Three days after a mass protests rally to demand hike in minimum wage, tens of thousands of garment workers staged violent demonstrations in Dhaka and key apparel hubs on the outskirts of the capital city again on Monday.
Garment workers and policemen were injured as the unruly laborers fought pitched battles with the law enforcers and vandalized dozens of vehicles including buses.
The workers also vandalized nearly a dozen garment units in the industrial hubs in Gazipur and Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka. On Monday morning at around 9:30 a.m.local time, some 15,000 workers of different ready made factories in Gazipur took to the streets.
The agitating Gazipur workers reportedly attacked a camp of Ansar Bahini, a disciplined force for internal security and law enforcement in Bangladesh, and looted firearms and ammunition.
Thousands of workers also took to many Dhaka streets and disrupted communications for hours on Monday.
Traffic on a highway in Savar resumed several hours after the law enforcers managed to disperse the agitating workers from the road.
Bangladesh garment workers have long been protesting to demand higher wages and safe working conditions, but their protests have become a much more common over the past weeks after five factories collapsed on April 24 in which at least 1,130 people were confirmed dead.
The Savar tragedy revived questions about the commitments of factory owners and their global buyers to provide safe working conditions in the annually 20 billion U.S. dollars export sector, which comprises about 5,000 factories employing more than 4 million workers, 80 percent of whom are women.
The persistent protest reached its peak Saturday when violence erupted in different areas forcing the authorities to shut the production of over 400 factories in Gazipur and Savar.
Garment Sramik Samannay Parishad, a federation of trade unions in garment sectors, organized the rally to meet their different demands including raising minimum monthly salary to 8,000 taka ( about 102.56 U.S. dollars) .
The Bangladeshi government in July, 2010, set 3,000 taka (about 38.5 dollars) as the minimum monthly wage for the then over 2.5 million garment workers. The first minimum wage board in Bangladesh, found in 1994, fixed 940 taka (about 12 dollars) as the minimum wage for garment workers. The second one, formed in 2006, set the minimum wage at 1,662.50 taka (about 21.3 dollars).
Thanks to its cheap labor, Bangladesh is now the world's second largest garments exporter after China, producing global brands for customers around the world. Yet the country's garment industry has been severely criticized over safety concerns and labor unrest over rock-bottom wages in recent years.