In a major unrest in the country’s Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector, thousands of ready-made garment workers continued their massive protest for the fifth day on Wednesday across the country. The owners have been forced to shut down over 150 units out of fear.
Agitated workers, both male and female, with bamboo sticks in hands, attacked and vandalised factories; blocked many highways; and clashed with police, resulting in injuries to at least 50 people. The workers’ demand is for an increase in the minimum monthly wage from the current standard of Tk. 3,000 ($38 approximately) to Tk. 8,000 ($100), one the owners have not agreed to meet despite it being pretty less by international standards.
Police and RMG owners said damages caused have forced managements to close down hundreds of factories in Savar, Gazipur and Narayangonj, all in the outskirts of Dhaka.
Agitated workers also set fire to police vehicles and engaged in running battles with police. Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association (BGMEA), which brings an estimated $20 billion annually, making the sector number one export revenue earner for the country, has already threatened that it won’t pay the month’s salary and Id bonus till the workers end their unrest and stop vandalising property. However, it rejected the workers’ $100-minimum-wage demand, telling they can give only a 20 per cent increase to Tk 3,600 (approximately $45), citing gloomy global economic conditions. The workers have refused to accept this.
A similar unrest in 2010, which continued for weeks, resulted a minimum-wage-agreement for Tk 3,000, against the previous Tk 1500. The government has said it wants on keep stability of the vital industry, but has so far apparently failed to persuade owners to accept the workers’ demand, which is seen as being “reasonable” even by many authorities.