Wages of protest

Southasia - - BRIEFINGS -

Thou­sands of gar­ment work­ers in Bangladesh launched a protest move­ment to de­mand higher wages. The protests that spanned over weeks forced au­thor­i­ties to close more than 100 fac­to­ries lo­cated in two in­dus­trial dis­tricts near Dhaka. A num­ber of fac­to­ries were also set ablaze by an­gry pro­test­ers. The dis­tricts of Gazipur and Narayan­ganj house hun­dreds of fac­to­ries that sup­ply gar­ment prod­ucts to nu­mer­ous global brands, in­clud­ing Wal-Mart and H&M. The work­ers de­manded 8,114 takas ($100) in­stead of the cur­rent monthly min­i­mum wage of 3,000 takas ($38) – low­est in the world. Fac­tory own­ers held that it was dif­fi­cult for them to sig­nif­i­cantly raise the min­i­mum wage be­cause of the un­will­ing­ness of global brands to pay higher prices amid stiff com­pe­ti­tion and eco­nomic cri­sis in the West.

Bangladesh is the world's sec­ond­largest gar­ment man­u­fac­turer af­ter China. It earns $20 bil­lion a year from gar­ment ex­ports, mainly to the United States and Europe. The sec­tor em­ploys about four mil­lion work­ers, mostly women. The harsh and of­ten un­safe work­ing con­di­tions in Bangladesh's gar­ment in­dus­try drew global at­ten­tion af­ter the April 2013 col­lapse of an eight­storey fac­tory build­ing in which more than 1,100 peo­ple were killed. The sec­tor has also ex­pe­ri­enced nu­mer­ous fires, in­clud­ing one in Novem­ber 2012 that killed 112 work­ers.

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