between 2010 and 2019, but real minimum wage growth lagged. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have seen the largest real minimum wage declines in the world. The report also points out that in 2019, the minimum wage in Bangladesh did not even reach the lowest international poverty line. Wages in India and Sri Lanka were also close to the mark.

Union experience shows that even in workplaces where workers can negotiate a long-term wage agreement, employers actually wait months or even years to finalize the agreement. By then, the wage increase had already fallen below the inflation it was supposed to neutralize.

IndustriALL affiliates have worked tirelessly to secure better wages for workers. In Pakistan, after a sustained campaign by IndustriALL affiliates and carpet workers, the Punjab government announced a pay rise of PKR 2,500 (US$14) in June 2021. But the workers’ struggle did not stop there because, despite the government’s order, the employers refused to comply. It took six months before employers agreed to raise wages.

In August 2022, Pakistani affiliates halted work for more than a month in Faisalabad to demand a 16% increase in wages, given the country’s soaring inflation. Pakistan’s inflation rate soared to 27.26% in August as the country grappled with massive flooding that was already adding to the price spike.

Niaz Khan, Secretary General of ILUCIP, says:

“Workers’ wages are not enough to meet rising food and fuel prices. Employers and governments must recognize this and take strong action to address the problem.

In Sri Lanka, affiliates demanded a wage increase of LKR 10,000 (USD 34) for workers with monthly wages below LKR 60,000 (USD 206) and for the minimum wage to be increased by LKR 16,000 (USD 55). USD) to LKR 26,000 (USD 89) per month. The requests are not yet satisfied. Food inflation in the country reached 93.7% in August. According to the latest World Bank assessment, Sri Lanka is ranked fifth among the ten countries with the highest food price inflation in the world. Affiliates organize community kitchen programs to deal with massive food inflation.

Bangladeshi affiliates demanded an increase in the national minimum wage, which was last revised four years ago and currently stands at BDT 8,000 (USD 84).

In Nepal, people have taken to the streets to protest against soaring food and fuel prices.

Contract workers at Singareni Collieries Company Limited in India, who earn a fraction of what permanent workers earn, have called an indefinite strike over their demands, which include a pay rise and regularization of work.

SQ Zama, General Secretary of the Indian National Miners Federation, says:

“It is a very sad situation that while corporate profits are skyrocketing, workers’ wages are rising at a slow pace. What makes matters worse is that even for a modest wage increase, workers have to fight hard.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL regional secretary for South Asia, says:

“As workers’ representatives, we must fight to ensure workers get their fair share of benefits. We cannot accept that on the one hand profits are soaring while on the other hand workers’ wages are not enough to maintain a decent standard of living.

Photo: copyright: Marcel Crozet / ILO