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Workers Set Factories Ablaze in Call for Decent Wage for Producing Globe's 'Cheap' Clothing

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Clothes For a Change page and our Fair Trade and Social Justice page.

Up to 200,000 garment factory workers sustained a third day of protests in Bangladesh on Monday, forcing hundreds of factories to close as the workers' call for a better minimum wage was met with teargas and rubber bullets from police.

Protests were held in the capital of Dhaka and surrounding areas, home to hundreds of factories that produce clothing that ends up stores like Walmart and H&M.

At least two factories were set ablaze by protesters, Reaz-Bin-Mahmood, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Agence France-Presse. The protesting workers also blocked roads and confiscated and destroyed rifles from security officials.

Resulting clashes with police left nearly 150 injured.

The workers, 80% of whom are women, have demanded a $100 monthly wage for their contributions to the $20-billion industry, and called the factory owners' offer of just a 20% raise "inhuman and humiliating." Their current monthly wage is $38, prompting one protester to say,  "We work to survive but we can't even cover our basic needs."

When the protests began this weekend, Nazma Akter, president of the United Garments Workers' Federation, told the crowd, "Our backs are against the wall, so we don't have any alternative unless we raise our voice strongly," and added that "the economy moves with our toil."

Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of the Exporters Association of Bangladesh, lamented that "A one-day closure means a huge loss for owners."   


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