Garment workers clash with police at wage demonstration
THOUSANDS of Bangladeshi garment workers seeking to more than double their pay to €77 a month clashed with police on Dhaka's outskirts, forcing about 400 factories to close.
The workers, demonstrating for a third day, pelted factories with bricks and blocked a highway, Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of the Exporters Association of Bangladesh, said.
Television images showed police using tear gas on workers, some of whom set fire to a factory warehouse.
"It's frustrating that we had to close the factories," said Mr Murshedy. "A one-day closure means a huge loss."
The labour unrest comes five months after the collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza factory complex killed more than 1,000 people in the worst industrial accident in the South Asian country's history.
The second-lowest wages in Asia after Myanmar have helped spawn Bangladesh's $19bn manufacturing industry, which supplies global retailers with cheap clothes.
H&M, Europe's second-biggest clothing retailer, yesterday joined the IndustriALL Global Union in backing the workers' pursuit of increased pay.
"We strongly support the workers' demand for higher wages," H&M spokes- woman Andrea Roos said.
"Bangladesh is an important sourcing market for H&M and we have on various occasions, and also together with other clothing companies, urged the government to raise minimum wages in the textile industry and to revise wages annually."
Retailers such as Wal-Mart, H&M, Inditex SA and Gap source goods from Gazipur, according to Mr Murshedy.
The protesters are demanding a minimum monthly salary of 8,114 taka (€77), up from 3,000 taka now, Mr Murshedy said.
International retailers have been under pressure to improve conditions in Bangladesh's clothing industry.
Retailers that sold garments made at the building that collapsed in April failed to agree on compensation after talks earlier this month, with Penneys owner Primark saying it will pay more short-term aid. (Bloomberg)