Up to 25,000 garment workers clashed with police in Bangladesh on Thursday, officials said, as protests rejecting a government-offered pay rise forced the closure of at least 100 factories outside Dhaka.
A government-appointed panel raised wages on Tuesday by 56.25 percent for the South Asian nation’s four million garment factory workers, who are seeking a near-tripling of their monthly wage.
Bangladesh’s 3,500 garment factories account for about 85 percent of its $55bn in annual exports, supplying many of the world’s top brands including Levi’s, Zara and H&M.
But conditions are dire for many of the workers, the vast majority of whom are women whose monthly pay starts at 8,300 taka ($75).
Police said violence broke out in the industrial towns of Gazipur and Ashulia on the outskirts of Dhaka after more than 10,000 workers staged protests in factories and along highways to reject the panel’s offer.
“There were 10,000 [protesting] workers at several spots. They threw bricks and stones at our officers and factories, which were open,” Mahmud Naser, Ashulia’s deputy industrial police chief, said.
“One of our officers was injured. We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the workers,” Naser said, adding that more than 100 factories were shut down in Ashulia and surrounding areas.
Thousands of workers also clashed with the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police at Konabari and Naujore in Gazipur, with police using batons and tear gas to drive them into alleys.
“About 15,000 workers blocked the road at Konabari, and vandalised vehicles and other properties. We had to disperse them to maintain law and order,” Gazipur municipality administrator Sayed Murad Ali said.
At least two injured workers were taken to hospital, police said.