Dhaka, Sep 24 — Thousands of garment workers staged violent protests here and key apparel hubs on the outskirts of the city Monday to demand hike in minimum wages, police said.
Three days after staging a mass protest, unruly workers fought pitched battles with law enforcers and vandalised dozens of vehicles in the national capital. Several policemen and garment workers were injured in the clashes, Xinhua reported citing police sources.
The workers also vandalized nearly a dozen garment units in the industrial hubs in Gazipur and Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka.
Around 15,000 workers of garment factories in Gazipur took to the streets Monday morning and reportedly attacked a camp of Ansar Bahini, a force for internal security and law enforcement in Bangladesh, and looted firearms and ammunition.
Traffic on a highway in Savar resumed several hours after the law enforcers managed to disperse the agitating workers from the road.
The workers have long been demanding higher wages and safe working conditions, but their protests have become more common after five factories collapsed in April, killing at least 1,130 people.
The Savar tragedy revived questions about the commitments of factory owners and their global buyers to provide safe working conditions in the annually $20 billion export sector, which comprises about 5,000 factories employing more than four million workers, 80 percent of whom are women.
The protest reached its peak Saturday when violence erupted in various areas forcing the authorities to shut production in over 400 factories in Gazipur and Savar.
Garment Sramik Samannay Parishad, a federation of trade unions, organised a rally to meet their various demands including raising minimum monthly salary to 8,000 taka (about $100).
The Bangladeshi government in 2010 had set 3,000 taka (about $40) as the minimum monthly wage for the then over 2.5 million garment workers. The first minimum wage board in Bangladesh, found in 1994, fixed 940 taka (about $12) as the minimum wage for garment workers. The second one, formed in 2006, set the minimum wage at 1,662.50 taka (about $22).
Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garments exporter after China, producing global brands for customers around the world.