Thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh have taken to the streets to demand that the factory owners implement a wage agreement.
On Friday, 10th December 2010, militant demonstrations took place in southern Bangladesh. Factory managements shut down some factories as a consequence. The next day, on 11th December 2010, thousands of workers gathered outside their factory in Dhaka to protest against its closure. They blocked one of the main highways in the city. Police used batons and tear gas to disperse the workers. Protests by workers in the southern city of Chittagong led a South Korean company to shut down its eleven factories there.
Workers have pointed out that many of the factory managements are not implementing the new salary scale announced by a government wage board earlier this year. From November 2010, the factories should have been paying a wage of at least US $43 (Indian Rs 1,937.00) a month, but many have not been paying even this pittance! Workers in some factories around Dhaka have been protesting for a number of days, demanding increased pay.
More than three million (thirty lakh) people, including a large number women, work in Bangladesh’s garment industry which is a key sector of the country’s economy. It is significant that the factories located in Bangladesh, producing with cheap labour, actually supply many major western stores and expensive brands. While many of these brands and stores make millions of dollars of profits, the workers who produce the garments are not given even the legal wages, which are quite low, notified by statutory bodies.