Dhaka, Nov 8 (PTI) A female worker was killed on Wednesday as protesting readymade garment workers in Bangladesh clashed with police at an industrial hub near here over the unacceptable wage hike announced by the authorities.
This was the third death in seven days and came a day after Bangladesh authorities announced a 56.25 per cent hike in the salary structure for readymade garment (RMG) factory workers.
Witnesses said more than 4,000 workers took to the streets during the fresh protests in Gazipur, a hub of several hundred garment factories employing tens of thousands of workers, mostly women, 25 kms north of Dhaka.
The female protester was wounded in her head. “The doctors declared her dead as she was brought to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital along with another wounded man,” Bachhu Mian, the police outpost head at the state-run health facility, told reporters.
Police said they were “forced to use rubber bullets, tear gas and sound grenades” as the workers blocked roads and vandalised several vehicles and threw stone or brick chips toward their personnel as clashes erupted.
The garments industry accounts for almost 16 per cent of Bangladesh’s GDP. Low wages helped Bangladesh build the industry employing 4 million workers.
On Tuesday, the authorities in Bangladesh announced a new salary structure for the protesting garment factory workers with a 56.25 per cent increase in the monthly minimum wage to USD 114 (Taka 12,500) a month from the previous USD 75 (approximately Taka 8,000), a decision that was rejected by some workers' groups as “too small” as they had demanded Taka 23,000.
The new pay structure, the first increase in five years, is to take effect from December 1.
The wage hike was a result of massive protests leading to unrest in Bangladesh’s main export-earning readymade garments industry that started last week.
Today’s death was the third in the past seven days. The country has simultaneously witnessed political violence ahead of the next general elections, expected in early January.
“The (wage) raise is not consistent with the price hike of food, other essentials and the increased house rents,” a private TV channel showed a woman worker saying.
Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation president Kalpona Akter said they were “extremely frustrated with the paltry increase.” On the other hand, leaders of the garment factory owners’ apex body Bangladesh Readymade Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said it was difficult for them to pay even the new wage structure announced on Tuesday.
“Yet we accepted the new wage structure as all parties involved agreed to the rise,” BGMEA representative Siddiqur Rahman said.
Bangladesh’s nearly 4,000 garment factories account for about 85 per cent of its USD 55 billion in annual exports, mainly to the United States and Europe, supplying many of the world’s top brands including Levis, Zara, GAP, and H&M.
The protests earlier this week saw fierce clashes leaving two workers dead and dozens more wounded. Police said some 600 factories were shuttered last week and scores were ransacked in protests over wages in the past week. PTI AR NPK NPK NPK