Bangladesh garment workers fight poverty

This video is called Bangladesh strikes.

From News Line daily in Britain:

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

300 garment factories shut down in Bangladesh

BANGLADESH garment bosses have indefinitely shut down all operations in over 300 factories at a key industrial hub after five days of violent protests over wages.

President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, announced the plants would reopen only after the government ensures ‘enough security’.

Most of Bangladesh’s big garment factories are based in Ashulia.

They employ around half a million workers who sew clothing for some of the world’s largest retailers such as Wal-Mart, Gap, Tesco, H&M and Carrefour.

‘We have decided to close down more than 300 factories at Ashulia industrial area indefinitely. We can’t operate in this climate of fear and lawlessness,’ Mohiuddin said.

The decision followed the fifth day of protests by tens of thousands of workers who clashed with police, vandalised plants and blocked a key highway for hours, senior police officer Monowar Hossain said.

‘Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the agitated workers,’ Hossain added.

The violence in the last five days left scores of policemen and hundreds of protesters injured, police officers have said.

Employees – who work 10-16 hours a day, six days a week, for the lowest garment sector wages in the world – are demanding a 50 per cent pay hike and subsidised food to cope with the rising cost of living.

Union leader Babul Akter claimed last Thursday that manufacturers at Ashulia had agreed to raise wages. Some owners also announced that they would raise the wages to help workers cope with increases in rent.

But the BGMEA, which represents all of the country’s 4,500 garment factories, denied sealing any deal with the unions.

‘It’s a lie, total lie. We raised workers’ salaries by 82 per cent just 18 months ago. It’s impossible to raise salaries again,’ Mohiuddin said.

In 2010, Bangladesh garment factories were hit by months of violent protests that forced the government and factory owners to agree to increase wages by 80 per cent, or a minimum $37 per month.

The export of garments, which made $19 billion for the impoverished country last year, is the mainstay of the economy of Bangladesh, accounting for 80 per cent of its total shipments.

Tensions have been brewing at Ashulia and other textile manufacturing zones in recent months following the abduction and murder of a top garment union leader in April.

Unions have accused Bangladesh’s feared security forces of killing him.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged an independent probe into the incident when she visited the country last month.

Meanwhile in Denmark, the textile, garment and leather workers’ unions from across the globe are meeting in Copenhagen to share experiences about the long struggle for a living wage in their industry.

From Africa to Asia and Latin America the Living Wage has become a global issue and central to the Decent Work Agenda, Jyrki Raina, the in-coming general secretary of IndustriALL explained.

Poverty wages have a devastating impact on workers.

In Cambodia thousands of malnourished workers have fainted in the last two years, and in Bangladesh they are being forced to survive on a dollar a day.

The two-day conference will evaluate the global campaign to date and map out a strategy to defend low-paid textile and garment workers by building a global living wage campaign.

‘Achieving a living wage for textile and garment workers depends on many factors not least the actions of governments, multinationals and agencies such as the ILO.

‘How then can IndustriALL engage with such bodies to ensure that payment of a living wage remains high on the political agenda?

‘Your unions have successfully publicised the poverty wages paid to workers in the textile, garment and leather sectors.

‘I am hoping to hear now how the new IndustriALL’s can build on this work and help to strengthen this aspect of the campaign?’ Jyrki Raina said in the lead up to the two-day Living Wage conference being held in Denmark involving 130 delegates.

A new wave of militant strikes by garment workers in Bangladesh is spreading fear in the government and among multinational clothing firms: here.

9 thoughts on “Bangladesh garment workers fight poverty

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  2. Bangladeshi garment factories end lockout

    Over 350 garment factories in the Ashulia industrial zone on the outskirts of Dhaka ended a nine-day lockout on June 21, enabling 500,000 employees to return to work. Several hundred workers at the Envoy Group factory only agreed to resume work after management agreed to pay wages lost during the lockout.

    Factory owners had locked their factories while over 1,000 police and Rapid Action Battalion forces, using tear gas, rubber bullets and batons, attempted to clear the streets of thousands of striking garment workers protesting for better wages and conditions. Over 80 workers were injured and many arrested.

    Concerned that the protests could extend to other districts, the government announced that it would subsidise rice purchases for garment workers. The unions had said that if employers reopened their factories and the police dropped all charges and released strike leaders they would direct the employees back to work.

    Bangladeshi garment workers’ wages are the lowest in Asia, ranging from 2,500 taka ($US30) for new entries to 9,700 taka for a Grade 1 operator. According to a spokesman for the National Platform to Protect Garment Workers and Industries, garment workers’ real incomes have shrunk by 30 percent due to price rises in essentials and rents over the last 18 months.


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