Bangladesh cracks down on unions after wage unrest

DHAKA, November 20, 2013 (AFP) – Bangladesh police have arrested three union leaders over deadly protests against a new minimum wage for garment workers that have forced hundreds of factories to shut, an officer said Wednesday. Police arrested the trio over their roles in the protests which have left two people dead in key industrial districts outside the capital, where workers stitch clothes for top Western retailers such as Walmart and H&M.

The protests over the new $68 minimum monthly wage erupted last week and forced the closure of some of the country’s biggest garment plants, crippling the sector, a mainstay of the nation’s economy.

“They were arrested on Tuesday for inciting violence,” M. Kamruzzaman, police inspector of Gazipur district told AFP.

One of the leaders arrested, Mohammad Kafiluddin, heads a union based in Gazipur, while another, Ziaul Kabir Khokan, is the Gazipur head of the Trade Union Kendra, a union affiliated with the Communist Party, union officials said. Details of the third leader are unknown.

Tens of thousands of workers have taken to the streets in Gazipur and neighbouring industrial hubs of Ashulia and Savar, clashing with police to protest the new wage fixed by the government.