SAVAR, Bangladesh – Textile workers demanding better pay and working conditions went on a rampage Monday at an industrial zone near the Bangladeshi capital, setting fire to two factories and several buses, police and witnesses said.
At least 100 people, including several police, were hurt when factory guards and riot police intervened to disperse the stick-wielding protesters at Savar, an industrial town near Dhaka, Nazmul Huda, a local reporter told The Associated Press by telephone from the scene.
The protesting workers also damaged several buses and cars after barricading a major highway to the capital, and ransacked dozens of smaller factories, police officer Jamiruddin Sheikh said.
The workers started demonstrating after authorities failed to meet their demands, which include higher wages and benefits, a six-day work week and a stop to forced overtime, Belayet Hossain, a labor leader, said.
Workers are often forced to work seven days a week or late into the night to meet production deadlines, Hossain added.
The rioting apparently started when authorities at some factories tried to stop their workers from joining the unscheduled protest.
Some workers also alleged that the protesters attacked their factories and beat them up for refusing to join in the demonstration, worker Lailee Begum said.
Textile factory owners, meanwhile, demonstrated in downtown Dhaka to protest Monday's incident and demand better security for their factories.
The owners blamed a motivated section of workers for instigating the violence, and urged authorities to investigate the attack on the factories.
Several factories that mostly make garments for export were declared shut down following the rioting, and extra police were deployed at the park.
Bangladesh has about 2,500 garment factories employing about 1.8 million workers, mostly women.
The impoverished country earns about US$6 billion each year from exports in textiles, mainly to the United States and Europe, according to Bangladesh's Export Promotion Bureau.