Bangladesh garment workers to stage fresh protests for wage hikes
Date of publication: June 19, 2006
Source: Agence France Presse
Bangladesh garment workers will stage a series of mass protests this week to demand a 30 percent salary hike amid continuing unrest, officials said Monday.
The planned demonstrations follow rioting last month in which 16 factories were torched and hundreds ransacked by employees. At least two people were killed and scores injured after security officers shot at workers.
A memorandum of understanding signed last week by garment workers, the government and industry bodies, promised employees new rights including paid days off, union membership and a new minimum wage to be announced within three months.
But union leaders said workers were not satisfied by the agreement and protests supported by 16 unions would be held on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and June 29.
"They called this agitatation programme because their demand of a 30 percent increase to the minimum wage was not met in the memorandum of understanding," said Shahida Sarker, president of the Bangladesh National Garment Workers Federation.
"They are also demanding a monitoring body made up of workers to check that the promises that were made are kept," she added.
On Sunday, more than 3,000 workers owed wages marched in protest at the Dhaka Export Processing Zone at Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital after finding their factories closed.
"They smashed windows at three factories by throwing stones and bricks but police and paramilitary forces quickly brought the situation under control," said police inspector Obaidul Hoque.
Impoverished Bangladesh, which has some 4,200 garment factories, relies on the industry for more than three-quarters of its 9.3-billion-dollar export earnings.
But although business has boomed since the end of global textile quotas at the end of 2004 the sector is notorious for shabby safety standards and low wages.
Last month's protests began on May 20 in Sripur, 60 kilometres (40
miles) from Dhaka, later spreading to the capital and its adjoining industrial towns.
The rioting workers returned to work after government officials and union representatives agreed to fix a minimum wage for the industry.