Bangladesh: Textile workers win right to unionise

Bangladeshi authorities have said they will grant union rights to workers in the clothing industry in a bid to end protests that have left one man dead and scores injured and cost the industry an estimated $140 million.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has said workers can form trade unions to bargain over pay and employment issues. In recent weeks, workers fought pitched battles with police, attacked and shut many factories and set fire to some, police and BGMEA officials said. The workers want higher wages, timely payment of overtime and job security.

Garments are Bangladesh's biggest export, bringing in more than $6 billion a year. The country has some 4,000 garment factories, employing around 2 million workers, mostly women.

"We have no objection to giving workers trade union rights," BGMEA President Tipu Munshi told Reuters on Saturday. "But we also want industrial peace to ensure unhindered production and export shipments on schedule."

Some factories were still closed on Saturday as workers said they mistrusted employers, wanted their back pay first and sought a formal agreement laying out their trade union rights. The employers said they would prefer a step-by-step approach after the recent violence caused $140 million worth of business losses.

In response to foreign factory owners' demands for better security, government officials said there were plans to set up an industrial police force to provide year-round security to factories, especially in Dhaka and major cities.

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    Jun 4 2006 11:00


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