Thousands fired after garment industry protest in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – More than 5,000 Bangladesh workers who demanded higher wages have been fired by factory owners, and hundreds face police charges in the world’s second-largest garment export industry after China, an activist said yesterday.

Kalpona Akter of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity said the firings came after thousands of workers took to the streets earlier this month in and around Dhaka, the nation’s capital.

But an industry leader said yesterday that the dismissed workers were involved in vandalism or other crimes, or were laid off when factories closed because of business losses.

One worker was killed and more than 50 were injured in clashes during the protests in the Ashulia, Dhaka, Gazipur and Savar areas.

In November, the government increased the monthly minimum wage for garment workers to 8,000 takas (USD96) from 5,300 takas (USD63). But workers weren’t satisfied after having demanded more, along with the implementation of other benefits declared by the authorities. Unions and advocacy groups have demanded up to 16,000 takas (USD193) as a minimum salary, but factory owners said they are under tremendous pressure to meet prices demanded by global brands.

Bangladeshi garment workers vandalise a vehicle during a protest in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh on January 9. – AP