1,600 lose their livelihoods for demanding end to poverty pay
MORE than 1,600 garment workers in Bangladesh have been sacked and 1,500 face charges after walking out against poverty pay.
Clothes factories in Ashulia, a suburb of the capital Dhaka, began to reopen on Tuesday after a week-long strike by workers demanding an increase in the minimum wage from £55 a month to £165.
Most of them make clothing for export, including for well-known Western labels, but are paid a pittance.
Their action was sparked by the sacking of 121 workers, but now many more have been forced out of their jobs.
Bangladesh’s industrial police said that following the shutdown of 21 factories, bosses of a cabal of clothing firms had decided to sack 1,600 workers as an example to the rest.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association vice-president Mahmud Hasan Khan Babu claimed that the workers hadn’t been sacked yet and that bosses had just “started the process of terminating workers who created the troubles.”
But lists of sacked workers were posted on factory gates in Ashulia and the industrial zone was flooded with police: more than 1,000 industrial police, 900 regular officers, border guards and even the heavily armed rapid-action battalion.
In a further bid to crush the workers, bosses have demanded charges against hundreds for alleged vandalism, looting and threats to workers and factory officials.
Workers’ leader KM Mintu said that the protests “will not be solved permanently without the pay hike.”
Garment workers said that they struggled to feed their families on the £55 a month wage as the cost of rent and essentials had shot up.
“A wage hike is a must for our survival,” Nupur Khatun, who has three children and whose husband is a rickshaw-puller, told Bangladesh’s New Age newspaper.
The Bangladesh Garment Workers Union demanded the withdrawal of charges against workers’ leaders, the release of those arrested and the wage increase. Activists formed a human chain around the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association’s headquarters in Dhaka.
Journalist Nazmul Huda was placed on remand on Tuesday, having been arrested for inciting the garment workers to strike with what police called “inaccurate reports.”