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Worker shot dead by police as minimum wage protests intensify in Bangladesh

30 October, 2023As thousands of garment workers take to the streets in Bangladesh to demand a minimum wage increase, police takes violent action to quell protest demonstrations, shooting dead one garment worker and injuring another earlier today.

Protests have intensified across Dhaka since the fourth meeting of the wage board on 22 October, where garment factory owners’ proposed to increase the minimum wage to BDT10,400 (US$94). Given the rising of cost of living, garment owners’ proposition of wage increment is insufficient to meet the daily needs.
Rasel Howlader, worked at the Design Express garment factory in Gazipur, was shot dead while Amirul Islam, a worker at Columbia Garments, was injured in police shooting earlier today. Both Design Express and Columbia Garments are unionized factory and the unions are affiliated to IndustriALL’s affiliate, SGSF.

Over the last few days, three organizers, Masud Rana of BGTLWF, Mossarrof Hossain of BMCGTWF and Jewel Miya of BIGUF, have been arrested. Police have filed cases against several other organizers and workers, alleging vandalism and assault.

The brutal police action against workers in Bangladesh coincides with the ILO Governing Body meeting in Geneva, which will examine the latest progress report submitted by the government of Bangladesh on the implementation of the ILO Roadmap. One of the priority areas of the Roadmap for which government needs to show it has taken measures is anti-union discrimination and violence against workers.

Apoorva Kaiwar, south Asia regional secretary of IndustriALL, says:

“It is horrific that the legitimate demands for higher minimum wages activists are met with police violence. The government’s report on the implementation of the ILO Roadmap, particularly on dealing with anti-union discrimination and violence against workers, does not reflect reality. IndustriALL calls on the government of Bangladesh to ensure that police does not use force against protesting workers. IndustriALL also calls on the government to increase the minimum wage for garment workers to BDT23,000.”

Garment unions in Bangladesh, including IndustriALL affiliates, have been demanding an increase in the minimum wage from BDT8,000 (US$75) to BDT23,000 (US$215) since the beginning of the year. The government had last reviewed the minimum wage in 2018, when it was fixed at BDT8,000 (US$75) for an entry-level garment worker.

IndustriALL’s Asia Pacific Executive Committee has issued a statement, strongly condemning the brutal attack by Dhaka Police on workers, protesting the low minimum wage and calling on the government to ensure the right to democratic protest, and to increase the long overdue minimum wage.

Photo: On 22 October, more than 65 garment workers’ federations, under the umbrella of the Garment Workers Alliance, marched from the National Press Club to the office of the minimum wage board, rejecting garment factory owners’ proposal to increase the minimum wage from BDT8,000 (US$72) to BDT10,400 (US$94).
IndustriALL Bangladesh Council is part of the Garment Workers Alliance, and are demanding that the minimum wage should be BDT 23000 (US$207).