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Factory workers in Dhaka. (Photo:  Tareq Salahuddin)

Bangladesh Police Unleash Rubber Bullets, Teargas on Hunger Striking Workers

Garment workers demanding unpaid wages from notorious factory owner.

Andrea Germanos

Bangladesh police on Thursday stormed a factory where garment workers were on their 10th day of a hunger strike in a demand for unpaid wages.

The police used batons, a water cannon, rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the 400 workers inside the factory as well as the hundreds of other garment workers from nearby factories who had gathered outside in solidarity.

"Police fired tear gas and baton charged us, they forced us out of the factory, where we were staging the hunger strike," Moshrefa Mishu, head of Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee, which represents 15 garment unions, told Agence France-Presse.

Reuters reports that many workers had rejected an offer by Tuba Group to pay some of the back wages this week and "pay the rest of the salaries and a bonus at a later date."

The roughly 1,500 workers who have been on hunger strike since July 28 work for factories that belong to the Tuba Group, which is the parent company that owned the Tazreen factory where in 2012 112 workers died in a notorious fire. The Tuba Group owner, Delwar Hossain, was released from jail on bail this week.

Among the striking workers' demands, Bangladesh's reported, is compensation for the victims of the Tazreen fire.

Following the police crackdown Thursday, the workers have called for a strike "for an indefinite period" across the nation's garment factories.

In December 2012, a month after the devastating Tazreen fire, journalist Michelle Chen wrote that

the charred Tazreen factory represents the extreme end of a long continuum of anti-worker oppression and violence, beginning with multinational brands that build their profit model on cheap overseas labor, to the brutalization of workers who dare stand up for their rights on the job.

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