Security tight at Bangladesh factories after attacks
Paramilitary troops and an elite rapid action unit were deployed at garment factories around Dhaka on Friday to increase security after one person was killed and nearly 150 injured in violent protests earlier this week.
Most of the nearly 300 garment factories vandalised during the violence, triggered by pay disputes, have resumed production but at least half a dozen factories torched in the protests were still shut, textile industry officials said.
The attacks occurred on Monday and Tuesday after one worker was shot dead, possibly by police, at an export zone at Savar, 25 km north of the city. Police said they were still looking for the killer.
Abdus Salam Murshedi, acting president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told reporters late on Thursday most factories had resumed normal work shifts "amid a sense of insecurity and fears of more troubles."
Garments are impoverished Bangladesh's biggest export, fetching the country more than six billion dollars a year.
The industry has over 4,000 factories and employs nearly two million workers.
The BGMEA has said it would discuss pay issues with workers' leaders and meet their demands as soon as possible.
The demands include raising wages and timely payment of overtime money as well as medical leave with pay.
Garment workers do not have a trade union or bargaining agent as such. "Mostly we have to rely on employers' mercy," said Abdus Shakur, a worker at a Dhaka factory.
"But as exports picked up through the years, some factory owners now pay good salary and overtime to their employees. Others are not good pay masters at all," he said.
Some factories pay a monthly wage of less than 1,000 taka, labourers said.
Police and industry officials believe the attacks were engineered by groups trying to destroy Bangladesh's key export earning sector, although they could not immediately identify any individual or group.
Shakur and other workers were not sure who started the violence.
"One thing I can say that we love our machines because they feed us and protect us from starvation. How can one with a sane heart can destroy them?" said female worker Masuda Begum.