Bangladesh protests halt production of leading fashion brands: union – Life & Style ReadingS


DHAKA: Levi’s and H&M are among the top global clothing brands whose production has been stopped in Bangladesh, a garment union leader said on Friday, following violent protests by workers demanding their wages to be nearly tripled.

Bangladesh’s 3,500 garment factories account for about 85 percent of the South Asian country’s $55 billion annual exports and supply many of the world’s leading names in fashion.

But conditions are very difficult for most of the industry’s four million workers; The vast majority of them are women, whose monthly wages start from 8,300 taka ($75).

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Dozens of factories were looted by striking workers, while several hundred were closed by their owners to avoid vandalism.

These include “most of the country’s major factories that produce clothing for almost all major Western brands and retailers,” said Kalpona Akter, president of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF). AFP.

“These include Gap, Walmart, H&M, Zara, Inditex, Bestseller, Levi’s, Marks and Spencer, Primark and Aldi,” he added.

There is no confirmation yet from the brands mentioned by Akter regarding the interruption in their production in Bangladesh.

Manufacturers whose factories were damaged in the protests avoid giving the names of the brands they work with for fear of losing buyers’ orders.

At least 300 factories have been closed in a week of protests, with two workers dead and dozens injured so far, police said.

Akter said his union counted about 600 factories affected.

The protests continued on Friday, with thousands of garment workers mobilizing on the streets of industrial neighborhoods around the capital Dhaka.

About 3,000 workers tried to prevent their colleagues from joining the factory shift after two major manufacturers (HaMeem and Sterling groups) reopened their factories.

“The police used tear gas to disperse the protesters,” said a police inspector tasked with monitoring the protests, who spoke on condition of anonymity. AFP.

“Two companies declared a one-day holiday and their 25,000 employees went home.”

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‘We will not help their case’

Garment workers say the sharp rise in the cost of living is leaving them struggling to provide for their families.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), which represents factory owners, offered workers a 25 percent salary increase.

This is significantly below the 23,000 taka ($209) monthly wage demanded by the protest campaign.

Manufacturers in Gazipur, Dhaka’s largest industrial centre, where the worst of this week’s violence occurred, decided to reopen their plants from Saturday to make up for lost shifts, police said.

“We will deploy around 3,000 police officers and border guards to prevent any violence,” Gazipur police chief Sarwar Alam said. AFP.

He called on workers to stop the violence and find solutions through dialogue.

“I think the workers’ demands are reasonable. But taking the law into their own hands will not help their case,” Alam added.

The protests coincided with separate violent demonstrations by opposition parties demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ahead of elections in January.

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