Violent Clashes at Bangladesh Garment Protests

50,000 workers stage demonstrations at 300 factories demanding pay raise

Scores of protesters and police officers were injured on June 13 as at least 50,000 Bangladeshi garment workers staged violent demonstrations to demand a wage rise.

Police chiefs said tear gas and rubber bullets were used to disperse workers who poured out of about 300 factories where clothes are made for global retailers such as Wal-Mart, Tesco and H&M.

"There were more than 50,000 workers protesting at eight places. They blocked roads, disrupting traffic for two hours," said Dhaka police superintendent Mizanur Rahman.

Abdus Sattar, head of police at Ashulia, the factory area outside Dhaka, said at least 20 policemen and scores of protesters had been injured in the clashes.

"We have stepped up security with nearly 2,000 officers patrolling the industrial zone," said Sattar.

Laborers, who work 10-16 hours six days a week, are demanding a 50% pay hike and subsidized food to cope with double-digit inflation and a spike in house rents.

The factories were hit by months of violent protests in 2010, which forced the government and the factory owners to raise minimum monthly salaries by 80% rise to $37.

June 13 was the second day in a row that owners halted production due to unrest. Tensions have been brewing at Ashulia and other textile manufacturing zones in recent months following the abduction and murder of a top garment union leader in April. Unions have accused Bangladesh's feared security forces of killing him.

The garment export sector accounted for a third of Bangladesh's $19 billion exports last year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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