Asia

New Bangladesh panel to raise garment workers' wages

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Media captionGarment worker Reshma was saved 17 days after the Rana Plaza collapsed

Bangladesh has set up a panel to raise the minimum wage for more than three million garment workers, the minister for textiles has said.

The government is under pressure to improve conditions after last month's collapse of a Dhaka garment factory which left more than 1,000 people dead.

A series of disasters has highlighted the problem, leading to protests.

The news came as a survivor pulled from the Rana Plaza 17 days after it collapsed told the BBC of her ordeal.

"I had not imagined I would come out of there alive," Reshma said on Sunday.

Reshma was found in the remains of the second floor of the Rana Plaza on Friday after they heard her crying: "Please save me."

Doctors treating Reshma say she is now being given proper food and has suffered no physical injury, although she is still disoriented and traumatised.

Her rescue was a major event, as crews had gone for two weeks without finding any other survivors.

Death penalty call

Minister for Textiles Abdul Latif Siddique announced the creation of a panel of union representatives and factory owners to raise the minimum wage.

"There is no doubt the salaries will be hiked," he said.

A series of disasters has highlighted the poor working conditions of garment workers, with many staging protests in the streets of Dhaka on Sunday to demand higher wages.

"Up to 30 factories suspended production for the day as tens of thousands of workers refused to work," a Dhaka police chief, Shyamol Kumar Mukharjee told AFP news agency.

Workers are also demanding the death penalty for Mohammad Sohel Rana, the owner of the collapsed Rana Plaza complex.

A number of people have been arrested and charged with causing deaths by negligence, including Mr Rana, his father and several engineers.

Mr Rana is accused of forcing people to work in the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory building even though cracks started to appear in the walls a day before the collapse on 24 April.

Safety concerns

Image caption Garment workers have increased their demands for higher wages since the Rana Plaza collapse

Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world, and some of the clothes produced in the Rana Plaza building were made for Western retailers.

Last Wednesday, the country announced the shut-down of 18 garment factories for safety reasons, amid growing concerns over the issue of industrial safety across the country.

A fire in a garment factory building in another part of the capital last week killed eight people, including its owner, a senior police officer and a local politician.

The cause of the blaze is not yet known, but it began during the night, after the factories had closed for the day, and sent out smoke and gas that suffocated victims as they ran down stairs, officials said.