News / Economy

Bangladesh Garment Worker Protests Shut Factories

Bangladeshi garment workers shout slogans during a protest march in Narayanganj, near Dhaka, Sept. 25, 2013.
Bangladeshi garment workers shout slogans during a protest march in Narayanganj, near Dhaka, Sept. 25, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
In Bangladesh, days of street protests by garment workers demanding higher wages have shut scores of factories. The world’s second largest apparel exporter has been in the spotlight for unsafe working conditions and low wages.

Police fired rubber bullets and used batons and tear gas to disperse hundreds of garment workers who blocked highways and disrupted traffic Wednesday morning in two industrial hubs on the outskirts of Dhaka.

Fearing violence, about 100 garment factories shut down. Several have been shuttered since the street protests began five days ago. Dozens of people have been injured.

Negotiations have failed to end the demonstrations. Garment industry workers want the monthly minimum wage to be more than doubled - from $38 at present to $100. They have turned down an offer of a 20 percent wage hike, calling it “inhuman and humiliating.”

“The Wage Board is back and forth and they are discussing. There is no final word from the government, but workers literally not accepting," said Kalpona Akter, who heads the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity in Dhaka. "The workers are saying it is too low and they cannot live with this money. Living cost is so high. It is so difficult for workers to live with this money,” said Akter.

Factory owners said they could not afford a steep pay hike because global clothing companies were not willing to pay higher prices at a time when Western countries were facing a downturn.

But labor leader Akter disagreed.

“I definitely not agree with that. I think it is kind of country’s strategy to keep wages low to compete with international market. The thing is that factory owners definitely get enough to give decent wage to the workers, but it is kind of that profit greed which is main resistance I would say,” said Akter.

Workers were last given a pay hike three years ago - also after prolonged protests. Labor leaders said since then high inflation had cut into workers’ salaries causing them great hardship.

Wages in Bangladesh’s garment industry are the lowest in the world - nearly half of those in Cambodia, another low cost garment manufacturing center in Asia.

Although the industry is thriving, it is under scrutiny for the poor working conditions for its more than three million employees - mostly women.

The labor unrest comes five months after a building housing garment factories collapsed killing 1,100 workers and turning the spotlight on unsafe factories which churn out clothes for Western retailers.

Bangladesh’s apparel exports are worth $20 billion - the second highest in the world after China.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7722
JPY
USD
107.08
GBP
USD
0.6171
CAD
USD
1.1041
INR
USD
61.075

Rates may not be current.