Bangladesh, the world’s second largest garment manufacturer, is facing severe disruptions as thousands of ready-made garment (RMG) workers have been protesting since January 6 over the government’s wage increment plan. At least 100 garment factories in Dhaka, Gazipur and Savar have halted productions due to safety concerns. At the time of writing, protests have continued for sixth consecutive days amid the government’s promise to bring an end to the agitation.
According to sources, the recently re-elected government has increased the monthly wage for the garment industry by 51 percent to 8,000 taka (USD 95; EUR 82) from December 2018. However, workers are unhappy that the hike will only benefit certain employee classes and fails to address price inflation. At least one person has died and 70 people were injured when police resorted to rubber bullets, tear gas shells and batons to disperse the rioters as they blocked roads and vandalized moving vehicles and factories.
Vehicle movements in and around Dhaka were severely disrupted at major thoroughfares including, Zirabo-Bishmail highway, Dhaka-Aricha highway, Dhaka-Tangail highway, Abdullahpur-Baipail highway and Airport road, which were blocked by protesters for a long period of time. Sporadic road blockages have also been reported on Kalshi, Rokeya Sarani, and Pallabi roads in Dhaka as well as at the city’s outskirts such as Savar and Ashulia.
Precedents indicate that around 4,500 garment factories across Bangladesh have faced frequent large scale protests resulting in factory shutdowns over issues of salary and working conditions. In December 2016, fifty garment factories in Ashulia were forced to halt productions for a week when employees staged a walk-off over the firing of employees and demanded wage increments. In response to the protests, factories laid off 1,500 workers and resumed productions following arrests by the authorities.
Similarly, intermittent protests are likely to continue in the coming days as the first round of meetings organized by the authorities failed to reach a consensus on January 10. Another round of discussion will be held on January 13. Government officials stated that protests are unlikely to extend throughout the month, which indicates that further restraining measures are likely to be used in the event that protests escalate.
Bangladesh exports about USD 30 billion (EUR 26 billion) ready-made garments to top global brands in the United States and Europe annually, which makes up 80 percent of the country’s export values. Hence, any lengthy disruption would have a major impact on the economy. Resilience360 customers with suppliers based in Bangladesh across various industries can expect disruptions as highways connecting to Dhaka and Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport are being blocked on a sporadic basis.