Sunday, 1 August 2010

Bangladeshi workers step up resistance

BANGLADESHI workers have stepped up their inspiring uprising against slave labour conditions.

The authorities and factory owners thought their resistance could be bought off with an 80% wage rise - up to the equivalent of £28 a week.

But the rebels are holding out for £46 and gave their answer on the streets.

Gulf News reports that Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina on Saturday warned tough action would be taken against "anarchists" as thousands of the workers took to the streets for the second consecutive day.

It adds: "The Premier's comments Saturday came as the suburban Savar and Narayanganj districts witnessed clashes between the workers and riot police - leaving dozens of workers and police injured.

"The premier’s deputy press secretary Mahbubul Haque Shakil said Shaikh Hasina had said: 'No anarchy and sabotage in this sector will be tolerated'. Shaikh Hasina said the street protests were 'designed to destroy the sector'.

"The premier had asked workers to concentrate on their work after accepting the new minimum wage, saying 'their reasonable demands will be addressed after the effects of the world economic depression are over and exports increase'.

"Shaikh Hasina had criticised the garment industry for paying low wages to some two million workers at 4,000 factories in major cities and city outskirts.

"Manufacturers had staunchly resisted any significant wage increase.

"Garments made in Bangladesh are mostly exported to the United States and Europe earning the country more than $12 billion a year - nearly 80 per cent of the country's exports. The following companies are bulk importers from Bangladesh: Wal-Mart, Tesco, H&M, Zara, Carrefour, Gap, Metro, JCPenney, Marks & Spencer, Kohl's, Levi Strauss and Tommy Hilfiger.

"Witnesses to the clashes said workers vandalised several roadside business and had put up barricades to disrupt traffic on two major highways for hours.

"They said more than 100 garment workers and 20 policemen were injured when violence erupted in the Savar area, 30km north of Dhaka, when the baton-wielding policemen in riot gear tried to remove the highway blockades.

"Police said the 'agitators' had also vandalised 50 vehicles including 10 police cars in Savar area.

"Highways were also blockaded in Narayanganj, 15km south of Dhaka."