Bangladesh garment workers protest colleague’s killing for seeking unpaid wages

Dhaka, June 26 (EFE).– Several hundred garment workers and trade union leaders protested in a Bangladesh industrial hub Monday after a colleague was beaten to death by hired goons of factory owners.

Police said Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGWIF) Gazipur unit president Shahidul Islam was beaten to death by a rival group shortly after he came to a sweater factory to talk with authorities over unpaid wages of workers.

“The salary for May, half of June, and the festival bonus at Prince Jacquard Sweater still remain unpaid. It was supposed to be paid at 8:00 pm Sunday. Shahidul and a few others went to the factory to talk about the issue,” Shah Alam, the officer-in-charge of Tongi West Police Station in Gazipur district, told EFE.

“Shahidul said he would raise the issue with the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments on Monday. On his way back, he was attacked by another group. He was taken to a hospital, (and) doctors declared him dead,” said the police officer.

The officer said police arrested the prime accused after a case was filed, mentioning six named and another five to six unnamed suspects. “The prime accused…is the leader of another trade union federation.”

Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity, who lodged the case, said the accused were all “hired goons” of the factory owners.

Akter said several hundred trade union leaders and garment workers gathered in front of the Gazipur Press Club Monday morning to protest Shahidul’s killing.

Sarwar Alam, the chief of the Industrial Police in Gazipur, said they remained alert to prevent any untoward incidents over the killing.

Workers’ unrest is common in Bangladesh’s textile factories over wages, especially during festival seasons.

Alam said half of the factories could not clear wages and festival allowances until Sunday, ahead of the Muslim festival Eid-ul-Adha on Thursday.

“Workers in some factories stopped working today, some tried to agitate, but we have so far averted major unrest,” he said.

Trade union leaders often accuse authorities and owners of harassment over workers’ rights issues.

The textile sector in Bangladesh has faced intense scrutiny for years because of poor working conditions, especially after the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in 2013, in which 1,100 workers died and 2,500 suffered injuries.

Textiles account for more than 80 percent of Bangladesh’s total exports. EFE


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