The Bangladeshi textile industry’s main trade body has closed down hundreds of the country’s garment factories indefinitely.
As AFP reports, the closure follows Bangladesh’s worst-ever industrial accident, a building collapse which killed more than 1,100 textile workers.
The tragedy occurred at the Rana Plaza complex on the outskirts of Dhaka. The factory closure applies to the nearby Ashulia industrial zone, an area which has about 500 factories which produce clothing for many Western retailers such as Walmart, H&M, Tesco and Carrefour.
Shahidullah Azim, of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, says the decision was made "to ensure the security of our factories".
According to local police chief Badrul Alam, workers in 80 per cent of the factories had walked out earlier in the day to demand an increase in salaries.
They also demanded that the owner of the Rana Plaza, who is among several people arrested over the fatal collapse, be executed.
AFP reports that the Bangladeshi Government has responded to the demands and has promised to increase the minimum wage for more than three million of the country's garment workers.
Textile minister Abdul Latif Siddique says a panel has been set up to raise the minimum wage for clothing workers.
The mostly female workers in Bangladesh’s garment industry earn as little as $37 a month. Their minimum wage was last raised, by 80 per cent, in November 2010.
Given that the textile industry generates 80 per cent of Bangladesh's $US24 billion annual exports and employs 4 million people, the government is desperate to keep the industry alive and has pleaded with Western retailers not to pull out of Bangladesh.