Summary:Garment workers throw pieces of bricks during clashes with police in Kanchpur, Dhaka June 16, 2012
- The owners of 300 Bangladesh garments factories shut their operations
indefinitely on Saturday after days of violent pay protests by workers,
threatening the country's biggest export already impacted by the global
The decision to close all factories at Ashulia, one of the
country's biggest industrial zones on the outskirts Dhaka, came as talks
between workers and owners had failed to break the deadlock.
"We have been compelled to close down all our factories
at Ashulia," said Mohammad Shafiul Islam, president of the Bangladesh
Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
"We tried to resolve the issue (of wage increases and
other benefits) amicably through discussion but the efforts did not produce any
results," he told a news conference.
Witnesses said police had fired teargas and rubber bullets
and used water cannons to disperse rampaging workers during five days of
clashes. About 250 people including police have been injured and activists have
vandalized dozens of vehicles and barricaded a vital highway.
"We had to take harsh actions to restore order as the
defiant workers would not stop the violence," an Ashulia police officer
Workers are demanding higher pay following a rise in food
and utility prices. After violent protests in 2010, Bangladesh nearly doubled
the minimum wage for millions of garment workers to 3,000 taka ($37) a month.
Authorities on Saturday deployed extra police at Ashulia
fearing the shut factories could be attacked and vandalized by restive workers.
Garments, which made up $18 billion of Bangladesh's record
$23 billion exports in the year to June 2011, offer a crucial lifeline to the
poor South Asian country, along with remittances from expatriate workers.
Business leaders and analysts said the recent unrest would
have a negative impact on exports, which fell for the third month in a row in
May as the euro zone debt crisis continued to subdue the country's economy.
Bangladesh's low labor costs have helped it join
the global supply chain for low-end textiles and clothing, manufacturing
garments for international brands such as JC Penney, Wal-Mart, H&M, Kohl's,
Marks & Spencer and Carrefour.