Bangladesh garment workers clash with police

Dhaka - Bangladeshi garment workers staging a hunger strike for nine days to press for back-pay and a holiday bonus clashed with police in the capital, Dhaka, on Tuesday, police and witnesses said.

About 1 600 workers from five factories of the Tuba Group have been on hunger strike since 28 July demanding the payment of salary for three months, overtime and a holiday bonus. About 100 of them have fallen sick.

Police used truncheons to disperse several hundred of the workers who tried to besiege the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) headquarters, witnesses said.

On Sunday, the association agreed to pay wages for two months this week, and said the Tuba Group would pay the rest of the salaries and a bonus for the Eid al-Fitr holiday later.

But the workers rejected the offer.

"We will continue our protests and fasting until our demands are met," one worker shouted to fellow protesters at the demonstration.

Low labour costs and, critics say, shortcuts on safety, make Bangladesh the cheapest place to make large quantities of clothing and the second-largest exporter of readymade garments.