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Workers Strike in Bangladesh

On January 6th, thousands of workers in Bangladesh went on strike against low wages in garment factories. The “ready-made” garment industry in Bangladesh supplies major retailers around the world, such as Walmart, H&M, and Tesco. According to Aljazeera 52 factories were shut down due to the strike. Last year they made apparel worth about $30 billion. Millions of Bangladeshi workers work in about 4,500 textile factories. The minimum monthly wage is around $96 a month. This was increased in September of 2018 from around $50 a month. The increase went in to effect in December. However, when workers were paid in January they found they had been paid less. On January 13th the police attacked the workers. Firing water canons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and attacking them with batons. The workers barricaded the highway. At least one worker was killed and more then 50 were injured. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) threatened to lock the workers out if they did not return to work on the 14th. Workers began returning to work towards the end of week after government assurances that the discrepancy in pay would be made up. However, hundreds of workers upon returning to work found they had been fired. Notices were hanging on factory gates informing them of their dismissal along with photos of their faces. Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, who worked as a child laborer in textile factories, said: “The workers that got fired know the law and their rights. In many cases they were union leaders in their respective factories. These workers are picked intentionally so there is no voice left in a factory to fight against retaliation and form a union.” According to a report from Fair Wear Foundation, a worker was beaten up on orders of management and threatened with murder. The woman said she was also robbed of her severance pay. The factory initially denied the allegations but later fired the manager and paid the woman in compensation. The garment industry in Bangladesh still lives under the shadow of the 2012 Dhaka fire. Where at least 117 people died in the factory fire and over 200 were injured. Workers were unable to escape because of inadequate fire escapes and exits which were locked in order to keep workers from leaving during the work day.