The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Workers Struggle for Higher Wages

Nov 13, 2023

This article is translated from the November 10 issue #2884 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Tens of thousands of textile workers have struck in Dhaka and other industrial cities in Bangladesh since the end of October. They demand wages equivalent to 202 dollars per month to cope with inflation. Currently, pay stagnates at 75 dollars per month.

Anger runs high among textile workers. Since November 1 their demonstrations, roadblocks, and stone throwing at factories have increased. Workers even set four factories on fire. Faced with strikers’ determination, bosses at 600 companies called in repressive forces and then decided to shutter their factories for a week. But when they reopened on November 4, workers’ anger remained intact. Repression became even more violent. Several workers have been killed since the start of the strike.

Bangladesh is the world’s second largest exporter of textiles, after China. Its approximately 3,500 factories employ four million workers, mostly women. They supply Western brands like Hugo Boss, Gap, H&M, Zara, Levi’s, and Aldi. Manufacturers settled in Bangladesh as in other poor countries because ferocious exploitation of workers allows them to accumulate very handsome profits. These firms are aware of the grueling working conditions—up to 16 hours a day—and the insane pace of work. They also know that many factories can be death traps for their workers due to fires or building collapses, as at Rana Plaza in April 2013.

All the while taking advantage of the low pay, several major brands like Adidas and Puma wrote to the country’s prime minister at the beginning of November to “observe” that wages have not been increased since 2019 while inflation has shot up. It’s curious how workers’ anger can open exploiters’ eyes when they fear for their property!

For now, the manufacturers’ association—which includes some bosses who are also government officials—only proposes a 25% rise in wages, instead of the triple pay workers demand. But workers haven’t been afraid to confront their exploiters in the past, and they haven’t said their last word!