On Monday evening, two garment workers in Bangladesh died in a clash with police while taking part in a protest to demand higher wages and better working conditions. The violence continued on Tuesday, as police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters.
The protesters died outside the GMS Composite Knitting Ltd. factory in Gasipur, which is about 20 miles north of the capitol city of Dhaka, where the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in April, killing 1,127 people.
Since that tragedy, workers have repeatedly protested for an improvement in their working conditions and have also repeatedly been met with violence. Police fired water cannons and rubber bullets at protesters last week and dozens were injured. Fifty were injured in protests in September.
Violence has also erupted in Cambodia as garment workers there have similarly protested. One person was shot dead and eight were injured last week.
After the factory collapse, the Bangladeshi government promised to raise the country’s minimum wage and ease workers’ ability to unionize. But while it announced a 77 percent raise recently, or the equivalent of $66 more a month, workers had been calling for a $100 raise and the government’s offer would still leave them the worst paid in the world. The country’s garment workers make just 14 percent of what would be considered a living way. And while workers have tried to unionize since requirements were changed, they have been met with violence, threats, bribery, and other forms of retaliation.
Seventy retailers also signed on to a legally binding plan to upgrade factory safety after the collapse, although that plan has yet to result in inspections. Other American companies, such as Walmart and Gap, refused to sign that plan and instead put forward their own with less accountability, and Walmart recently reported that more than 15 percent of the factories it has inspected on its own failed a safety test. Another preliminary look found that a majority of the country’s factories are vulnerable to collapse.