Bangladesh police use tear gas, water cannons on protesting garment workers

by Reuters
Wednesday, 9 January 2019 09:15 GMT

Garment workers protest for higher wages in Dhaka, Bangladesh, January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Salahuddin Ahmed

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The garment industry, which serves some of the biggest brands in the world, generates about $30 billion of exports a year

By Serajul Quadir

DHAKA, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Bangladeshi police used water cannons, tear gas and batons to disperse thousands of protesting garment factory workers on Wednesday, after they pressed their demands for higher wages by blocking roads for a fourth day.

The government of Bangladesh, the world's second biggest garment exporter behind China, said on Tuesday it would consider demands for an increase in the minimum wage, after clashes between police and protesters killed one worker and wounded dozens.

But the protesters came out again on Wednesday, blocking roads and burning tyres in the Savar industrial district just north of the capital, Dhaka.

Police and trade union leaders said more than two dozen people, including police, were injured in clashes on Wednesday.

"Police at first tried to convince them through discussions and requested them to leave the roads so that transport can move easily, but instead they threw stones and bricks," Tahmidul Islam, a police officer in the area told Reuters.

"So to disperse them police used tear gas ... Now the situation is under control and the workers have left."

Ruhul Amin, executive president of the Garments Trade Union Centre, told Reuters police used batons, tear gas and also water cannons in some places to disperse the crowds.

Similar protests were going on in the Mirpur area of Dhaka but without any violence, police said.

The government said in September the minimum wage for garment workers would increase by up to 51 percent this year to 8,000 taka ($95) a month, the first such increase since 2013.

But workers say that increase would benefit only a small percentage of the more than 3.5 million people employed in the sector.

The government has formed a panel of factory owners, union leaders and officials to investigate the pay demands, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said on Tuesday, adding he hoped a resolution could be reached in a month.

The garment industry generates about $30 billion of exports a year, accounting for 80 percent of Bangladesh's merchandise export earnings and serving some of the biggest brands in the world.

"We urge the government to sit with us and settle the issue, otherwise the movement will continue," Amin said.

(Writing by Euan Rocha Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel)

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