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Bangladesh textile workers flout coronavirus lockdown to demand wages

by Reuters
Sunday, 26 April 2020 11:13 GMT

Bangladesh has announced aid for essential exports-oriented sector to pay its workers, but garment manufacturers say funds were not enough

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By Ruma Paul

DHAKA, April 26 (Reuters) - Hundreds of textile workers in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka took to the streets on Sunday demanding wages, flouting social distancing norms amid a nationwide lockdown to control the coronavirus pandemic.

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The second-largest apparel producer after China, Bangladesh is set to lose export revenue of about $6 billion this fiscal year as the sector has been hit by cancellations from some of the world's largest brands and retailers, two industry bodies have said.

"We haven't got wages since last two months. We have no food, no money. We are left to starve," said Mohammad Ujjal, a worker at a garment factory in capital city, Dhaka, who participated in the protest.

Garment workers have held smaller protests in recent weeks to demand wages lost during the crisis.

Last month Bangladesh's government announced $588 million package aid for crucial exports-oriented sector to pay its workers, but garment manufacturers say funds were not enough to mitigate the crisis.

Health officials confirmed five more deaths and reported 418 new cases on Sunday, taking the official total number of positive cases to 5,416, including 145 deaths.

A nationwide lockdown is in place until May 5, but protesters said they will continue to violate the ban on movement if their demands are not met.

In recent weeks, Bangladesh has sent troops out into the streets to help enforce a shutdown on travel and restrictions on religious gatherings and protests.

(Editing by Rupam Jain and Peter Graff)