DHAKA — Garment manufacturers in Bangladesh said they would reopen all factories closed Tuesday in the country's major industrial hub after authorities pledged to protect key plants from protests. Tens of thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers, employees at some 700 factories that supply top names in Western retail, have been on strike since Saturday, demanding higher pay and forcing the closure some 700 factories.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), which represents factory owners, said the factories would be reopened Wednesday following a government pledge to put down the protests.The decision marked a dramatic about face by factory owners, who earlier Tuesday declared that all factories in the affected area, Ashulia, which make clothing for global retailers like Wal-Mart, Tesco, H & M and Carrefour, would be closed indefinitely.
About 800,000 workers are employed in the 700 factories in the area and "tens of thousands" have taken their grievances to the streets, forcing the shuttering of businesses, Dhaka's deputy police chief Monowar Hosain told AFP.
"We've stepped up security, brought in reinforcements but the problem is there are too many protesting workers," Hosain said. The workers are demanding wages of at least 5,000 taka (70 dollars) per month. The current minimum wage, set in 2006, is just 25 dollars.
70 dollars a month would definitely be an improvement, and would hasten the day when the average wage in Bangladesh becomes comparable with that in the UK - and we can make a few things again. Mind, the skills will have been long lost. But maybe they'll outsource some of the less skilled stuff to us.