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Bangladesh Labor Protests on Wages Shut 100 Garment Factories

Bangladesh Garment Protests
Bangladeshi garment workers are pictured on the ground as others react after riot police fired tear gas shells during clashes in Ashulia, a key garment manufacturing hub outside Dhaka, on November 12, 2013. Photographer: Munir uz Zaman/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of Bangladesh workers demanding higher wages held protests in an industrial zone on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka, prompting clashes with the police and forcing 100 garment factories to close.

The workers in the Anshulia industrial zone want a minimum monthly wage of about 8,000 taka ($103), Chowdhury Ashiqul Alam, a trade union spokesman said via phone today. The country’s factory owners last week agreed to pay 4,500 taka.

The protests reflect the rising labor tensions in Bangladesh, which has the second-lowest wages in Asia after Myanmar and supplies retailers from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to Hennes & Mauritz AB with low-priced apparel. In September, thousands of protestors demanding higher wages forced the closure of 400 of the country’s 5,000 clothing factories.

“Some unruly workers threw stones at factories and police in the morning,” Abdus Sattar Miah, an inspector of the Industrial Police said via phone today. “The situation is now under control.”

Cheap Labor

The South Asian nation’s $20 billion garment industry has been marred by industrial accidents and fires, putting international retailers under pressure to improve conditions. In April, the collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza factory complex killed more than 1,000 people in the worst industrial accident in the country’s history. An October fire at a garment factory on the outskirts Dhaka killed at least seven people, renewing concerns about safety.

Monthly manufacturing wages in Bangladesh average $74, only higher than the $53 workers receive in Myanmar, according to an annual Asia survey by the Japan External Trade Organization released in December.

A government-appointed panel in November recommended a minimum wage of 5,300 taka, up from the current 3,000 taka.

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