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Two garment workers die in latest Bangladesh minimum wage protests

By Simone Preuss


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Made in Bangladesh label. Credits: UNI Global Union

With a minimum wage of only 75 US dollars (8,300 Bangladeshi taka) per month, Bangladesh has one of the lowest wages among countries that make readymade garments (RMGs).

The debate about raising the minimum to what would be more of a living wage has reached a boiling point, with tens of thousands of garment workers clashing with police in garment hubs like Gazipur around the capital Dhaka. Many worker unions across Bangladesh suggest a monthly wage of 208 US dollars (23,000 taka).

Tensions erupted on Monday when protests turned violent, targeting factories that did not let workers join in the demonstrations. Police fired tear gas and sound grenades to disperse the crowds.

Unions suggest minimum wage of 208 US dollars

According to police and a fire service official, protesters torched the factory of AMB Fashions at Konabari, a member factory of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). “One worker of ABM Fashions died from suffocation after the fire spread to the first three floors,” said Gazipur fire service chief Abdullah Al Arefin when speaking to AFP.

According to non-profit organisation Remake, maintenance machinist Md Rasel Hawlader, aged 25, who worked at Design Express Ltd. was shot and killed by Bangladeshi police on Monday. Hawlader was a member of the Design Express Sommilito Sramik Union, which is affiliated with the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation Union.

“Workers were protesting for the 23,000 taka basic minimum wage outside the factory as they have been for several days across ready made garment factories. Rasel was inside shutting down the boiler, fans and lights and was not even a part of the protest. By the time he came out, there was already a clash between workers and police. Protesting workers assert that they did not vandalise anything and were still severely beaten up by the police. Rasel rushed to a nearby petrol station, fearing his safety and was chased and gunned down by the police. A worker next to him notes that he begged for his life. The police insisted on taking him to Dhaka Medical Hospital where he later died. His family is asking for the return of his body, which is in a morgue pending an autopsy,” reported Nazma Akter, president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation according to Remake.

Bangladesh is the second largest RMG exporter after China, employing over 4.4 million workers, of which 70 percent are women. The country’s RMG sector accounts for over 80 percent of its total export earnings and contributes more than 11 percent to the national GDP.

Poster at Made in Bangladesh Week 2022. Credits: Sumit Suryawanshi for FashionUnited
garment workers