DHAKA: Most Bangladesh garment factories reopened yesterday after five days of violent protests, following a promise of a wage rise for workers and a warning of a tougher crackdown on unrest.
Thousands of textile workers turned up for their shifts as a union leader said they were now “convinced” the government would raise wages for the country’s three million garment workers by November.
The Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation said assurances were received following several meetings with factory owners and the government, after days of protests to press for a near-tripling of their minimum monthly wage to $100.
“The workers are now convinced that their salaries will be raised by November,” head of the federation Babul Akter said.
The government warned late Wednesday of a crackdown “with all force” against the protests, which started on Saturday and forced the closure of hundreds of factories, where workers toil for long hours to make cheap clothes for Western retailers.
Tens of thousands of workers blocked roads, set factories alight and clashed with police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.
Manufacturers and police said only about 20 factories were shut yesterday, and most of the country’s 4,500 factories were back in production as paramilitary officers were deployed at flashpoints.
“Most of our factories have reopened and the workers have returned to work. It seems the deployment of border guards has worked,” said Reaz-Bin-Mahmood, vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Protests over poor wages, benefits and working conditions are frequent in Bangladesh.
On the other hand, they have gained in intensity since April when a factory complex collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people in one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.