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Garment workers in Bangla clash with police

Police clashed with thousands of garment workers in southwest Bangladesh on Sunday during fresh protests over low wages and soaring food prices, police said.

world Updated: Jun 01, 2008 22:37 IST

Police clashed with thousands of garment workers in southwest Bangladesh on Sunday during fresh protests over low wages and soaring food prices, police said.

The clashes occurred after workers at Kalurghat industrial area tried to barricade a highway, city police chief Akbar Ali said.

"They smashed dozens of vehicles, attacked nearby factories and pelted stones and bricks at our officers. Police fired shotguns to disperse the unruly workers," Ali said.

A nurse at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital said four workers had been admitted, including two with bullet wounds.

The protest is the latest to hit Bangladesh’s garment industry, which accounts for three-quarters of the country’s export earnings and employs more than 40 per cent of the industrial workforce.

Most of the country’s 2.5 million garment workers earn a basic minimum wage of $25 a month.

Unions have demanded a major increase in salaries, saying the existing basic payment fixed in late 2006 has become redundant due to rocketing prices of food and other commodities over the past year.

Only a handful of factories have responded positively to the demand.

Prices for the staple food rice have doubled in Bangladesh in the past year as floods last summer and a major cyclone that hit the country in November led to severe damage of crops.