At least 50 people were injured Sunday in Dhaka, Bangladesh after police tried to break up massive garment worker protests with tear gas and rubber bullets, and workers responded by throwing bricks at the officers.
Up to 50,000 garment workers have been protesting for several days to demand an increase in the minimum wage to $100. The current minimum wage is around $38 per month, which is only 14 percent of a living wage for the country. A protesting woman said, “We work to survive but we can’t even cover our basic needs.” A new law was expected to make it easier for garment workers, 80 percent of whom are women, to form unions to demand higher wages and better working environments, but management has responded to recently registered unions with violence, bribes, and threats.
Bangladesh has seen significant labor unrest after a series of deadly factory incidents, including the April collapse of the Rana Plaza building that killed 1,132 workers. While there are 2,000 factories in Dhaka like Rana Plaza, there are only 40 building inspectors, and 3 in 5 industrial structures are reportedly vulnerable to collapse.
The country is the cheapest place to make clothing because of lax safety rules and low wages. Several retailers that purchase clothing made in Bangladesh have entered into a pact to improve factory fire and safety rules, but some major ones have not, including Walmart and GAP.