Protests Close 200 Garment Factories In Bangladesh

Demand For Higher Wages

Bangladesh ProtestsClashes broke out this week in Bangladesh as thousands of workers protested for three days, forcing at least 200 garment factories near Dhaka to close. Workers demanded higher wages at the factories in the Ashulia industrial district, an area that provides clothing for retailers such as Wal-Mart, H&M, Gap and Eagle Outfitters. Reports indicate about 100 people have been hurt as striking workers clashed with police, who retaliated by firing rubber bullets and canisters of tear gas.

"We have been forced to shut all garment factories in Ashulia fearing more vandalism, and also for security reasons after the unrest of the last few days," said Mohammad Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Factory workers in Bangladesh are demanding that the monthly minimum wage be raised to 8,000 taka, roughly $103 a month, from 3000 taka, or roughly $38. The protests come after more optimistic news last week when a Bangladesh government-appointed board approved a recommendation to increase the minimum wage to 5,300 taka. "We can't accept the wages that are being offered to us," said Kahirul Mamun Mintu, a protest leader in Savar. "This is not enough for us. Our movement will continue until our demands are met."

Garment exports in Bangladesh jumped nearly 25% between July and September of 2013 compared to a year earlier, despite multiple accidents there. Factory owners and regulators in Bangladesh have come under scrutiny for the often harsh and unsafe working conditions after the collapse of a factory building killed more than 1,100 people in April and a fire last November that killed 112 workers. The garment sector in the Asian country employs about four million workers, mostly women.