“We want our wages!” and “Break the black hands of the owners!” shouted thousands of garment workers as they protested in Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 13. Actions started April 12 and continued for days. They hit all the major production centers in and around Dhaka and parts of the port city of Chittagong.
“We don’t have any choice. We are starving,” Sajedul Islam, one of the workers, told Agence France-Presse. “If we stay at home, we may save ourselves from the virus. But who will save us from starvation?”
In taking to the streets workers are defying government-imposed isolation orders. The rulers’ lockdown is set to last until April 25, maybe further.
When factories started closing after the lockdown was instituted March 26, many workers were sent home without receiving wages for that month. Some say they haven’t been paid for several months.
“These workers won’t get jobs anywhere else,” said Kalpona Akter, from the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity. “The factories must take them back and the government needs to ensure this.”
As capitalist bosses in Europe and North America shut down big swaths of their economies, retail bosses rushed to cancel or postpone orders from Bangladesh and elsewhere. Thousands of factories have closed. Four million workers risk losing their livelihoods.