Bangladesh: Bosses fail to restart factories closed by protests

Bangladesh police have used batons, rubber bullets and tear gas in a bid to stop ongoing protests by garment workers demanding higher wages.

But the fifth day of protests in two industrial districts near the capital Dhaka, on September 25, forced the closure more than 100 factories for the day, police said.

Gazipur and Narayanganj house hundreds of factories that supply garment products to numerous global brands, including Wal-Mart and H&M.

After a three-day work stoppage in the wake of the protests, bosses tried to restart the factories today, but the efforts failed.
The industry's four million mostly women workers are demanding 8114 takas ($112) each month, instead of the current monthly minimum wage of 3000 takas ($41), which is the lowest in the world.

Factory owners claim it is difficult for them to significantly raise the minimum wage because global buyers from developed countries are unwilling to pay higher prices. A government panel is due to make recommendations on the minimum wage in November, but garment workers want action now.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association vice-president SM Mannan said he feared the dispute would undermine the relationship with the big buyers.

Assistant director of Gazipur industrial police AKM Mosharaf Hossain claimed workers had dispersed peacefully after the police moved in on September 24, but he did not say whether there had been any injuries.

The workers had blocked two major roads, disrupting traffic for hours during the morning rush hour.

Hossain said that most factories had resumed work in the area, but that the authorities had closed many of them, fearing further violence.

Clashes in Narayanganj injured at least 10 people, with security officials firing rubber bullets. TV footage showed women workers fleeing streets in the district as the police moved in.

[Reprinted from Morning Star.]