Garment industry workers in Bangladesh have been experiencing violent protests over pay, with demands for higher wages and reports of shootings and deaths. Signal, a secure messaging app, has reported that the government employed an anti-terrorism unit of the police and paramilitary auxiliary security force to disperse the riots, using rubber bullets, tear gas, and batons. Witnesses have reported that riot police opened fire on a crowd of hundreds, resulting in as many as eight people getting hit. At least three deaths have been reported since the unrest started two weeks ago, and dozens of factories have been ransacked.
The workers have been demanding a tripling of their wages, from an equivalent of roughly $75 a month to $208 a month. The government agreed on Tuesday to raise wages by just over 56% to $114 a month from December, the first increase in five years. However, the unions rejected the proposal, leading to escalated protests. The country’s prime minister has rejected the unions’ demands for a higher pay rise.
Bangladesh is known as the world’s second-largest clothing exporter after China, with around four million people employed at its 3,500 garment factories. These factories supply top brands such as Levi’s, Zara, and H&M. The garment industry accounts for 85% of Bangladesh’s $55 billion in annual exports and for 16% of the country’s GDP.
The protests have drawn international attention and concern, with many calling on top Western fashion brands who source from these factories to take responsibility for the workers’ rights and living wages. The situation in Bangladesh highlights the global impact of the fashion industry and the need to ensure fair labor practices and wages for workers in the supply chain.
The violent clashes between garment workers and security forces in Bangladesh have raised concerns about the human rights and working conditions in the garment industry. Many have expressed solidarity with the workers’ demands for fair pay and better working conditions, arguing that the fashion industry must prioritize the well-being of its workers.
As the situation continues to unfold, it is essential for all stakeholders, including the government, factory owners, and international brands, to engage in meaningful dialogue and seek a resolution that ensures fair wages and safe working conditions for the garment industry workers in Bangladesh. The protests serve as a reminder of the importance of upholding human rights and fair labor practices in the global supply chain, calling attention to the need for systemic change within the fashion industry.