Bangladesh: Garment workers’ deaths spark riot

July 27th, 2010

The second death in a week of a Bangladeshi Vertex factory employee led to a rampage by garment workers that was broken up by police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers went on  the rampage, ransacking a factory after a worker died on duty Monday, allegedly due to negligence on the part of the factory owner, police said.

The protesting workers claim that a 28-year-old quality inspector collapsed and died at a Vertex Group factory in northwest Dhaka after the owners refused to give him leave for hospital treatment, police Insp. Haris Shikder said.

“They ransacked the factory, broke windows, sewing machines and blocked a key highway, bringing traffic to a halt, which forced us to take action,” he said.  Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas shells to disperse more than 3,000 rampaging workers, Shikder said.

Police said only six people were injured but a local English-language paper said the injury toll stood at around 50.

No charges have been filed against the owners of the factory.

Police have launched a probe into the death, Shikder said, adding the owners have told police that there was “no foul play” and the worker died as he was being rushed to a hospital by factory officials.

The death is the second in a week at a factory owned by the Vertex Group, one of the country’s leading clothes manufacturers.

On Friday, a female worker was found dead at a Vertex factory, having apparently fallen off a factory roof, triggering protests in the capital Dhaka.

The father of the victim has filed a case with the police, claiming that five employees at the Vertex Garment Factory in the city’s Mirpur district pushed her off the factory roof.

The deaths come at a time when the Bangladesh garment industry, which accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s annual exports, is already plagued by unrest and violent protests over low wages.

Bangladesh’s 4,500 garment factories employ 2.5 million workers or around 40 per cent of the industrial workforce, the majority of whom are women.

Bangladeshi workers toil in sweatshop-like factories for 10 to 16 hours a day, often without overtime. A worker gets $25 as the basic monthly minimum wage

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