Bangladeshi Workers Fired After Pay Protests
Police announced that at least 1,500 workers have been dismissed after protests over pay that led to a week-long shutdown over the Christmas period. Over a dozen mass production factories saw tens of thousands of workers walk out in the Ashulia area of Dhaka. The factories make clothing for well-known western brands such as GAP, Zara and H&M.
Police claim that the protests were illegal and that they only arrested violent protesters: 30 workers, including seven union leaders, plus a TV reporter, the AFP news agency reported. The factories have since resumed with their workloads however around 1,500 have been fired and the factory owners have filed five cases against the unruly workers.
Rana Plaza image by Khorshed Alam Rinku
The Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation believe that the number of dismissed workers is in the much higher region of 3,500 and that many protest organisers have been forced into hiding. The federation has accused the authorities of using controversial military-style law and threats to drive fear into the workers.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association rejected the workers’ demand for their pay to be trebled from the current minimum monthly wage of 5,300 taka ($67). Workers in the region receive the lowest wages in the world, less than one-fifth of what industry campaigners estimate to be the country’s living wage.
Garment manufacturing is Bangladesh’s strongest industry and accounts for 80 percent of the country’s exports. However the $30bn garment sector has been plagued with accounts of poor pay and conditions including the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse, which crushed 1,130 workers and injured thousands more. The disaster triggered protests and international scrutiny of the fast-fashion industry and now the Bangladeshi garment industry is under the spotlight once again.