DHAKA — Hundreds of protesting Bangladeshi garment workers fought riot police and ransacked a factory north of Dhaka on Tuesday demanding full implementation of a new government-backed wage hike.
Factory guards fired blanks from their rifles and police used tear gas and baton charges to break up the 500 protesting workers, leaving at least five people injured including an inspector, police said.
The workers smashed windows at the AmanTex complex, which stitches clothes for Swedish retail giant H&M and other clients, accusing the factory of ignoring Monday’s mandatory pay hike.
All Bangladesh’s 4,500 garment factories, which produce clothes for many Western brands, must now pay workers at least 3,000 taka (43 dollars) a month — up 80 percent from the minimum wage set in 2006.
Experienced employees who earn more than average say the government’s deal means that they should also see an 80 percent rise, but many factories have disagreed.
“Experienced workers (at AmanTex) became furious after learning that the new pay-hike approved by the government did not benefit them much,” local police chief Nazmul Haq told AFP.
Local Bangla-language news agency Sheershanews said more than 30 workers were injured.
Tens of thousands of workers staged violent strikes and protests in late July and August which shut factories, hitting exports hard.
Garments accounted for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s 16.20 billion dollars of annual exports last year. The country’s factories employ more than three million workers, about 85 percent of them women.