Clashing with police and demanding overdue wages be paid immediately, hundreds of Bangladeshi garment workers protested in Dhaka this week, continuing a new stretch of factory unrest in the region. The latest action includes a nine-day hunger strike that’s left 100 workers sick. The protests have been taking place outside the Bangladesh Garment Manufactures’ and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
About 1,600 employees from five factories have not been paid since April because the owner of the facilities is in jail. Delwar Hossain, owner of the Tuba Group, was arrested in February on homicide charges stemming from a 2012 fire that killed 112 garment workers at the Tazreen Fashions factory.
“We have no other option but to stay on the street until we get the salary,” Mohammad Miraz, a Bukshan Garments factory worker, told local media. Added Abullah Baki, another employee: “The owner should feel the pinch we are bearing without money and food.”
According to Reuters, BGMEA officials agreed to pay wages for two months this week, and pledged the Tuba Group would pay the rest of the salaries and a bonus for the Eid al-Fitr holiday in the future. Protesting workers have since rejected the offer.
For the last several years, Bangladesh has been a flashpoint for debate over factory working conditions. A series of building catastrophes – including a factory collapse that killed 1,100 workers last year – has brought about tighter codes and site closures, although conditions are still often substandard, according to safety experts. Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest clothing producer after China.