Dhaka: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday
warned tough actions against "anarchists" as thousands of
Bangladeshi garment workers took to the street for the second
consecutive day to protest against a new wage structure.
"No anarchy and sabotage in this sector will be
tolerated," Hasina`s Deputy Press Secretary Mahbubul Haque
Shakil quoted her as saying at a teleconference.
Hasina was quoted as saying that the street protests
despite the enhancement of the minimum wage by 80 per cent
persuading the garments factory owners through "my personal
initiative were designed to destroy the sector".
She asked workers to concentrate on their work after
accepting the new minimum wage saying "their reasonable
demands will be addressed after the effects of the world
economic depression are over and exports increase."
Hasina earlier criticised the garment industry for
paying low wages to some 2 million workers at 4,000 factories
in major cities and city outskirts as manufacturers earlier
staunchly resisted any significant wage increase.
But her comments today came as the suburban Savar and
Narayanganj districts witnessed clashes between the workers
and police that left dozens, including policemen, injured.
Witnesses said the workers also vandalised several
roadside business establishments in the areas putting
barricades at several points disrupting traffic movements in
two major highways for hours demanding the minimum wage to be
fixed at Taka 5,000 instead of 3,000.
They said more than a hundred garment workers and 20
policemen were injured in the clashes that erupted in Savar
area, 30 kilometres north of Dhaka, when the baton wielding
policemen equipped in riot gears tried to clear the roads as
the protesters halted hundreds of vehicles including inter
district buses on it.
Police said the "agitators" have already vandalised
some 50 vehicles, including 10 police vans, in Savar area.
Police, however, kept a sharp vigil as some 10,000
workers blocked another key road in Narayanganj, 15 kilometres
south of Dhaka, as the workers staged a relatively peaceful
Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters
Association (BGMEA) that represents the country`s more than
4,000 garments factory owners, yesterday called the protests
"surprising" and asked the government to deal with the
situation with an "iron hand".
"It is quite surprising that the workers vandalised
the factories and other offices even after the announcement of
wage hike," BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedy told a press
briefing yesterday after the protesters took the street
protesting a new wage structure.
Several workers unions spurned the new pay structure
but others welcomed hike asking the workers to keep patience.
Bangladesh`s garment products are mainly destined to
the US and Europe earning the country more than USD 12 billion
a year, nearly 80 per cent of the country`s export income with
Wal-Mart, Tesco, H&M, Zara, Carrefour, Gap, Metro, JCPenney,
Marks & Spencer, Kohl`s, Levi Strauss and Tommy Hilfiger being
bulk importers from Bangladesh.