Bangladeshi garment workers return to work

Garment workers protest, Mirpur, Dhaka, Jan 08

Dhaka, Bangladesh: there has been a return to work after two days of strikes and protests which spread to 50 factories and involved thousands of garment workers in Mirpur, Dhaka (see earlier report).

Submitted by Red Marriott on January 5, 2008

A large stretch of a main highway was blocked in a mainly peaceful demonstration, apart from one brief clash on Thursday afternoon between police and workers in front of the Police Staff College - when stones were thrown at cops, vehicles damaged and police responded with baton charges. Troops visited the demonstrations but did not intervene.

Workers were persuaded to call off the strike by leaders of workers organisations (unions are not officially recognised by garment bosses) after two days protesting the death of a co-worker forced to continue work whilst sick. The movement quickly spread to most nearby factories, where workers suffer similar conditions; They stated "that the factory owners forced them to work overtime but did not pay for it properly, stopped providing treatment facilities for sick workers and did not pay wages and over time bill in due time."

A committee, composed of bosses and workers' representatives, has now been set up to investigate the circumstances of the death - with a promise to deliver its conclusions in 3 months; an obvious defusing policy to get production back to normal. Both bosses and workers' leaders will be haunted by - and generally eager to avoid a repeat of - the mass workers revolt that began in the same area in 2006.

It has been agreed to hand over compensation of Tk 100,000 (£740/$1,465/EU990) to the dead worker's family. It remains unclear whether those workers sacked as a result of the agitation will be reinstated.