x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

140 factories closed in new Bangladesh wage protest

Thousands of workers protesting against new minimum wage clash with police outside Dhaka.

DHAKA // Almost 140 Bangladeshi garment factories were shut yesterday as thousands of workers protesting against a new minimum wage clashed with police outside Dhaka.

Protests against poor wages and working conditions have gained in intensity since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in April, which killed 1,135 people.

Police said violence erupted at Ashulia, home to Bangladesh’s biggest garment plants which make clothing for top Western retailers such as Walmart, at Konabari in the industrial district of Gazipur north of Dhaka and in other parts of Gazipur.

The trigger for the new protests was the minimum wage the government announced for the country’s four million garment workers.

Although the minimum monthly salary for entry-level workers has been raised by 76 per cent to 5,300 takas (Dh250) as of December, unions have complained that skilled employees have been deprived, while some bosses cut food and transport allowances.

The new wages still leave Bangladeshi garment workers as some of the lowest paid in the sector worldwide.

“At least 10,000 workers demonstrated at Konabari. They threw rocks at the officers. We fired rubber bullets and tear gas,” said Shamsur Rahman, a police spokesman.

Shahidullah Azim, the vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the protests forced the closure of 87 factories at Ashulia, 37 at Konabari and around 15 more elsewhere in Gazipur.

* Agence France-Presse