Hundreds of Bangladesh Textile Plants Shut Indefinitely
DHAKA – Hundreds of factories which form the hub of Bangladesh’s garment industry are to close indefinitely after worker unrest sparked by the death of more than 1,100 colleagues, employees announced Monday. As the search for bodies from last month’s collapse of a factory complex wrapped up, the textile industry’s main trade body said all operations at the nearby Ashulia industrial zone were being suspended until further notice.
Shahidullah Azim, of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the decision to shut down all the factories at Ashulia, on the outskirts of Dhaka, was made “to ensure the security of our factories.” Local police chief Badrul Alam said that workers in 80% of the factories had walked out earlier in the day to demand an increase in salaries as well as the execution of the owner of the collapsed Rana Plaza complex in the town of Savar.
Most of Bangladesh’s top garment factories are based at Ashulia and there has been “virtually no work” there since the April 24 Rana Plaza tragedy, Azim said. News of the indefinite closure represents yet another body blow to the industry which has pleaded with Western retailers not to pull out of Bangladesh and promised to come up with a credible safety framework.
Garment workers agitate in Ashulia
Hundreds of readymade garment factory workers in Ashulia took to the streets yesterday and clashed with police after the news of death of a fellow worker spread in the area. They vandalised factories, blocked a road and staged a demo demanding capital punishment for Sohel Rana, the owner of Rana Plaza in Savar.
Police fired teargas shells and rubber bullets to disperse them. Parul Akter, 19, was a sewing machine operator of That’s It Sports, owned by the Hamim Group. She was found dead inside the company’s factory building on Saturday night. Co-workers say she went into the toilet alone and was later found hanging from the ceiling.
Police however, are not ruling out foul play. Yesterday morning, Hamim Group workers came out on the streets when the news of Parul’s death spread. They began vandalising factory buildings; soon workers from other factories joined them. They wrecked around two dozen vehicles at Jamgara area and blocked traffic on the highway for an hour.
The agitators staged a demo there, demanding better salaries and capital punishment for Sohel Rana. Police, Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) teams rushed to the scene and fired dozens of rubber bullets and teargas shells to disperse the crowd. Shyamol Kumar Mukherjee, Dhaka division’s additional superintendent of police told our correspondent that hundreds of workers of different readymade garment factories came out of their units in Jamgara area and demonstrated for nearly two hours until police dispersed them around 11am.
Taxi drivers strike as social unrest mounts in Iran
Taxi drivers in the Iranian city of Sanandaj have staged a strike in the latest sign of mounting social anger at the soaring cost of living in Iran. The drivers defied attempts by state security forces to disperse their protest and revoke their taxi licenses during the two-hour stand-off outside the city’s taxi bureau on Saturday morning.
Elsewhere in Sanandaj, drivers stopped work and refused to take passengers, according to reports from inside Iran. As the cost of living soars in Iran, the drivers are demanding taxi fares be raised in line with inflation, the return of the subsidy for spare vehicle parts and a reduction in gas prices.
They are also calling for drivers to be hired on a monthly salary, specific working hours and shift work the cabs to reduce traffic congestion and to ease their service to the public.
Mozambique’s Sena coal railway reopens
Maputo – Mozambique’s Sena railway line, which transports coal to port from mines owned by Vale and Rio Tinto, reopened on Tuesday after protests blocked its tracks two days earlier, Vale said. The line, the only railway currently available for transport from coal-rich Tete province, was blocked by brick makers whose businesses were resettled by Vale’s mine and who are now asking the company to compensate them for a loss of livelihood.
The latest unrest highlights growing resentment in Mozambique where mining companies are struggling to contain expectations among a population where most people live on less than $400 a year. “This morning, Tuesday, access to Vale’s coal mine at Moatize was unblocked, permitting the normal movement of workers to the mine and re-establishing coal exports through the Sena line,” the company said in a statement. Taibo Mahomed, one of the protesters who has been making bricks since 1994, said police arrived at the scene in the early morning hours to disperse the crowd and fired shots in the air.
“We’ve left. The police fired their guns, there are now two people in jail,” he told Reuters by phone. “Vale still has a debt to us, but right now we want them to release our two colleagues who are in jail.” Police officials could not immediately be reached. Vale added it was willing to engage in further talks with the brick makers, although the company said on Monday there were no grounds for the protesters’ demands. This is the second time line was suspended this year after heavy rains flooded parts of it in February, affecting Vale’s and Rio Tinto’s exports for weeks. – Reuters
Greek Street Market Vendors Strike Too
While the government is crowing that social unrest has mostly stopped and that Greeks have begrudgingly submitted to more austerity measures, fruit and vegetable sellers at the open air markets known as laiki said they would strike on May 15 and hold a protest rally in Syntagma Square in front of Parliament.
They said they are upset with government plans to allow more competition by easier entry into their business and are especially anxious that one of the proposals is to eliminate lifetime licenses and replace them with requirements they be renewed every three years. The markets are a popular point for Greeks to buy fresh goods and move between neighborhoods daily.
The union representing street vendors argued that the three-year limit blocks any investment for developing their businesses as it is too short a time to ensure that they see any returns and expressed concerns that the liberalization of the profession will open the way for large companies to take over stalls, leading to an oligopoly in the sector.
London police push for water cannon to control riots
Talks over the potential use of water cannon for the first time on London’s streets are taking place with the Metropolitan police, the Home Office confirmed on Monday. London’s police force argue that water cannon would be a “valuable option in rare situations” and press reports suggest that Home Office ministers broadly back the measure.
But police declined to comment on media reports that they were pushing for them to be bought ahead of June’s G8 summit to be held in Northern Ireland, with anti-capitalist protests already planned in London. Water cannon have long been used in Northern Ireland policing – particularly during sectarian clashes between Protestants and Catholics – but have yet to be deployed on the British mainland. London police want to buy two German-made water cannon vehicles at a cost of 1.3 million pounds each, acccording to The Times newspaper. Leaders representing the world’s biggest economies are meeting near the Northern Irish town of Enniskillen next month, where a bomb was defused by police in March.
The Met police can have access to Northern Ireland’s water cannons within 24 hours but decided not to use them during the Summer rioting in many British cities two years ago. In the worst civil unrest for a generation, homes and businesses were burnt in August 2011, sparked by the shooting of a man in north London.
But a 2012 police review of the riots said water cannon would not have been “an appropriate and practical option” due to the speed and agility of those involved in the disorder. The Home Office confirmed it was “providing advice to … the Metropolitan Police on the authorisation process for the use of water cannon.”
South Africa: Mec Shongwe Welcomes the Arrest of 23 Violent Protest Suspects
Mpumalanga Community Safety and Security and Liaison MEC Vusi Shongwe has welcomed the arrest of 23 suspects for public violence during a service delivery protest in Thandukukhanya Township in Piet Retief. Shongwe has also called on the police to urgently finalise investigations into the violent protests in order to deal urgently with the transgressors. He said the wrong doers must be harshly dealt with in order to instil a culture of responsible and peaceful protesting in communities.
According to police reports, four of the suspects were charged with incitement and nineteen were charged with public violence. They were arrested between Sunday and Monday (12 and 13 May 2013). During the protests, three police vehicles and buildings including houses of councillors were torched and protesters also broke into foreigners’ shops and looted groceries. The protesters also barricaded roads. MEC Shongwe says public violence will not be tolerated as it cripples government with funds to fix damaged properties.
“Every citizen has a right to protest when there is no service delivery, but it is a crime when people damage properties or violate other people’s rights during these protests, and criminality should be tolerated regardless of issues at hand. “While we acknowledge some of the challenges that may exist with regard to services, community leaders must play a role of a middle man between government and the community to advise in order to avoid a situation where dissatisfaction results to violence,” said Shongwe. Meanwhile, MEC Shongwe has been deployed to Thandukukhanya today (14 May 2015) to restore calm.
Villagers Protest Land Grabs by Officials in South China
During a standoff with authorities over land grabs in Fujian Province, villagers took several officials hostage, including a special force police officer who was handcuffed and paraded through town. After repeated conflicts between police and locals over land confiscation and compensation issues, close to a thousand local townspeople from Dongqiao Town in Quanzhou City, gathered in front of the office of Nanhu Village Committee on May 11.
They threw rocks at the police, and police eventually backed into the office building. Villagers then entered the building and captured the county and town chiefs and two staff members, according to China’s Jasmine Revolution website, which covers human rights issues. The Epoch Times telephoned Dongqiao Town Police Station on May 12, and the officer on duty did not deny the incident but hung up the phone. According to a source, authorities are sending for more armed police, and the local residents are preparing to defend themselves.
The police have raided the village many times, and the conflict has worsened over China’s Jasmine Revolution said. At 7 a.m. on May 4, about 100 special police officers went to the village, arresting and beating many. On the evening of May 10, police again arrested villagers, resulting in a conflict with more than 2,000 residents.
The next morning, police continued arresting and beating people, including the elderly. Mr. Feng, a Nanhu Village resident, told The Epoch Times that authorities illegally seized about 5,000 acres of villagers’ land near the Xingcuo Sea for a construction company from Quanzhou, and residents from nearby towns have been protesting the expropriation for a long time.
Feng said the average amount of arable land per person in the area is only 0.03 acres, and residents cannot get by on farming so depend heavily on ocean resources. Hence taking away over 5,000 acres of their land near the sea is threatening their livelihoods.