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H&M: Give Bangladesh Workers Higher Pay

Protesting Bangladeshi garment workers throw stones at police near the international airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010. They were demanding the implementation of a new minimum wage.

H&M is urging Bangladesh's government to raise the minimum wage for textile workers.

The Swedish clothing retailer said Wednesday that its CEO, Karl-Johan Persson, made the request during a meeting with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka earlier this week.

The fashion giant says it is urging Bangladesh to consider an annual review of the local minimum wage which would take inflation and the consumer price index into consideration. The South Asian country's national minimum wage has only been revised twice since it was first set in 1994, according to H&M.

Bangladesh's garment industry is among the biggest and most competitive in the world, largely because the labor costs are very low. The average monthly wage of a garment worker is roughly $45, less than half of what workers in countries like China and India receive.

Angry garment workers took to the streets in Bangladesh earlier this year to demand higher wages, temporarily shutting down several factories.

"We believe that it is in the interest of the Bangladeshi textile industry, as well as in our interest, that the industry continues to develop into an advanced and mature textile industry," H&M CEO Persson said Wednesday. "Stable markets in which people are treated with respect, and where the workers are properly compensated by their employers, are of the utmost importance."

Rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, have called on Bangladesh to address labor issues, including worker safety, excessive hours, the right to organize, and obtaining the minimum wage. The group also says government harassment of labor leaders continues.

H&M has 2,600 clothing stores in 44 markets. The retailer is one of several major Western brands that buys products from Bangladesh. The Swedish company said Wednesday it does not own any factories in the country, or make decisions on wages, but that is has a responsibility towards everyone who contributes to its success.