Bangladesh garment workers took to the streets demanding a salary increase

Bangladesh garment workers took to the streets demanding a salary increase

Production at several hundred ready-made garment (RMG) factories in Bangladesh came to a halt on Monday (23 September) as violent wage protests by workers entered their third day.

The unrest rocked industrial belts in Dhaka, Gazipur and Savar as workers blockaded highways and clashed with law enforcers as they vented their anger at a pay deal proposed by factory owners.

More than 60 people were injured, prompting almost all apparel units in the Gazipur industrial area to suspend production for the day.

A senior police official said the Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Aricha highways were also closed for several hours after workers erected barricades. At least 5,000 workers were caught up in the demonstrations.

Today's unrest followed disturbances on Saturday and Sunday, which forced more than 50 apparel units to shut.

The protestors are demanding a minimum monthly wage of BDT8,114 ($104.36), up from the current BDT3,000 (US$38.53) entry-level minimum wage for a worker in Bangladesh, which was fixed in 2010.

But apparel factory owners under the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters' Association (BGMEA)have proposed a 20% rise to BDT3600 (US$46.30).
Labour leaders said the gap between the workers' demand and the owners' offer was not acceptable in view of the present cost of living.

A six-member wage board set up in June to discuss the issue is not set to meet again until 21 October.

The minimum wage and other issues, including poor workplace safety in the country's apparel sector, have drawn criticism internationally after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in April with the loss of more than 1,100 lives.