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Thousands of textile workers burn factories

Some 20,000 protesters armed with bamboo sticks burnt the garment factories, even as cops fired tear gas to quell them.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 14:26 IST

Tens of thousands of Bangladeshi textile workers demanding better pay torched two more factories on Tuesday, the second day of violent demonstrations that spread to the capital Dhaka, police said.

Some 20,000 protesters armed with bamboo sticks and chanting slogans burnt the garment factories at Ashulia north of the capital as police fired tear gas to disperse them, police officer Shahedur Rahman said.

Witnesses said several people were injured when officers fired live ammunition. Police, however, said they used only batons and tear gas.

Tens of thousands more workers from Dhaka's Tejgaon industrial area, and from Mirpur, Uttara and Wari districts, came out on to the streets on Tuesday demanding better pay and overtime as well as a mandatory weekly holiday.

They clashed with police and stormed several factories before blocking major roads and bringing city traffic to a virtual standstill, the Dhaka police control room said.

Security forces Monday opened fire, killing one person and injuring several more among a crowd estimated at 100,000 protesters from Dhaka's Export Processing Zone, and nearby Ashulia, 40 kilometres from the capital.

A senior police official said on Monday's protests saw at least 30 factories ransacked and dozens of vehicles smashed. Police had rescued a factory owner from the mob.

The workers were demanding at least 11 taka for every sweater they sew, a mandatory day off on Friday, regular payments and increased pay for overtime.

They currently earn about seven taka (11 cents) per sweater.

Last week police firing also left one textile worker dead and 50 others injured at Sripur, 60 kilometres north of Dhaka, where workers also demanded higher wages.

Bangladesh has more than 4,200 garment factories. The industry last year accounted for more than three-quarters of export earnings of 9.3 billion dollar and employs 40 per cent of all industrial workers.

The factories are enjoying a boom following the end of global textile quotas but are notorious for poor safety standards and low wages.

In the first nine months of the current fiscal year, textile exports rose by 19.45 per cent to 5.65 billion dollars.

First Published: May 23, 2006 14:26 IST