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Covid-19 crisis: Unpaid garment workers protest for salaries in Bangladesh

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Bangladeshi garment workers that sew the clothes of world’s high street fashion brands took to the streets this week to protest against unpaid wages.

Apparel factories in Dhaka and elsewhere in Bangladesh have seen production grind to a halt, but workers said they were more fearful of starving than contracting Covid-19.

The protesting workers say many factories have not paid them after retailers and brands cancelled orders. Factory workers shouted slogans such as “we want our wages” and “break the black hands of the owners” as they blocked roads despite a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the deadly disease, reported the Associated Press (AP).

##More fearful of starvation than coronavirus “We are afraid of the coronavirus. We heard a lot of people are dying of this disease,” protesting worker Sajedul Islam, 21, told AP. “But we don’t have any choice. We are starving. If we stay at home, we may save ourselves from the virus. But who will save us from starvation?“

The lockdown, which came into effect on midnight on March 25th, was supposed to finish on Tuesday, but has now been extended to April 25th. The vast majority of the country’s garment factories were forced to close as a result. The Bangladeshi government last week unveiled an 8 billion dollar stimulus package to boost the nation’s economy but the hardest hit of its 160 million population may not see the benefits.

“We have not been paid for two months. We are starving,” said another protester, who gave her name as Brishti, from the Tex Apparel factory in the capital Dhaka. “If we don’t have food in our stomach, what’s the use of observing this lockdown?“

Some 5,500 workers protested on Monday while 20,000 turned out on Sunday, police inspector Islam Hossain told AP. Bangladesh has announced 590 million dollars in loans for export-oriented factories to pay workers.

The South Asian nation is the world’s second-biggest garment maker after China, with 35 billion dollars of exports a year.

Article source: AP; image: Clean Clothes Campaign

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