A garment worker has been killed and several others were injured in Bangladesh as they clashed with police amid protests over pay.
Police said on Wednesday that they used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up protests by stone-throwing crowds in the garment hub of Gazipur, on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka.
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Amid a week of deadly clashes, the garment workers’ anger rose on Tuesday following a government panel’s decision to offer a pay rise of 56 per cent. The workers insist that the increase, which unions instantly rejected, is insufficient.
Witnesses told AFP that the police opened fire at a crowd of hundreds, with as many as eight hit.
“Police opened fire. She was shot in the head … She died in a car on the way to a hospital,” said Mohammad Jamal, the husband of victim Anjuara Khatun, a 23-year-old sewing machine operator and mother of two.
The protesters “hurled bricks at factories, cars and police officers. We fired tear gas shells to disperse them,” local police officer Ashraf Uddin said.
The government had said that the minimum wage would rise by 56.25 percent to 12,500 taka ($114) a month from December 1, the first increase in five years.
The striking workers were not happy with the offer at a time when inflation is running at 9.5 percent. They have demanded a near-tripling of the wage, with violent scenes playing out at protests in recent days.
“The increase is not enough when prices of all items and rent have gone up sharply. We work to survive but we can’t even cover our basic needs,” Munna Khan, a garment worker, said.
Low wages have helped Bangladesh build its garment industry, with about 4,000 factories employing four million workers, supplying brands such as H&M and GAP.
Readymade garments are a mainstay of the economy, accounting for almost 16 percent of gross domestic product.
Last month, several fashion brands including Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Gap, Hugo Boss, Levi Strauss, Lululemon, Puma, PVH and Under Armour told Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a letter they were “committed to implementing responsible purchasing practices” to enable higher wages.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, managing director of the Envoy Group that sells to Walmart, Zara and American Eagle Outfitter among others, said buyers were unwilling to pay the “right price, the fair price” with major economies slowing and the wars in Ukraine and in the Middle East raising geopolitical concerns.