Bangladesh garment workers fighting for pay face brutal violence and threats - Beritaja

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When Masuma Akhtar arrived astatine The garment mill wherever she useful connected The outskirts of Dhaka connected 31 October, she was expecting a normal shift. Instead, she was met pinch brute violence. “The infinitesimal I walked done The mill gates, a group of equipped men began beating maine pinch woody sticks,” says Akhtar. “I fell down connected to The ground. Even past they wouldn’t extremity beating me.”

Akhtar, 22, is simply a seamstress astatine Dekko Knitwears in Mirpur, wherever she spends agelong days churning retired apparel for occidental manner brands, including Marks & Spencer, C&A and PVH Corp, which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein.

Bangladesh is 1 of The world’s biggest producers of accelerated fashion, pumping retired millions of tonnes of clothing each twelvemonth to meet The demands of The world’s astir celebrated clothing brands, which are drawn to this mini South Asian state wherever orders – and The labour needed to fulfil them – travel cheap.

Although astir accelerated manner brands that root from Bangladesh declare to support a surviving wage, they are only required to salary The workers who make their apparel The ineligible monthly minimum wage, which is 1 of The lowest in The world and has remained group astatine 8,000 taka (££58) since 2018.

Negotiations complete a caller minimum costs for garment workers in Bangladesh person sparked wide demonstrations connected streets crossed The capital. The protests person escalated since The authorities announced a minimum costs summation for The workers, from 1 December, to 12,500 taka (£90), acold beneath The 23,000 taka a period workers opportunity they request to support their families from starvation.

Factory owners and constabulary person responded to workers’ protests pinch threats and violence. The beatings she received by equipped men astatine Dekko Knitwears near Akhtar pinch a surgery arm. “They deed my back, my thighs and my arms repeatedly,” she says. Now, without usage of 1 of her arms, she is incapable to work. “I don’t cognize really I will past The remainder of The month,” she adds.

A bandaged limb in a sling
Masuma Akhtar’s limb was surgery erstwhile she was beaten by equipped man astatine Dekko Knitwears in Mirpur. Photograph: Sazzad Hossain

Other workers astatine Dekko Knitwears opportunity that The men beating them concentrated connected their hands and arms. “They started hitting america mercilessly,” says Bushra Begum, 25, different worker. “My livelihood depends connected my hands, and they targeted them viciously.”

Her workfellow Rita Anwar, 26, tried to tally distant but was chased down The roadworthy by 3 men. “I americium covered in humor clots,” she says, pulling up her sleeve to uncover her injuries. “My backmost is achromatic pinch bruises. The symptom is truthful overmuch that I Can hardly walk.”

Before they left, The men issued a warning: The workers were not to return portion in immoderate much protests – aliases they would look consequences.

As protests in Dhaka turned progressively violent, 2 garment workers person been killed, allegedly aft being changeable by constabulary in The first activity of protests. And past Wednesday, different female died aft being shot in The head.

Factory owners besides threatened to unopen down accumulation and withhold wages by applying a “no work, nary pay” rule. Over The weekend, much than 150 factories closed “indefinitely”, arsenic constabulary issued broad charges for 18,000 workers in relationship pinch The demonstrations.

Workers were warned of dismissal if they continued to protestation and The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, a waste and acquisition body, called for each mill recruitment to beryllium paused, making it difficult for protesters to find activity elsewhere.

Detail of a women’s patterned shawl
Factory owners and constabulary in Bangladesh person responded to workers’ protests pinch threats and violence. Photograph: Sazzad Hossain

But contempt The convulsive crackdown connected workers, those who person spoken to The Guardian are wished to spot The conflict done to The end.

“They are trying to soundlessness america but we won’t backmost down,” says Naima Islam, a instrumentality usability astatine Columbia Garments. “They Can frighten and hit america but what they don’t understand is, we person thing to lose. If we judge their ridiculous costs proposal, we will starve to decease anyway.”

Islam, 28, is 1 of thousands of protesters who person had police reports revenge against them, which waste and acquisition unionists fearfulness whitethorn soon lead to wide arrests. Many judge it is an effort to forcefully suppress The costs summation movement.

But that hasn’t deterred Islam and her co-workers. “We are not asking for much. This full manufacture is built disconnected our backs – The slightest we merit is The bare minimum to survive,” she says.

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Nazma Akter, president of section waste and acquisition national Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, condemns The unit against protesting workers. “The Bangladesh authorities must guarantee workers are capable to workout their authorities to state of relation and corporate bargaining without fearfulness of violence, reprisal, aliases intimidation,” she says.

A crowd of chiefly women wearing colourful caput scarves faces a wall of riot police
Garment workers artifact a cardinal intersection during a protestation in Dhaka connected 12 November. Photograph: Abdul Goni/AFP/Getty Images

In a statement, Marks & Spencer said: “These are very superior allegations and we are urgently investigating them. We would ne'er tolerate unit aliases intimidation of workers and group retired very intelligibly in our world sourcing principles that workers must beryllium guaranteed state of relation and a safe workplace, arsenic good arsenic adjacent and transparent wages. As a personnel of The Ethical Trading Initiative, we person supported The tripartite minimum costs negotiations betwixt The unions, Government Wages Board and The Employers’ Association – and we proceed to support cross-sector calls for an summation that provides a decent modular of surviving for workers.”

A spokesperson for C&A said: “We are alert of The incident that took spot in Bangladesh, and we are in adjacent interaction pinch The supplier to investigate. We condemn each types of violence, and we person a longstanding committedness to guarantee The information and wellness of each workers in our proviso chain.”

PVH did not respond to a petition for comment.

Dekko Knitwears and Columbia Garments were approached for remark but did not respond.

Fashion brands sourcing from Bangladesh person said they support workers’ calls for a higher minimum wage. In a joint letter in September, brands including Asos, Primark and H&M, wrote that they recognised their domiciled in “supporting costs developments”. But authorities groups reason that this intends small if brands don’t work together to salary their suppliers more.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch and Clean Clothes Campaign called connected brands to return work for their workers’ wages and salary their suppliers more. Aruna Kashyap, subordinate head connected firm accountability astatine Human Rights Watch says: “Wage increases person consequences for suppliers’ costs and eat into their profit margins.”

“Brands themselves are driving debased wages pinch their unfair pricing and purchasing practices,” she adds. “To sphere their ain profits, brands are putting themselves first.”

Editor: Naga

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