In early January, about 50,000 Bangladeshi workers took to the streets, protested and demanded higher wages.
According to a recent report by Bloomberg, more than 10,000 Bangladeshi garment workers who participated in the strike have been dismissed from the factory.
It is reported that these workers are from factories that produce clothing for retailers such as H&M, Wal-Mart, Tesco and Aldi. More than 4,500 textile and garment factories were affected by strikes, which last year produced more than 27 billion euros worth of clothing.
On February 9, Rabeya from the Moon Readywears Ltd. garment factory was told to dismiss him on the grounds that he participated in the earlier street protests. But the company denied this claim. Rabeya said: "Our monthly salary is only 9,600 taka ($114), only slightly higher than the sewing worker's minimum wage."
A local union said that after the labor protests, more than 11,000 workers were fired, and the garment industry in Bangladesh is currently facing a new round of labor riots. The garment industry has largely contributed to the rapid growth of Bangladesh's economy, with exports of US$30.61 billion, accounting for 83% of total exports.
Mark Anner, an associate professor of labor relations at Penn State University, said that although wages are lower in marginal exporters such as Myanmar and Ethiopia, Bangladesh is the lowest-paid country among all major garment exporters in the world. According to a 2017 report by the World Trade Organization, Bangladesh is the second largest garment exporter outside of China, although the Bulgarian garment industry is growing at a fastest rate of 6%.
It is reported that the Bangladesh government raised wages before the election on December 30, but workers said the factory refused to comply with the new rules, while companies accused unions and workers of destroying factories. The police and employers have filed lawsuits against more than 3,000 workers. In 2013, the Rana Plaza complex collapsed, killing 1,100 garment workers. Four years later, the turmoil could drag foreign retailers into another high-profile labor dispute.
Moonbey's former employer, Moon Readywears, and its parent company Setara have had a decade of business dealings with H&M, denying any misconduct. “This is a labor migration.” The company’s owner, Anwar Kamal Pasha, said, “We only have workers who have allegations of specific violations. We will not deal with individual cases and the company follows the latest salary rules.”
Bloomberg interviewed three Moon Readywears unemployed workers, including one quality inspector, AbdulMannan, who said he was fired on Wednesday. Another worker, Mohammad Rana, was arrested during the street protest for murder of public property and released on bail after he was released from prison. The third worker, Abdul Mannan, claimed that the company was in arrears. At present, Anwar Kamal Pasha has not responded to these questions.
In a public statement, H&M said that workers in three factories have been fired and the rest are being closely monitored.
Bangladeshi Minister of Commerce Tipu Munshi said in an interview that all factories must comply with the new wage laws, but some factories did not comply with the new wage regulations. Other additions, the government has instructed law enforcement agencies to investigate workers' activities that violate laws or damage public goods, but it does not involve ordinary workers who only want to raise wages.
As the business director of the risk control information agency, Pratyush Rao said the Bangladeshi government is trying to strike a difficult balance between millions of workers' rights and the clothing industry.
Before the December election, in the face of pressure, the government raised the minimum wage, but only increased to 8,000 taka, and nearly half of the unions demanded to pay 16,000 taka per month, Rao said, although he did not think the government would stop the wages. The improvement, but it may not be a strict attack on the garment factory.
“The government regards the risk management department as the last guarantee. It is one thing to make a policy, and compliance is another.”
Mark Anner, director of the Center for Global Labor Rights at Pennsylvania State University, said the situation in Bangladesh should attract the attention of foreign retailers. Local factories must comply with the law and recommend that brands and retailers review costing methods to adjust wage growth.