In recent months garment factory workers demanding labor rights and wage increases have protested in the streets of Dhaka and surrounding areas. Protests by thousands of workers in late June led to the temporary closure of about 700 garment factories. Labor rights leaders had been calling for an increase in minimum monthly wages of 5,000 taka (about US$71) to meet living costs.
In late July the government announced that from November 2010, the monthly minimum wage for ready-made garment workers would increase from 1662.50 taka (US $24) to 3000 taka (US $43). Garment workers said the increase was too low and took to the streets again. The garment industry earns nearly 80% of Bangladesh’s export income and employs up to 40% of the country’s workforce. Labor leaders say the government is intent on blocking the protests under the pretext of containing violence. Violence erupted during these protests as workers blockaded a major highway, vandalised vehicles and businesses, and fought with the police. Scores of demonstrators and policemen sustained injuries during the protests, and it has been alleged that police may have used excessive force to contain them.
Workers have the right under international law to protest their working conditions. As consumers of garments made in Bangladesh, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to help support the workers in Bangladesh fighting for their livelihood. It’s important for all of you to get involved by helping to end these human rights violations.