In Bangladesh, working people continued to demand their rights despite being subjected to police brutality and worker intimidation. The country is one of several that exemplified the trend of deploying violence to silence workers.

Silencing the age of anger

In 2023, workers were the first to suffer from the economic crisis, high inflation and staggering prices. Many united in collective actions to call for higher wages and a fairer redistribution of profits. However, their protests were often suppressed by the authorities, who resorted to excessive brutality to crack down on strikers or used illegal orders to prevent workers from gathering.

Silencing the age of anger


Silencing the age of anger

In Johannesburg, workers from the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) were shot by police with rubber bullets during a protest at Makro in Germiston, on 25 November 2022.

The incident happened after the union embarked on a nationwide strike in demand of an across-the-board wage increase. The union’s spokesperson, Sithembile Tshwete, also condemned the violence meted out to at least 20 of its members, who suffered injuries inflicted by police.

Silencing the age of anger

In March 2022, the Coalition of Lesotho Public Employees (COLEPE) wished to organise a demonstration demanding salary increases for public employees. However, the groups were denied a demonstration permit by the Maseru Central Police, who based their decision on an amendment brought in during the pandemic forbidding demonstrations due to public health concerns. COLEPE argued that Covid-19 restrictions had been lifted, as of the 25 January 2022. Further, it noted that Maseru City Council had already granted the permit only for the police department to later deny it. COLEPE intended to fight the police decision in court, but the case was postponed due to a power failure.


Silencing the age of anger

The workers of the container and coal terminals, at the Port of Itaguaí of the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN) in Brazil, and union leaders who were fighting for salary adjustment and better working conditions, were surprised by the arrival of police forces on 31 May 2022, who made threats and prevented them from striking. The police, who had been called by CSN’s management, even prevented the leadership team of the Union of Port Workers of Rio de Janeiro and the workers’ commission from talking to the workers at the entrance of the port.

Silencing the age of anger

In April 2022, workers and pensioners affiliated with the Telephone Operators Union of the Mexican Republic (STRM) declared their first strike in 37 years, to demand that state telephone operator, Telmex, comply with the collective agreement for the period 2022-2024. Under the agreement, Telmex is bound to providing fair salary increases and adequate job creation within the company to ensure the delivery of goods and services in the country.

On 22 June 2022, after several extensions of the strike and the intervention of the Ministry of Labour, the STRM reached an agreement with the company on a salary increase, despite the raise being below that demanded by workers. The STRM further agreed to leave the other claims pending. Due to the company’s non-compliance with the agreement, on 21 July, workers went on strike for 27 hours. The collective action was suspended when a Tripartite Technical Board was formed, made up of the General Secretary of the STRM, the General Director of Telmex, and the Ministry of Labour.

In September 2022, the STRM denounced the company’s persistent refusal to engage in good-faith bargaining. Telmex did not deliver a workable proposal to resolve the conflict and further decided to outsource some of the jobs promised to contractor companies, depriving these workers outside of the benefits of the collective agreement.


Silencing the age of anger

In Pakistan, teachers’ protests during a long-running dispute over pay and job stability were met with police violence and mass arrests.

Riot police used water cannon and batons to attack peaceful demonstrations by government schoolteachers on 30 May and 1 June 2022 in Karachi. Over 250 protesters were arrested.

Violence was also used against protesting teachers on 18 July. A rally meant to start at the Karachi Press Club and end at the Sindh Chief Minister’s house was forcibly dispersed by police who beat and arrested demonstrators.

The teachers had been holding a sit-in outside the Karachi Press Club for several days, calling for regularisation and assured annual increments in their salary. They decided to march to the Chief Minister’s house after a lack of response from the provincial government.

Similar incidents were repeated in September and October. In September, authorities manhandled over 100 protestors on their way to the Sindh Assembly and Chief Minister’s house to demand the regularisation of their jobs. On 8 October, the police used tear gas and batons against primary school teachers, who were staging a peaceful protest outside the provincial assembly. More than a dozen were injured and sent to hospitals, and more than 80 were arrested.

Silencing the age of anger

On 1 September 2022, police suspended production at the Shoe Premier factory 2 in the Takeo province of Cambodia, ordering the Federation of Free Trade Unions of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC) to remove campaign postings from the union’s Facebook page.

Police officers intimidated the local FTUWKC president Sao Thoeurn, demanding that she sign an agreement on not posting anything that “can lead to problematic issues that affect society”.

With the inflation rate surging to 6.5 per cent in the first half of 2022, Cambodian unions were calling on the government to increase the minimum wage in the country’s textile and garment sector from US$194 to US$215.

Silencing the age of anger

On 4 June 2022, Dhaka police in Bangladesh opened fire with gunshots and tear gas, as well as using batons, against protesting garment workers at Mirpur and Azampur, leaving many workers injured. Thousands of factory workers from Chaity Garment, Intraco Fashion, Intraco Design, MBM Garment, Vision Garment, IDS Group, Kolka Garment and Dmox blocked roads in Dhaka demanding higher wages to meet the rising costs of living. Their last pay increase was in 2018.

In Bangladesh, working people continued to demand their rights despite being subjected to police brutality and worker intimidation. The country is one of several that exemplified the trend of deploying violence to silence workers.Rehman Asad / NurPhoto via AFP