Bangladesh police fire tear gas in clash over wage rise

AFP, Thursday 14 Nov 2013

Bangladeshi riot police chase garment workers
Bangladeshi riot police chase garment workers during their clash in Ashulia, outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. (Photo: AP)
Bangladesh police fired rubber bullets and tear gas on Thursday at garment workers protesting at a new minimum wage which is far less than the $100 a month they demanded.
On Wednesday night, company owners agreed to a $68 minimum monthly wage for the sector's four million employees following days of unrest in garment hub Ashulia and elsewhere which closed hundreds of factories.
While pro-government labour unions have accepted the increase of 76 percent, left-leaning labour groups have rejected the deal, saying it is too far below their original demand.
"All factories based in Ashulia reopened in the morning, but the workers continued their strike and blocked a key highway," Ashulia industrial police inspector Abdus Sattar told AFP.
"We tried to clear the highway, but they threw stones at police. In retaliation, we fired rubber bullets and tear gas," he said, adding one female police officer was injured during the clashes.
Muhammad Ibrahim, a union leader, said the workers were also demanding that wages be increased immediately.
"The protesters are divided into two groups: one group remains sticking to original demand for 100 dollars, while the other group wants immediate implementation of new salaries," Ibrahim told AFP.
The government's Minimum Wage Board voted this month to raise the minimum salaries to 5,300 taka ($68) from 3,000 taka this month, following a series of disasters in the sector that highlighted appalling labour conditions.
Protests at poor wages and working conditions have gained intensity since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in April, which killed 1,135 people.
The new wages still make Bangladeshi garment workers some of the lowest paid in the textile sector worldwide.
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