The police used rubber bullets after demonstrators, some of whom were armed with bamboo sticks, blockaded roads and forced factories at Gazipur, just outside the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, to close for the day.
“The situation is very volatile. Hundreds of thousands of workers have joined the protests. We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them,” M. Asaduzzaman, an officer in the police control room, told AFP.
Mustafizur Rahman, the deputy police chief of Gazipur, said workers had attacked factories, smashed vehicles, burnt tyres on the roads and tried to torch roadside shops on the sidelines of the rally.
“They are demanding the arrest and execution of the owners of the factories and the collapsed building at Savar,” he told AFP.
Nearly 300 people are so far known to have died after an eight-storey building housing five factories collapsed on Wednesday morning at Savar, a town just outside Dhaka. Rescuers however expect the toll to rise sharply.
It is the latest disaster to befall the garment industry in Bangladesh after a fire at a factory making clothing for Walmart and other Western labels in November.
Survivors have said the building developed cracks on Tuesday evening, triggering an evacuation of the roughly 3,000 garment workers employed there, but that they had been ordered back to production lines.
Local television channel Somoy said the protests by workers also spread to several districts in the capital including at Mirpur, home to dozens of garment factories.