According to a Bangladeshi union official, many factories producing for major global clothing groups are at a standstill in the country due to violent demonstrations by thousands of workers demanding better wages.
Police say at least 300 factories have closed in Bangladesh since the outbreak of labor movement for better wages A week ago. The president of the Federation of Industrial and Clothing Workers, Kalpona Akter, speaks of around 600 closures. Some of them supply major brands or Western distributors such as “ Gap, Walmart, H&M, Zara, (the group) Inditex (of which Zara is a part, editor’s note), Bestseller, Levi’s, Marks and Spencer, Primark and Aldi », affirmed the union leader.
Two major manufacturers, HaMeem and Sterling, who wanted to reopen their factories, declared this Friday a “day off and sent their 25,000 employees home”, while 3,000 other striking workers wanted to block the establishments, reported the AFP a police inspector who requested anonymity. According to Kalpona Akter, several dozen factories have been ransacked in recent days by strikers. Police say at least two workers were killed and dozens injured in the repression of the movement by the police. The demonstrations continued this Friday.
Textiles are a key industry in Bangladesh, the world’s second largest clothing exporter behind China. Its 3,500 factories employing four million workers, mostly women, represent 85% of this poor South Asian country’s $55 billion in annual exports.
The angry workers are demanding an almost tripling of the minimum monthly wage, from 8,300 takas (70 euros) to 23,000 takas (190 euros), to cope with the sharp increase in the cost of living and provide for the needs of their families. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, representing factory owners, is proposing only a 25% increase.
Police planned to deploy 3,000 officers on Saturday to allow factories to reopen in Gazipur, an industrial town on the outskirts of Dhaka where the protests were the most violent, the city’s police chief said.