DHAKA Aug 5 Bangladeshi garment workers staging
a hunger strike for nine days to press for back-pay and a
holiday bonus clashed with police in the capital, Dhaka, on
Tuesday, police and witnesses said.
About 1,600 workers from five factories of the Tuba Group
have been on hunger strike since July 28 demanding the payment
of salary for three months, overtime and a holiday bonus. About
100 of them have fallen sick.
Police used truncheons to disperse several hundred of the
workers who tried to besiege the Bangladesh Garment
Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) headquarters,
On Sunday, the association agreed to pay wages for two
months this week, and said the Tuba Group would pay the rest of
the salaries and a bonus for the Eid al-Fitr holiday later.
But the workers rejected the offer.
"We will continue our protests and fasting until our demands
are met," one worker shouted to fellow protesters at the
Low labour costs and, critics say, shortcuts on safety, make
Bangladesh the cheapest place to make large quantities of
clothing and the second-largest exporter of readymade garments.
The $24 billion export industry, which supplies many Western
brands such as Wal-Mart WMT.N, Tesco TSCO.L and H&M HMb.ST, has
been under scrutiny since last year when a building housing
factories collapsed killing more than 1,130 people. That came
five months after a factory fire killed 112 people.
The owner of the Tuba Group, Delwar Hossain, has been in
detention since February after he turned himself in to face
homicide charges for the deaths of the 112 workers in the 2012,
fire, the country's worst factory fire.
Last year, the government raised the minimum wage for
garment workers by 77 percent to 5,300 taka ($68) a month and
amended the labour law to boost workers' rights.
The industry accounts for 80 percent of Bangladesh's exports
but accidents and strikes have put at risk the livelihoods of
nearly 4 million workers, most of them women.
Bangladesh's exports, however, in the year to June hit a
record $30 billion, up 11 percent from a year ago on the back of
stronger garment sales.
(Editing by Robert Birsel)