Around 300 garment factories in Bangladesh have shut down indefinitely following five days of angry demonstrations by workers over wages.
The move to close all factories at Ashulia, an industrial zone on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka where about half a million people make clothes for foreign retailers like Walmart and Gap, came as negotiations between owners and workers failed to achieve any progress, the Agence France Presse reported.
Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, the president of Bangladesh’s garment makers’ association, told the news agency: “We have decided to close down more than 300 factories at Ashulia industrial area indefinitely. We can’t operate in this climate of fear and lawlessness,” adding that the plants would resume operations only when the government stepped in to guarantee “enough security.”
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According to the BBC, garment exports are crucial to Bangladesh’s economy, and were responsible for around 80 percent of the country’s export earnings in 2011. Two years ago garment workers managed to get their minimum wage almost doubled after staging months of demonstrations, but union chiefs say employees’ wages have not kept up with inflation in the poor south Asian nation and are demanding a 50 percent increase.
Witnesses told Reuters news agency that police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse protesters over the past five days of angry demonstrations. About 250 people – including police officers – were injured in the clashes, while workers blocked a key highway and damaged dozens of vehicles.
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