Violence continues over pay hikes in Bangladesh

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Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in the third day of clashes Monday with thousands of garment workers demanding better minimum wages amid escalating tension over the country’s main export business.

Police said the violence mainly took place in the Gazipur and Savar industrial zones, just outside the capital of Dhaka.

Hundreds of factories that produce clothing for many big global brands, including Wal-Mart and H&M, are located in those two areas.

Witnesses said the workers also poured into the streets at two major intersections in Dhaka, disrupting traffic.

Scores were injured in the violence as the workers threw stones at police, who retaliated with rubber bullets and tear gas, according to local police chief in Gazipur, Abdul Baten.

More than 100 factories were closed for the day, Baten said. About 50 people were injured Sunday in similar street violence.

The workers are demanding that their minimum monthly wage be increased to 8,114 takas (around $100), up from the current 3,000 takas ($38).

Factory owners are unwilling to increase the monthly wage beyond 3,600 takas ($45), saying it would inflate their production costs.

Bangladesh earns about $20 billion a year almost 80 per cent of the country’s total export earnings from exporting garment products, mainly to the United States and Europe.It employs about four million workers, mostly women.

The harsh and often unsafe working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment industry gained global attention after the collapse of an eight-story factory killed more than 1,100 people in April. The sector has also experienced numerous fires, including a November 2012 fire that killed 112 workers.

Authorities in Bangladesh and global clothing companies have pledged to improve safety standards.

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