Two Hundred Bangladesh Factories Shut on Labor Unrest
Thousands of Bangladesh garment workers seeking to more than double their pay to $104 clashed with police on Dhaka’s outskirts, forcing about 400 factories that supply companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) to close. The workers, demonstrating for a third day, pelted factories with bricks and blocked a highway, Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of the Exporters Association of Bangladesh, said by phone. Television images showed police using tear gas on workers, some of whom set fire to a factory warehouse. “It’s frustrating that we had to close the factories,” Murshedy said. “A one-day closure means a huge loss for owners.”
The labor unrest comes five months after the collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza factory complex killed more than 1,000 people in the worst industrial accident in the South Asian country’s history. The second-lowest wages in Asia after Myanmar has helped spawn Bangladesh’s $19 billion manufacturing industry that supplies global retailers with cheap clothes. At least 70 people, including six police officials, were injured in the clashes in Gazipur and Savar, two industrial belts on Dhaka’s outskirts, Mosharraf Hossain, assistant superintendent of industrial police, told reporters. Retailers such as Wal-Mart, Inditex SA (ITX), Gap Inc. and Hennes & Mauritz AB (HMB) source goods from Gazipur, according to Murshedy. The protesters demanded a minimum monthly salary of 8,114 taka ($104), up from 3,000 taka now, Murshedy said as he headed into a meeting with government officials. At a Sept. 17 meeting with labor leaders and government officials, the factory owners proposed increasing the monthly basic salary by 600 taka to 3,600 taka. Bangladesh last raised the minimum wage in 2010.
Riot at Garment Factory Leaves 11 Injured
Nine garment workers and two Chinese managers were injured on Friday in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district after a riot broke out among 300 workers protesting for higher wages and improved working conditions, officials said Sunday. Commune police chief Mao Sovann said workers at the SL Garment Factory in Stung Meanchey commune stormed the premises in the afternoon and destroyed more than 30 cars as well as computers and other machinery inside the factory.
“They also clashed with other employees inside the factory,” Mr. Sovann said. “The violence happened because the union leaders incited the workers to fight other workers and this destroyed the property of the factory.” Workers from Singaporean-owned SL Garment Factory—which makes clothing for U.S. brands Levi’s and Gap—have been striking for more than a month to demand a lunch stipend, the reinstatement of fired union leaders and the firing of a company adviser called Meas Sotha, who has allegedly brought in plainclothes military officers to guard the factory. Earlier this month, factory owners agreed to some of the workers’ concessions on the condition that staff returned to work. Mr. Sotha said Sunday that as he is a shareholder in the factory he would not be resigning. The company will be filing a complaint against some the union leaders, he added.
“During the clash, 11 people were injured, including two Chinese nationals who were sent to a hospital in Singapore [on Saturday] as they were in serious condition,” Mr. Sotha said. “We will send [a report of all the damaged property] with a complaint to the court soon so that it can be managed according to the law.” Lay Sophon, a 32-year-old factory worker who was present at the incident, said violence had occurred after workers continuing strike action began fighting with workers who had returned to their jobs. “We need a solution from the company. They promised us a solution, but so far they have done nothing,” Mr. Sophon said.
Workers End Protest After Reaching Agreement with Factory
RANGOON — About 100 workers ended their two-day, unauthorized protest at Rangoon’s Sule Pagoda roundabout on Monday afternoon after reaching an agreement with Ho Shin Factory over an improved severance pay. The factory was shut down earlier this month. “We have been working in this factory for seven years. We will face many problems to survive if we lose our jobs. It is not easy to find a new job,” said Min Min, a worker who leads the protest. The workers set up an unauthorized protestors’ camp near Sule Pagoda roundabout on Sunday, where they slept overnight. The protest quickly attracted the attention of local media and the Rangoon authorities. The group of mostly female workers was employed at Ho Shin Factory, a fish processing and packaging facility in Rangoon’s Dagon Seikkan Township.
About 200 workers were laid off on Sept. 12 and many felt their dismissal and severance pay offer had been unfair. Some also questioned their employer’s motives for dismissing the workers. “We are suspicious about the shutdown of the factory. We think they did it intentionally just to fire us. We want to know whether the factory shutdown is temporarily or permanent,” said Min Min. Ho Shin Factory representatives said the plant had been closed because it was operating at a loss.
“We shut down the factory because we were losing 6 million kyat [US$6200] per day,” said U Kaung, a factory director. “We are going to permanently shut down the factory for sure. We can only pay the workers this compensation sum,” said Nay Htun San, another factory representative. On Monday afternoon, Rangoon Division Labor Minister Soe Min visited Sule Pagoda roundabout to talk to protestors and to urge employers and workers to reach an agreement. A few hours later, the sides had agreed on a severance payment, which would provide workers with between two and five months’ worth of pay for their dismissal. Salaries at Ho Shin Factory varied between workers, with some earning as little as $20 per month and others making about $80 per month.
Sudan police fire tear gas to end protest over fuel subsidies
(Reuters) – Sudanese police fired tear gas on Monday to disperse hundreds of people protesting in the capital Khartoum against the lifting of petrol subsidies by veteran President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Bashir, in power since 1989, has avoided an “Arab spring” uprising of the sort that has unseated other rulers in the region but many in Sudan complain about soaring food prices, corruption, violent conflicts and high unemployment.
The government almost doubled prices for fuel and cooking gas on Monday to bring its budget under control. The Arab African country lost three-quarters of its oil reserves – its main source of revenues and of dollars for food imports – when South Sudan became independent in 2011. Within hours of petrol stations adjusting their price displays, some 800 protesters gathered in the center of Khartoum, shouting “No, No to price hikes”. Others called on Bashir to resign, yelling “go, go”. Police arrived, firing tear gas to disperse the crowd. Late on Sunday, Bashir held a televised news conference lasting two hours to defend his abolition of fuel subsidies.
He promised to use much of the money saved to help the poor and increase salaries for civil servants. But many Sudanese have grown impatient with years of what they see as economic crises caused by mismanagement and U.S. trade sanctions. “The government … has no idea of what people are going through. I am ready to join any protest against the lifting,” said 41-year old Ahmed Iassan, an unemployed worker. A 45-year university professor said he would struggle to make ends meet with the fuel price hikes. ‘I really want to leave Sudan,” he said, asking not to be named.
10 injured in Savar
The movement of RMG workers demanding a TK 8000 monthly wage spread to Savar, forcing managements of eleven factories to close down for the day. Industry police SI Omar Farooque said vehicular movement on Dhaka- Aricha highway was disrupted after workers of various RMG factories located in the Savar Municipal areas hit the streets in protest since 8 am on Monday. Ten workers were injured when police resorted to baton charge to disperse the crowd.
Normalcy in the area returned around 10 am after the workers cleared the highway. Omar told bdnews24.com due to workers’ stir , eleven factories have closed down. They are Al Islam Garments, Anlima Dyeing, Standard Group, Pride Group’s H R Textile Mills Limited, Jhumka Garments, Surma Garments, Ofazudding Spinning Mill, Paragon Garments of Savar’s Karnapara and Ulail areas and J K Group’s J K Fabrics Limited, J K Neat Composite Limited, Tanima Neat Composite Limited in Dudhkhenduriapur area. Police said the workers first demonstrated inside the factory premises demanding minimum wage of Tk 8000, but later they came out to demonstrate on the Dhaka-Aricha Hihway. At that time, some workers were seen pelting stones at the factories. Glass panes of some of the factories were shattered in the stone-pelting, forcing police to resort to the baton charge to control the situation.
Meanwhile, workers and management of the Al Muslim Group prevented agitating workers of other factories from vandalising their factory where workers in the morning had resumed work as usual. However, the management later declared holiday to prevent any further untoward incident. SI Omar said, “Situation at present is under control. Additional police have been deployed in the municipality area.” RMG workers of several factories in Gazipur too started agitations on the same demand. Traffics were disrupted for around three hours on Dhaka- Mymensingh and Dhaka-Tangail Highway due to their demonstration. To avert further problem, around hundred factories there too declared holiday.