The United States has condemned recent violence against workers in Bangladesh protesting over the minimum wage.
It also condemned the criminalisation of legitimate worker and trade union activities in a statement issued by Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the Department of State.
Miller said they were saddened by the deaths of workers Rasel Howlader and Imran Hossian in the violence. Rasel died in clashes with police while Imran’s body was found inside a factory after an arson attack by protesters.
“We are also concerned about the ongoing repression of workers and trade unionists. We call on the government of Bangladesh to protect workers’ right to peaceful protest and investigate allegations of false criminal charges against workers and labour leaders,” Miller said.
“We commend the members of the private sector who have endorsed union proposals for a reasonable wage increase. The United States urges the tripartite process to revisit the minimum wage decision to ensure that it addresses the growing economic pressures faced by workers and their families.
“Governments must ensure workers are able to exercise their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining without fear of violence, reprisal, or intimidation. Through our work in Bangladesh and globally, we are firmly committed to advancing these fundamental human rights,” the State Department said.
Retailers in the US and the European Union are top buyers of Bangladeshi readymade garments. The apparel sector contributes to more than 80 percent of the country’s total exports.
The Western buyers took measures to help Bangladesh improve workplace safety for workers after the disastrous Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen Fashions fire over a decade ago.
Amid worker unrest for a pay rise, Bangladesh’s exports fell, according to latest data.
Although the government raised the minimum wage for garment factory workers by 56 percent to Tk 12,500 on Monday, several groups continued protests for more.
A female worker died in violence during the protests on Tuesday.