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Bangladesh garment factories reopen as workers end strike

Press Trust of India  |  Dhaka 

Thousands of Bangladeshi garment factory workers today ended their five-day strike and resumed work after assurance of a pay hike by November, even as fresh clashes broke out injuring at least 50 people.

The workers returned to work after authorities "convinced" them that the wages of the three million garment workers would be raised.

The workers had been protesting for days demanding a near-tripling of their monthly wage to USD 100.

The workers returned to the production line amid heightened security as authorities deployed paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troops at the suburban Gazipur industrial district.

Authorities promised quicker steps to announce a wage structure alongside warnings of tough actions against further unrests.

Thousands of workers turned up at readymade garments units at Gazipur, the worst scene of clashes in the last five days, as the paramilitary troops patrolled the area, officials said.

Fresh clashes over wage hike at garment factories left many people wounded at two other industrial zones on the outskirts of the capital.

Police had to use rubber bullets and tear gas canisters as workers took to the street for the sixth consecutive day at Savar and Narayanganj. The protesters blockaded two major highways and hurled stones.

Workers at Savar dispersed quickly as police intervened but 50 people, including the policemen and protesters, were injured at Narayanganj where the violence continued for over two hours, media reports said.

Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation urged their members to join the work saying authorities assured them of raising their salaries by November after several tripartite meetings with the government and factory owners.

The protests started last week when Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said they could raise the monthly minimum wage to as high as Taka 3,600 or 20 per cent from the current structure against the workers demand to make it Taka 8,114 or USD 100.

The new wage structure, however, is yet to be negotiated as the factory owners said a major increase would erode Bangladesh's advantage as a cheap source of labour compared to other garment exporting nations like India, China and Vietnam.

Bangladesh is the world's second-largest garment exporter having over 4,500 factories which account for nearly 80 per cent of the country's USD 27-billion annual exports paying a worker the minimum wage of USD 38 a month.

First Published: Thu, September 26 2013. 19:01 IST