The last week has seen a series of violent clashes between Bangladeshi garment workers and the police, resulting in over 250 workers being injured.
Workers at the Hallmark Group in Hemayetpur are demanding that arrears in their salaries are paid with immediate effect, and that they receive their annual ‘Eid’ bonus, which is due later this week.
Following three days of a large and noisy protest outside the factory and offices, the bosses continued to refuse to bow to the worker’s demands. Subsequently 15,000 workers blockaded a key highway route for many hours.
Violence erupted as heavily armed riot police and members of the armed forces attempted to regain control of the highway, using tear gas and rubber bullets.
In the days following the violence, the bosses have dismissed over 120 workers who they claim are militants, and who are responsible for troubles at the factory.
It must have slipped the bosses minds that it’s unpaid salaries that have sparked the dispute. A company director has been arrested within the last month on charges of embezzling $35 billion from the Sonali bank, in what is the country’s largest ever case of fraud. Charges against several other board members are pending.
The workers at the Hemayetpur factory work on average 84 hours a week for a monthly pay cheque of £19. A living wage in Bangladesh is said to be around £39 a month. Amongst other customers, they produce clothing for Primark, Zara, and New Look.