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Garment factories reopen after week of unrest

Minister of labor says government will take steps to aid workers

Garment factories reopen after week of unrest
Garments factory workers have demanded a pay rise to cope with high inflation reporter, Dhaka

June 21, 2012

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Some 350 garment factories in the Ashulia industrial zone near Dhaka reopened today following a four-day suspension of operations by owners following labor unrest over demands for a wage rise. Labor minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain announced the resumption of production following a meeting with representatives of two trade unions, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters. “I request the owners to reopen the factories and the laborers to join their works,” he said at a press conference after the meeting. He added that the government agreed to ensure security for the factories introduce a rationing system to supply daily essentials to workers at low costs and curb indiscriminate rises in housing rents in the area. Hossain said that in future legitimate demands for salary rises should be filed with the ministry for the government to consider and that any further violence would not be tolerated. Most workers have reportedly returned to their factories, though some have left the city to their villages to escape violent protests that saw tens of thousands of workers demonstrate for higher wages. Protesters blocked streets, clashed with police and burned vehicles and shops last week, prompting a warning from the United States ambassador to the country that the US would curb its imports if the dispute was not resolved peacefully. More than a hundred people, including police officers, were injured in the violence. Workers have argued that the minimum wage, set at 3,000 taka (US$37) per month, was not sufficient to meet their daily needs, while factory owners said that any salary rise would affect their profitability. Trade union leaders said a pay rise was urgent to keep pace with rampant inflation. The garment and textile sectors employ about 5.5 million people and earn more than US$14 billion in annual revenues for outlets that include Tesco, Wal-Mart and Tommy Hilfiger. Related reports US ambassador warns of export curbs Fire deaths highlight garment workers’ risks
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