Garment factory workers protest in Bangladesh

Thursday 14 November 2013 22.29
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Bangladeshi garment workers on the ground as others react after riot police fired tear gas shells during clashes in Ashulia
Bangladeshi garment workers on the ground as others react after riot police fired tear gas shells during clashes in Ashulia
Production in some 200 garment factories was suspended as workers clashed with police during protests over a wage increase
Production in some 200 garment factories was suspended as workers clashed with police during protests over a wage increase

Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up protests by Bangladeshi garment factory workers calling for a wage increase.

Factory owners have agreed to a proposed 77% rise in the minimum wage, but workers are demanding a bigger increase.

Bangladesh's official wage board had proposed the rise to $68 (€50) a month as the minimum wage after a string of fatal factory accidents this year pushed poor pay and conditions into the international spotlight.      

The garment owners agreed to the proposal at a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last night.          

The new wage, to be officially approved by the wage board, would be effective from next month.

Workers demanding $100 (€74) a month took to the streets, blocking major roads and attacking factories in the Ashulia industrial belt, on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka.

Police used water cannon, fired rubber bullets and lobbed tear gas to disperse the stone-throwing demonstrators, witnesses said.

More than 50 people, including police, were wounded.

Violent protests over the pay rise have forced the closure of more than 100 factories this week. Some 200 were shut today.

The workers' protests coincide with violent anti-government protests and strikes led by the main opposition party demanding next year's elections take place under a non-partisan government.

The impasse between the ruling party and opposition over election rules is a fresh threat to Bangladesh's $22bn garment export industry, the economic lifeblood of the impoverished country of 160 million, employing around four million people, mostly women.

The garment industry, which supplies many Western brands, has already been under the spotlight after the accidents, including the collapse of a building housing factories in April that killed more than 1,130 people.

Rock-bottom wages and trade deals with Western countries have helped make Bangladesh the world's second-largest apparel exporter after China, with 60% of its clothes going to Europe and 23% to the United States.

Keywords: bangladesh