After strikes for a higher minimum wage erupted into violence, causing at least three deaths, garment producers in Bangladesh have closed at least 150 factories as a precautionary measure.
Afwul working conditions
For weeks now, Bangladeshi factory workers have been on strike for higher minimum wages. These protests sometimes get out of hand: after clashes with police, at least three people have already been killed, with dozens of others injured. Seventy factories were also looted. As a result, producers have closed at least 150 factories as a precaution and police have filed complaints against as many as 11,000 employees, French news agency AFP reports.
Bangladesh is the world’s second biggest fashion producer with some 3,500 garment factories, producing for major Western fashion brands such as Levi’s and H&M. The sector accounts for a turnover of 55 billion euros and about 85 % of the country’s annual exports, but its four million people work in awful working conditions. Until recently, workers received a monthly wage of approximately 70 euros. Last week, that was raised to 100 euros, but unions want to double that to cover the rising cost-of-living.
Just last month, some major fashion brands, including Gap, Puma, and Abercrombie & Fitch in addition to those mentioned earlier, sent a letter to Bangladesh’s prime minister, calling for peaceful talks on a minimum wage for textile workers. They are calling for an annual review of minimum wages – currently this only happens every five years.