Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bangladesh re-opens factories after rioting

Hundreds of factories in Bangladesh that make clothes for Western brands reopened on Wednesday under a heavy police presence after riots by workers forced their closure.

Tens of thousands of people who stitch garments for the leading names in US and European retail have been on strike since Saturday to protest their pay in a major industrial zone outside Dhaka.

Violence and vandalism flared on Tuesday, with police firing rubber bullets and tear gas after dozens of the estimated 700 factories in the area were attacked.

"It is very volatile. We can't predict if things will flare up again, but we have enough security to handle it today," police deputy inspector Ayub Khan, who was at one of the worst-affected factories, told AFP.

Nearly a thousand riot police were in the area where up to 80,000 people are employed by subcontractors working on behalf of global retailers such as Wal-Mart, Tesco and H & M.

The workers are demanding wages of at least 5,000 taka (70 dollars) per month. The current minimum wage, set in 2006, is 25 dollars.

"The workers have gone to their shifts on time, there were no problems. We have nearly a thousand riot police here and we have water canon in case trouble breaks out," added Khan.

Industry group Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) announced the closure of all factories in the area on Tuesday. It said the decision to reopen followed a government pledge to ensure law and order.

"We have been assured by the government that they would ensure adequate security to protect the factories from vandalism," BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedy told AFP.

Garments accounted for nearly 80 percent of Bangladesh's 15.56 billion dollars of exports last year. The factories employ around 40 percent of the industrial workforce.

"All our windows were smashed, our computers and furniture destroyed," said M.A Hamid, manager of the Scandex factory which was working on an order of polo shirts for American retail giant Wal-Mart.

"Our shipment has been delayed as the factory was closed for three days, we've suspended 14 workers and are gradually reopening," he said, adding that the minimum wage in his factory was 2,000 taka.

Source http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gXx20Aaa20mGHTN6-ukYZ3j442Kw

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