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Strikes at 50 Factories and One Port in Bangladesh Hamper Garment Supply Chain

Conditions in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment sector are growing strained this week as factory and port workers have taken to striking over wages and, in some cases, goods movement has been stalled.

Workers at the country’s Benapole land port—which processes much of incoming inputs for garment factories, plus garments for export—have been on strike for at least three days over five months of outstanding wages, according to the Dhaka Tribune.

Importers have already alluded to substantial losses as “hundreds” of shipments are stuck at the port, as port workers are abstaining from loading and unloading the goods until they’re paid, which they haven’t been since July thanks to a contract dispute between the Bangladesh Land Port Authority and SIS, which employs the workers.

Separately, though also occurring over the last three days, as many as 50 garment factories have been shuttered over fears of unrest.

Though a 51 percent wage increase for the ready-made garment sector that would see workers’ monthly wages reach 8,000 taka ($95), was set to take effect in December, workers are demonstrating as the new pay hasn’t been implemented, according to The Daily Star.

The upcoming wage increase was agreed upon in September and marks the first time rates were raised since 2013, when the current 5,300 taka ($63) monthly wage was set.

Twenty-five of the shuttered factories are reportedly in the Ashulia region, and the other 25 are in Gazipur.

Highlighting an emergency press conference that was called to address the situation, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said on its Facebook page Wednesday that some in the industry are trying to cause confusion among workers and create an unstable situation in the industry.

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“Workers’ demonstration at this moment is not logical as the adjustment of the new wage structure has not been made yet. They are demonstrating based on rumors only,” The Daily Star reported BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman as saying at the press conference.

Rahman suspects certain vested parties are looking to rile workers up ahead of the country’s upcoming national election, and has implored the government to take action against the instigators disrupting the garment supply chain there.

“The instigators have been threatening workers about going to the workplaces,” The Daily Star reported Rahman as saying. “So far no major untoward incident like vandalism has taken place.”

However, absent workers means halted production and it’s already causing problems for the industry. For now, factory owners are imploring workers to return to their posts on promises that they’ll be ready to pay the new wage rate next month.

AK Azad, managing director of Ha-Meem Group, whose workers have remained absent amid the strike told The Daily Star, “I asked workers to continue the work as the management has been working on adjusting the grade and salary of the workers.”