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Tear gas, rubber bullets as Bangladesh garment workers strike

AFP  |  Dhaka 

Tuesday fired and tear gas as thousands of striking workers in the South Asian country's huge garment industry staged protests for a third day demanding wage hikes.

Bangladesh's 4,500 textile and factories exported more than USD 30 billion worth of apparel last year, making for retailers such as H&M, Walmart, Tesco, and

Police said more than 5,000 workers blocked a national highway at Hemayetpur outside the capital and clashed with them for hours after they walked out of their factories.

"At least 12 policemen were injured after they threw rocks at our officers. We fired tear gas and to disperse the protesters. Twelve factories were shut down," police official told AFP.

The of the Manabjamin newspaper said at least 50 protesters were injured in waves of clashes, which also spread to garment factory hubs in Dhaka, and involving thousands more workers.

The protests are the first major test for Sheikh since winning a fourth term in December 30 elections marred by violence, thousands of arrests and allegations of vote rigging and intimidation.

raised the minimum monthly wage for the garment sector's four million workers by 51 per cent to 8,000 taka (USD 95) from December.

But senior workers say their raise was less than this and unions, which warn the strikes may spread, say the hike fails to compensate for price rises in recent years.

"The wages were hiked after five years. But in the five years the cost of living has increased more than the wage hike," Babul Akhter, of the Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, told AFP.

is the world's second-largest garment maker after

But despite the industry's role in transforming the impoverished nation into a major manufacturing hub, garment workers are some of the lowest paid in the world.

The industry also has a poor workplace safety record with the collapse of a Rana Plaza garment factory complex killing more than 1,130 people in 2013 in one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

Following the disaster, major retailers formed two safety groups to push through crucial reforms in the factories, prompting manufacturers to plough in more than a billion dollars in safety upgrades.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, January 08 2019. 14:45 IST