About 50,000 garment industry workers held their largest protest so far in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka to demand an increase of more than 1-1/2 times in the minimum wage, police and labor officials said on Saturday.
"Our backs are against the wall, so we don't have any alternative unless we raise our voice strongly," Nazma Akter, president of the United Garments Workers' Federation, which groups 52 garment worker's groups, told the peaceful protest.
"We will not hesitate to do anything to realize our demand."
Bangladesh's $20-billion garment export industry employs roughly 4 million workers who earn about 3,000 taka ($38) a month, or half what Cambodian factory workers now earn. They want a raise to 8,000 taka ($103) per month.
"We are not the object of mercy, the economy moves with our toil," Akter added.
Although the factory owners earlier agreed to a raise of just 20 percent, the workers refused this, calling it "inhuman and humiliating."
The four-hour protest ended at 1200 GMT. "It is the largest gathering of its kind to realize their demand for raising wages," said Dhaka Metropolitan Police Chief Habibur Rahman.
Earlier more than 300 factories in an industrial zone near the capital shut production as workers came out in support of the same demand, blocked a highway and damaged several vehicles.
At least 10,000 workers from different garment factories took to the highway, said Mosharraf Hossain, assistant superintendent of industrial police in Gazipur, 30 kilometers north of the capital.