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Garment factories reopen but protests continue

Bosses agree with Bangladesh PM's wage deal, but workers want more

Garment factories reopen but protests continue

Employees return to work following days of violent protests reporter, Dhaka

November 14, 2013

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Hundreds of garment factories reopened on Thursday in an industrial district near Dhaka after factory bosses agreed to an increased minimum wage proposal from the prime minister.

However, violent protests by workers holding out for an increased wage offer were still continuing, police said

A series of violent protests by thousands of workers over the past week had forced the closure of around 250 factories in Ashulia, northeast of Dhaka. Factories and vehicles were damaged, while scores were injured in clashes with police.

On Wednesday garment makers agreed to pay a minimum monthly wage of 5,300 taka (US$68) following a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Factory owners had earlier rejected demands calling for a minimum wage exceeding 4,500 taka, saying anything above that amount would destroy Bangladesh’s competitiveness in the global market.

Workers had called for factories to implement a 77-percent rise in the minimum wage to 5,300 taka recommended by a government-backed wage board.

“We accepted the prime minister’s proposal to bring an end to the labor unrest,” said Arshad Jamal, a director of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

However, clashes continued on Thursday after many workers rejected Wednesday’s deal and called for an 8,000 taka minimum wage.

“Several hundred workers blocked the highway for an hour this morning. They also hurled bricks at several factories and police when we tried to disperse them,” said Rabiul Alam, an official from Ashulia police station.

Alam did not provide details on how many factories remained closed at Ashulia, an industrial belt which accounts for 35 percent of production in Bangladesh’s US$20 billion garment industry.

Speaking about the deal struck with the prime minister, Labor Ministry spokesman Shahjahan Miah said that in return for a wage rise garment makers had called for additional benefits for the industry.

“Garment owners asked for a tax deduction at source and reduced interest rates. We will look at this next week,” he said.

He said the government was determined to restore the image of the industry at any cost, which has been blighted by recent disasters like the Rana Plaza collapse.

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