News by Rhiannon D’Averc
Protesting garment workers in Bangladesh have been dispersed by police on a fourth day of protesting, as they block roads in an attempt to push for higher wages.
At the time of going to press, the Bangladeshi government stated that it was considering raising the minimum wage for garment workers in order to stop the protests. Tear gas and water canons have been used to attempt to stop them from happening.
Why should you care what is happening to low-income workers in a far-away country like Bangladesh? Because the country is the second biggest exporter of clothes in the world, behind China – meaning it’s more than likely that a high percentage of the clothes in your wardrobe were produced there.
At least one worker has been killed, and many more injured, in the clashes between protesters and the police force. They have been blocking roads and burning tyres in the Savor industrial district, just north of the capital, Dhaka.
“Police at first tried to convince them through discussions and requested them to leave the roads so that transport can move easily, but instead they threw stones and bricks,” Tahmidul Islam, a police officer in the area is quoted as telling Reuters. “So to disperse them police used tear gas … Now the situation is under control and the workers have left.”
Similar protests in the nearby area of Mirpur have reportedly not met with any violence. The country’s Minister of Commerce, Tipu Munshi, has stated he is hoping to resolve the situation within a month.
The latest protests were triggered after the government proposed a minimum wage rise of 51%, up to the equivalent of £74.60 a month. However, it is claimed that this increase – the first since 2013 – will only help a small fraction of the more than 3.5 million people employed in the industry.
A panel of factory owners, officials, and union leaders has been convened to discuss and investigate the pay demands.