Bangladesh garment manufacturers have sacked over 1600 workers for participating in “illegal” protests, demanding three-fold pay hike that resulted in week-long shutdown at nearly 85 factories, supplying ready-made apparels to top Western brands. Over 85 apparel units in Dhaka’s suburb Ashulia, the hub of Bangladesh’s nearly 4,500 garment factories, were closed earlier this month after labourers demanded to increase their minimum wage from Tk 5,300 (USD 67) to Tk 16,000 (USD 201), prompting fears of supply shortage during the festive season.
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The garment factories, supplying clothings to brands like Zara, H & M, Benetton, and Gap, partially opened today as hundreds of workers were sacked by the managements for their alleged role in protests, termed “illegal” by the police.
“About 1,600 workers have been sacked and 10 cases have been filed following labour unrests till today,” Dhaka industrial police director Mostafizur Rahman was quoted as saying by New Age Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, however, said 3,500 workers were sacked so far “to mum the protests”.
Factory officials said that productions at all the 85 factories, which remained closed since December 21, resumed in the morning and continued without any interruptions, but workers’ attendances were low.
The workers, however, said that many of their colleagues did not rejoin work fearing arrest as factory managements and police have filed several cases against over 1,500 workers, although, only 150 have been named.
“Many workers are in hiding to avoid harassment, police hassle and arrest as police and ruling Awami League activists are raiding houses of workers every night,” said Garment Workers Trade Union Centre general secretary KM Ruhul Amin.
Dhaka Superintendent of Police Shah Mizan Shafiur Rahman said that 22 workers were arrested after factory authorities filed cases against several hundred named and unnamed workers on charge of vandalism, looting, threatening other workers and assaulting factory officials.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association have yesterday announced to reopen the factories after an intervention by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The garment industry in Bangladesh makes up to 77 per cent of the country’s exports and employs over 3.6 million workers, but has struggled with frequent labour unrest over low-pay and bad working conditions.
The industry drew international outrage after 1,130 people were killed when Rana Plaza factory complex, employing thousands of workers, collapsed in 2013.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, many top western brands had promised to actively engage the supplier factories in Bangladesh to improve the deplorable safety and working conditions.