Anjli Raval
Financial Times
December 14, 2010

Days of violent protests by Bangladeshi garment workers – who produce clothes for western brands like Marks & Spencer, H&M, Tesco and Walmart – demanding a higher minimum wage peaked on Sunday when at least three people were killed and 250 people were injured in clashes with police.

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Since then, production has resumed in some units of the Dhaka and Chittagong Export Processing Zones, after employees were given assurances that they would reap the full benefits of a new pay scale promised last month. But many have remained closed, with the issue of wages still looming.

Bangladesh’s 2m garment workers are among the lowest-paid textile workers in the world. Their monthly minimum wage was supposed to rise from $23 to $43 by December 1 but not all companies met the deadline.

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The renewed violent labour unrest over higher wages threatens to destabilise an economy reliant on garment exports, which account for 80 per cent of the country’s annual exports.

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