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NEWS & VIEWS SPICE BUSINES S


FPB hits out at minimum wage comments


STOP EXPLOITATION OF SHRIMP WORKERS, BANGLADESH URGED


WESTERN governments, large retailers and consumers should put pressure on the Bangladeshi government to ensure a fair deal for the 1.2 million workers and their dependents in the shrimp industry, campaigners have said. Bangladesh is among the top 10 exporters of farmed shrimp and this is the country’s second largest foreign currency after the garment industry. However, those working in the industry in Bangladesh are poor and being pushed further into poverty. This is a result of exploitative and often abusive practices, according to a report by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).


The EJF says the industry is plagued by hazardous working conditions, child labour, bonded labour, withholding of pay, excessively low wages, health and safety violations, restricted union activities, verbal abuse and excessive hours. “There is a massive, valuable international trade in seafood providing billions of dollars in income, but there are appalling working conditions and a small minority is getting the vast benefits of the industry,” EJF’s executive director, Steve Trent, has commented. Trent believes there is the possibility of securing improvement, if pressure is applied, given the changes in the garment industry after a factory collapse last April killed more than 1,100 workers. “There is scope for action,” he said. “After the intensity of media coverage, the government felt it had to act and that has filtered down. People we are talking to are saying things have definitely got better.” n


THE Chancellor, George Osborne, has recently suggested that the National Minimum Wage should be increased to £7 an hour. However the Forum of Private Business (FPB) has criticised the Chancellor and says it remains opposed to increases in the National Minimum Wage until the UK has seen a sustained recovery and businesses are in a position to afford it. Andrew Jackman, FPB policy director, says, “We have not yet reached that point. With many companies not yet profitable enough to service their own debts the last thing we need is a huge, inflation busting rise in the Minimum Wage, which will cost jobs in some sectors. We are clear that efforts to tackle the cost of living should not increase the costs of doing business.” The FPB points out that


while a 50p rise in the Minimum Wage may sound innocuous, to a business employing 9 members of staff it equates to an extra £9,000 per year, before any pensions or employer benefits are taken into account. Any proposals looking to offset a rise in the Minimum Wage for businesses must take such factors into account, it suggests. n


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