Dhaka: Nearly 100 people were injured today when thousands of angry garment workers in Bangladesh demanding a higher wage clashed with police, resulting in the closure of about 200 factories.

Thousands of workers from different garment factories took to the streets demanding 5,300 Tak  as minimum wage and clashed with police in different areas.

As the protesters hurled bricks at the security forces, police charged with batons and fired several rounds of teargas canisters and rubber bullets.

About 100 people, including police and pedestrians, were injured in the clashes, B D News reported.

Production at about 200 garment factories in Ashulia, on the outskirts of the capital, was suspended for today after workers clashed with police in the morning.

The protesters blocked the Dhaka-Tangail highway and when police stopped them, clashes erupted.

Another group of protesting workers blocked a road in front of Ha-Meem Group in Narsinghpur area. Some agitators set fire to an office room of Next Collection factory, the Daily Star reported.

The authorities doused the flames immediately, but many important documents and furniture were destroyed.

The workers have been agitating for the last several days.

Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest garment exporter with over 4,500 factories which account for nearly 80 per cent of the country’s USD 27-billion annual exports paying a worker the minimum wage of USD 38 a month.

Labour Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju after a meeting with factory owners yesterday had said that the minimum wage would be finalised by November 21. He also urged workers to return to their factories.

The government had formed a wage board in June this year to revise the salary of the ready-made garment (RMG) workers that stood at 3,000 Takas per month. On November 4, the wage board recommended 5,300 Takas as minimum wage.

But Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BKMEA) representatives walked out of the Wage Board meeting, refusing to accept the amount. They also threatened to shut factories if forced to pay anything over 4,500 Takas.

The garment owners’ initially offered a minimum wage of 3,600 Takas, but later they agreed to raise it to 4,250 Takas.

On the other hand, the workers’ representatives have been demanding 8,100 takas as the minimum wage. But they gradually scaled down their demand to 6,000 Takas, then to 5,500 Takas, before finally agreeing to 5,300 Takas.

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