Emeutes ouvrières à Mirpur মিরপুর (Dhaka) – juin 2010
Children beaten by Bangladeshi police as they join garment workers’ strikes
Children under 14 are banned by law from working but campaigners say many can be found in the sprawling factories
Wednesday 30 June 2010
Police in Bangladesh using bamboo staves, teargas and water cannon fought with textile workers demanding back pay and an immediate rise in monthly wages on the streets of Dhaka today.
Witnesses said at least 30 people, mainly workers producing garments for global brands, were injured. Pictures showed children apparently being beaten. Ten policemen were also hurt.
Although there has been violence for several weeks, today saw workers erecting barricades, pelting police with stones and attacking cars. Police described the fighting as the worst yet seen.
Children under the age of 14 are banned by law from working, but campaigners say many can still be found in the sprawling factories. Hundreds of teenagers took part in running battles with police today.
Local reporters and union officials said a row between workers and a manager at one factory led to a fight which then sparked general disorder.
By nightfall, order had been restored. « The situation is calm. The problem has been solved, » said Mohibul Haque, Dhaka’s deputy police commissioner.
Many of the rioting workers are employed by plants which make ready-to-wear garments for sale in western high street stores.
« We worked for them, » shouted one striking worker. « They are doing business and making money, but not paying us. »
An estimated three million workers, mostly women, are employed in the Bangladeshi garments industry. The lower paid workers earn a minimum monthly salary of 1,660 taka, equivalent to less than £18. They have demanded an increase to 5,000 taka. Owners said last week they could pay no more than 3,000 taka a month.
« With inflation, many workers simply do not receive a living wage, » said Khorshed Alam, a political scientist and executive director of the Alternative Movement for Resources and Freedom Society in Dhaka. « They know that the next chance they will get to force a pay rise may be in four or five years. »
The garment industry accounts for more than 80% of impoverished Bangladesh’s £10bn annual export earnings, according to commerce ministry data. The minimum wage, which is set by the government, was introduced in 1994 but remained unchanged despite soaring food prices until 2006. The result of the latest talks on the wage is due to be announced at the end of July. Until then, analysts expect the violence to continue.
« This generation of garment workers is much more literate and politically aware than their predecessors, » said Alam. « They have grown up in the slums not the villages and know that they need to be united and to demonstrate in the streets to realise their aims. »
A global report released last week by the International Trade Union Confederation in Vienna said Bangladeshi garment workers were the « world’s most poorly paid » and that their exploitation was « on the rise ».
The report cited a survey released last month by the Bangladesh Factory Inspection Department which showed that almost 15% of employers did not pay their workers on time between January and May. Many other factory owners did not pay overtime, while several continued to pay less than the government’s minimum wage.
The garment industry accounts for about 40% of Bangladesh’s total industrial workforce. Campaigners say wages have been cut by 20 to 30% recently in a country where almost half the population is already living below the poverty line.
Low levels of unionisation and organisation have meant protests that are chaotic but difficult for the police to predict or break up. Raids by protesters on well-known factories are frequent occurrences. Owners have hired their own gangs to protect their production lines.
Dozens of people were hurt in several days of unrest last week in the Ashulia industrial zone, 20 miles outside Dhaka, where nearly 300 textile factories were closed temporarily. Workers said that their employers had imposed lock-outs in an attempt to break their strike.
Abdus Salam Murshedi, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, has said the violent protests have created « panic and anarchy ».
Factory owners argue that the unrest risks frightening away western clients who need reliable deliveries. Murshedi refused to comment today.
Moshrefa Mishu, leader of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, said that during the last round of unrest and negotiations the major overseas buyers had put pressure on the local government to improve conditions and pay in the factories. « So far they are silent this time, » she said.
Bangladesh garment protests spread to Dhaka streets
30 06 2010
DHAKA — Violent protests by thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers demanding higher pay turned main roads in the capital Dhaka into a battleground Wednesday, as riot police struggled to break up the crowds.
For four hours, a 15,000-strong crowd of garment workers, who sew clothes for top Western brands, blocked the city’s main Rokeya highway, hurling rocks at riot police who responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.
« At least ten policemen were injured by some 15,000 to 20,000 protesters demanding wage increases — they blocked a main road and threw bricks at the police, » Dhaka’s deputy police commissioner, Salim M. Jahangir, told AFP.
« Four people have been arrested, » he said, adding that it had taken hundreds of riot police several hours to bring the protesting workers under control.
Union leaders and eye-witnesses said up to 50 garment workers were injured, some seriously, when the police moved in and broke up the protest. Police were photographed by AFP beating several teenage workers with wooden batons.
Some 50 small garment factories in the affected area were forced to shut for the day, the second disruption in a week to hit Bangladesh’s protest-prone garment sector.
Bangladeshi workers, who make clothes for major Western brands such as Wal-Mart and H & M, have been demanding wages of at least 5,000 taka (70 dollars) a month.
The current minimum wage, which is the lowest in the world, is just 25 dollars.
Last week hundreds of major factories in the key industrial zone of Ashulia outside the capital were briefly shut following days of violent protests which factory owners said created « panic and anarchy. »
The factories were reopened a day later after the government brought in nearly a thousand riot police to guarantee security.
Wednesday’s trouble began at four factories, owned by one of the country’s leading garment manufacturers, and then spread to the fifty factories along a five-kilometre (three-mile) stretch of road in the Kafrul and Mirpur areas.
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.
An emergency meeting between affected garment factory owners, protesting workers and the area’s member of parliament, aimed at resolving the dispute and reopening factories, has been scheduled for late Wednesday, police said.
The government has said it will raise the mandatory minimum wage for the country’s three million garment workers by the end of July and has urged them to be patient.
Retailers including French giant Carrefour and Levi Strauss wrote to the prime minister in January requesting across-the-board wage increases.
Current wages are « below the poverty line » and have « contributed to unrest » among workers, the letter said.
Garment factory owners have expressed concern that the recent series of violent protests could jeopardise the industry’s future, particularly as Bangladesh seeks to capitalise on recent wage-hikes in China.
« But as long as the manufacturers and government do not meet the workers’ demands on raising wages, the protests will continue, » the head of one of the country’s leading trade unions, Mosharafa Mishu, told AFP.
Police Clash With Protesting Workers in Bangladesh
30 June 2010
Police in Bangladesh have used clubs, tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of textile workers protesting low wages in capital city Dhaka.
The clashes erupted Wednesday in the Mirpur and Sheorapara areas of the capital, forcing several factories to close down. Authorities say the protesters erected street barricades and hurled bricks at police.
Witnesses say at least 40 people, including police officers, were injured in the violence.
The unrest is the latest in a series of violent protests involving low-paid workers producing garments for global brands. Garment factories accounted for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s annual export earnings last year.
Supporters of the Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami took to the streets on Wednesday to protest the arrests of three of their leaders the day before. At least 20 people were detained during the demonstrations in Dhaka and other parts of the country.
The head of Jamaat-Islami, Moulana Motiur Rahman Nizami, and two other officials were arrested Tuesday on charges of offending the religious sentiments of Muslims.
The three men were summoned to court to address charges they offended Islam by comparing Nizami to the Prophet Mohammad. The leader of the religious group Bangladesh Tarikat Federation filed the legal complain
Closure of 3 Factories : 40 hurt in RMG unrest in city
Thursday, July 1, 2010
At least 40 people including 15 policemen were injured in a string of clashes between garment workers agitating against sudden closure of three factories and law enforcers at Shewrapara in the capital yesterday.
Police charged batons, fired around one hundred teargas canisters and water cannons to disperse several hundred workers of around 15 garment factories located on both sides of Rokeya Sarani, who took to the streets demanding reopening of the closed factories.
The demonstrators blocked Rokeya Sarani for around two hours from 8:30am, threw brickbats and vandalised three vehicles including a police ambulance turning the entire area into a virtual battlefield.
Traffic movement on the major street remained suspended for over four hours causing long tailbacks on it as well as on other roads in adjacent areas. Commuters suffered badly. Vehicular movement normalised at about 1:00pm.
Production was suspended in at least 15 garment factories following the clashes.
Meanwhile, workers of the three garment factories of Outright Group Ltd started agitation on Saturday as a male official slapped female worker. Next day, they made some demands including immediate payment of annual increment of wages, and continued agitating.
Witnesses and workers said they found the factories closed at around 7:00am yesterday with the owners giving a notice on indefinite closure of those.
This enraged workers of these factories, and within an hour several hundred workers of nearby factories joined them to help realise their « 14-point demand including increased wages and other facilities. »
The demonstrators blocking Rokeya Sarani started giving speeches through loudspeakers at around 10:30am, police snapped electric connection to the loudspeakers. This led to the clashes with police, witnesses said.
Some locals, pedestrians and journalists were among those injured in the clashes.
The situation cooled down when supporters of local lawmaker Kamal Ahmed Majumder assured the workers of a peaceful solution to their problems.
Contacted, Officer-in Charge of Kafrul Police Station Delwar Hossain said, « We asked the workers, who were creating public sufferings for the last five days, to stage protest peacefully and withdraw road blockade. But they started pelting brickbats instead, injuring some 15 policemen. » He was also injured during the clashes, he added.
Morzina Begum, a worker of Outright Fashion Ltd, a unit of the group, told this correspondent, « We wanted to sit with the owners on some of our legal demands including increased wages, and resolving Saturday’s incident to prevent recurrence of such happenings. »
But the owners did not sit with them and closed the factories.
Several workers said they usually get an increment of wages in June every year but this time they did not get it.
Outright Group Chairman Reajuth Ali Bachchu, when contacted, said he has to suffer a loss of about Tk 5-6 crore for the agitation.
« I will have to book my products for air-shipment to maintain deadline. It will cost me additional Tk 5 to 6 crore. I am frustrated about continuing my business, » he said.
Later in the evening, lawmaker Kamal Ahmed Majumder sat with the workers and owners to arbitrate a peaceful solution.
After the meeting, he claimed to The Daily Star late last night that both sides reached an agreement brokered by him, and the workers decided to join work today.
But corroboration of the lawmaker’s claim from the workers’ side was not immediately available.
Garment factory violence leaves dozens injured in city
1 07 2010
Several thousand angry garment workers on Wednesday took to the street and clashed with police protesting the closure of a unit in Shewrapara area of Mirpur.
Police and witnesses said several dozen people including 12 policemen were injured, five of them critically, as the protestors used brickbats forcing the law-enforcers to use water cannon and teargas.
Witnesses said hundreds of workers of Outwear Fashion Ltd, who were demanding higher wages for the past several days, initially staged a sit-in on a major road in Mirpur area at 8 in the morning as they found it under lock and key as they went to join the work.
They said workers of nearby factories later joined them prompting interventions of batonwielding police and RAB forces to disperse some 15,000 workers as the violence, spread along a five-kilometre stretch of road in Kafrul and Shewrapara areas of Mirpur. »We were demanding enhanced salary in a peaceful manner for the past several days. But the factory authorities today suddenly closed the unit for an indefinite period forcing us to take to the street, » a worker of the factory told BSS.
Police said they were compelled to use force as the workers turned violent injuring 12 of their fellows, five of them critically, with brickbats as the law-enforcers tried to clear the city’s major Rokeya Sarani street.
Hundreds of vehicles were stranded at Rokeya Sarani due to the blockade when the protestors also damaged several vehicles, including a police ambulance.
Production in at least 15 garment factories of the area remains suspended following the clash that turned the entire area into a battlefield for over two hours.
But police and witnesses said the situation tamed down as the garment workers joined a negotiation with management under the mediation of ruling Awami League lawmaker Kamal Ahmed Majumdar.
The violence came a week after hundreds of factories in a key industrial zone outside the capital were briefly shut down following days of violent protests which owners said created « panic and anarchy ».
The injured police and workers were admitted to Rajarbagh Police Lines Hospital and different health facilities in the city.
48 people, 2 cops injured : Mirpur-Sheorapara road blocked to protest garment factory closure
1 07 2010
At least 50 people, including two police personnel, were injured and eight vehicles damaged in a clash between garment workers and law enforcers at East Sheorapara in the capital’s Kafrul area yesterday.
Police used batons, teargas canisters and water canons to clear a 3-km road from Mirpur-10 to Sheorapra blocked by thousands of angry garment workers to protest the sudden closure of Outwear Fashion Ltd.
The unrest broke out when workers of the Outwear Fashion went to their factory at 965 Sheorapara at 7-30 am and saw a notice of indefinite closure of the factory.
The factory was set to reopen yesterday after a four-day closure following the labour unrest over non-payment of annual increment in time.
Meanwhile, production in about 15 garment factories of the area remains suspended following the clash that turned the entire area into a battlefield.
The workers grew angry and instantly came out on the street putting the barricade. Within minutes workers from three other garment factories housed in the same building joined the street agitation.
The angry workers calmed down as local lawmaker Kamal Ahmed Majumdar urged them to cease the demonstration and fixed 5:00 pm on Wednesday to hold a meeting with the owners to settle the issue.
The protestors alleged that the management misbehaved with them using abusive words and also burdened them with overwork without pay. They complained to media personnel at the scene that they were supposed to work from 8 am to 7 pm but the management forced them to work from 7 am to 11 pm without any overtime pay.
Consequently, the unrest had been prevailing in the factory for a pretty long time and it turned worse in last two-three days. They wanted to talk with the management but failed.
On Tuesday, the workers put barricade on the road in front of their factory at Sheorpara from 3-30 pm to 5 pm to protest the management’s misbehaviour.
Witnesses said police fired more than 300 teargas canisters, used coloured water from two water cannon cars and charged batons to disperse the protestors and remove the road blockade.
The protestors fought with police with brickbats at different points in Mirpur-Sheorapara road, leaving 10-12 cops injured, including ADC Mirpur Ilias Sharif and Kafrul Thana OC Delwar Hossain. They damaged at least eight vehicles, including a police ambulance and Kafrul OC’s car.
Seven police men were admitted to hospital. Seriously injured operator of the factory Mahima was also admitted to a local hospital.
The situation was brought to control and road blockade removed by police with the help of RAB at about 12-30 pm.
1 07 2010
More than 40 people, including 10 policemen, were injured after thousands of garment workers blockaded a key road in the capital on Wednesday demanding reopening of a factory and better wages.
Owners said a number of factories were shut down on the day after the workers went on a rampage attacking several units, putting up barricades and burning tyres on the busy Rokeya Sarani that links northwestern part of the city with the central Dhaka.
Police said law-enforcers fired rubber bullets, lobbed teargas shells and used water canons to disperse unruly workers. They brought the situation under control after four hours of sporadic street battles.
Police said the trouble began at about 8:15am after workers of Outright Fashion Ltd in Shewrapara, who came to join their duties, saw a closure notice hanging at the main gate.
The workers, angered by the closure notice, called workers of the adjacent factories using loudspeaker to join the protest that spread to all of the factories along a five-kilometre stretch of road in the Kafrul and Mirpur areas, a sub-inspector of Kafrul police station told the FE.
« There were tens of thousands of workers on the street holding protest rallies over wage hike and reopening of the closed factory, » he said, adding 10 policemen, including officer-in-charge of Kafrul Police station Delwar Hossain, were injured in the skirmish.
The police officer said the workers hurled brickbats and stones on them seconds after they barred the protestors from using the loudspeaker.
Protestors alleged the factory was to reopen Wednesday morning after a four-day closure following the labour unrest over non-payment of annual increment in time. « We’ll not accept the closure notice. We’ll prevent the illegal move at any cost, » a worker of the factory said.
An official of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said nearly 25 factories at the troubled zone stopped operation for the day for fear of more vandalism.
Traffic movement on Rokeya Sarani at Kafrul was disrupted for nearly four and a half hours following the violent protest that hit the city after days of violence in Ashulia industrial belt last week.
The agitating workers calmed down as local lawmaker Kamal Ahmed Mazumdar urged them to stop demonstration and assured them of settling the issue after talks with the owners.
The workers’ unrest is the latest in a series of violent protests over low wages that jolted the country’s highest foreign currency earning sector for the last several months.
Last week hundreds of factories in Ashulia industrial zone, 25 kilometres away from the capital, were briefly shut down following days of violent protests, which owners said created panic and anarchy.
Mirpur (Bengali: মিরপুর) is a Thana of Dhaka District in the Division of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is bounded by Pallabi Thana to the north, Mohammadpur Thana to the south, Kafrul and Pallabi thanas to the east – to the west it is bounded by Savar Upazila.