Thousands of workers erected barricades on Wednesday on arteries of Dhaka in Bangladesh, demanding wage increases from textile factories which supply major Western brands after several days of demonstrations which left at least two dead. According to police, at least 5,000 garment workers set up roadblocks in the Mirpur district of the capital. According to an AFP correspondent, the number of demonstrators could be significantly higher.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Omar Faruq said “no violence” was reported on Wednesday. The workers demand a minimum monthly salary of 23,000 takas (190 euros), almost three times more than the current 8,300 takas (70 euros). Sabina Begum, a 22-year-old seamstress, said she joined the protests because she is tired of “struggling to provide for a living” for her family. “How can we go through a month with barely 8,300 takas when we already have to pay 5,000 to 6,000 takas just for the rent of a one-room house?” asks Sabina Begum.
According to the unions, salary and working conditions are disastrous for a large part of the four million workers in the sector. Bangladesh is one of the world's largest clothing exporters, with a textile industry of some 3,500 factories supplying Western brands like Gap, H
Also read: Bangladesh: textile factories vandalized to demand better wages
“We are demanding justice, we want a decent salary,” said Nurul Islam, a 25-year-old textile worker, accusing supporters of the ruling party of attacking the protesters. Police could not confirm such an attack. But according to the newspaper Prothom Alo, citing eyewitnesses, activists of the ruling party had used firearms. “The men of the ruling party attacked our people yesterday,” said Nurul Islam. “The owners don’t want to increase our salaries. Must we die of hunger and injustice?
Major brands, including Adidas, Hugo Boss, and Puma, wrote to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the beginning of the month, having “noticed” that average monthly net salaries had “not been adjusted since 2019 while the inflation increased significantly during this period. According to the unions, workers' anger exploded when the powerful manufacturers' association proposed a 25% increase, ignoring their demands.
The protests began early last week, but the protests turned violent on Monday with the walkout of tens of thousands of workers in Gazipur where a six-story factory was set on fire, leading to the death of a worker. At least a second worker was killed, fatally injured in clashes between police and protesters and died while being taken to hospital.