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Bangladeshi police clash with thousands of garment workers

Police stand guard as Bangladeshi garment workers protest to demand an increase in their wages in Dhaka on November 2, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Police in Bangladesh have clashed with thousands of garment factory workers who have rejected a government-offered about a 50 percent pay rise.

Officials said on Thursday that about 25,000 factory workers resorted to protests declining the pay rise offered by the government.

The protests have led to the closure of at least 100 factories over several days outside the capital Dhaka.

A government-appointed panel raised wages on Tuesday by 56.25 percent for the four million garment factory workers, who are seeking a near-tripling of their monthly wage.

The workers claim that the wages do not meet the rising inflation of 9.5 in the country.

Police said violence broke out in the industrial towns of Gazipur and Ashulia outside the capital Dhaka after more than 10,000 workers staged protests in factories and along highways to reject the panel’s offer.

“There were 10,000 (protesting) workers at several spots. They threw bricks and stones at our officers and factories, which were open,” Mahmud Naser, Ashulia’s deputy industrial police chief, told AFP.

“One of our officers was injured. We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the workers,” Naser added.

Reports of clashes were received from other sites as well.

Thousands of workers clashed with the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police at Konabari and Naujore in Gazipur, with police using batons and tear gas to drive away the protesters.

 “Some 15,000 workers blocked the road at Konabari, and vandalized vehicles and other properties. We had to disperse them to maintain law and order,” Gazipur municipality administrator Sayed Murad Ali told the media.

At least two injured workers were taken to hospital, police said.

In a violent incident, a garment worker was killed and several others injured as the protesters clashed with police yesterday.

Bangladesh’s 3,500 garment factories account for around 85 percent of its $55 billion in annual exports, supplying many of the world’s top brands including Levi’s, Zara and H&M.

According to reports conditions are dire for many of the sector’s four million workers, the vast majority of whom are women whose monthly pay starts at 8,300 taka ($75).

Last month, several fashion brands including Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Gap, Hugo Boss, Levi Strauss, Lululemon, Puma, PVH and Under Armour wrote to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina saying they were “committed to implementing responsible purchasing practices” to enable higher wages.

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