Still Unpaid, Workers Take Protest to BGMEA
Sunday, 20 September 2009

Hundreds of garment workers demonstrated in front of the BGMEA Bhaban at Kawran Bazar on Saturday, demanding payment of still-due salaries and allowances ahead of Eid, barely days away.

Workers of factories in Savar and Gazipur also erupted in protests as, still owed salaries and bonuses, they remained unpaid just days ahead of Eid.

Employees of Season Sweaters Ltd, in Ashulia, arrived at the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association head office in three trucks at around seven in the evening and continued their agitation for over two hours, police said.

"Our salaries have now been due for two or three months. After an earlier protest, the factory authorities assured us they would settle pay back pay and allowances by Sept 6; this failed to happen," factory worker Al Amin told

He said Saturday's demonstration was sparked when the factory's owners said the workers would not receive their dues after all ahead of the Eid break.

Top Ramna police officials went to the scene, while a huge number of law enforcers were deployed to check any unpleasant situation during the demo.

BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedi told, "It's a very sad incident. We are trying to contact the owner of the factory. He too is giving inconsistent statements. And now, he is not even taking phone calls."

After discussions, the workers received some compensation from BGMEA to tide them over. Murshedi told "Considering humanitarian grounds, a temporary solution has been found. We tried our best to give them some help."

He said BGMEA, the industry's largest trade body, would try to bring a more permanent solution through a meeting with the factory's owners on Sept 30.

"Steps will be taken after discussion on Sept 30."

Asked what steps might be taken against owner Ziaul Amin, the BGMEA president said, "He will most probably get a show-cause notice. After discussion we will decide if any other action should be taken against him."

Savar unrest

Labour unrest had erupted earlier in the day at two Savar garment factories, including Season Sweater Ltd.

Ashulia police chief Monowar Hossain told workers of Season Sweater had protested at Ashulia Police Station, demanding immediate payment of the last three months' salary and Eid bonus.

They also sought cooperation from police in making the owners pay. The workers later went on to demonstrate in front of BGMEA Bhaban.

Savar police officer Abu Taher told workers of Biswas Group of Industries Ltd of Rajfulbaria abstained from work and demonstrated instead for their dues and Eid bonus.

Police went on the spot and try to calm them. Later police managed to communicate with the factory owner.

The situation became normal in the evening as factory authorities paid up the workers' dues.

Gazipur also erupts

Earlier in the day, employees of four garment factories in Gazipur also refused to start work on Saturday and instead demonstrated for dues, including allowances and 15 days' salary for the current month, police said.

Workers at Rita Textile Mill, in Konabari Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation industrial area in Gazipur Sadar, began their agitation at nine in the morning.

The workers called off the demonstration at 1:30pm when factory authorities promised to meet their demands, Mohammad Yusuf Ali, sub-inspector of Konabari Police Post, told

At one point police intervened to stop a fight between sewing machine operators and security guards of the factory, said Ali.

Employees of Stylo Fashions Limited, in Gazipur Sadar upazila, also organised a demonstration demanding payment of their arrears.

The workers shattered a number of windows in the factory building, although they called of the action when the owners promised to clear their back pay, sub-inspector of Hotapara Police Station, Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, told

In a third incident, over 600 employees of garment factory Win Wear Ltd, in the Kolomeshwar area of Gazipur Sadar, withdrew their labour and organised a rally demanding payment of salaries and allowances.

The workers started their action at noon, and only called a halt to their demonstration at 3.45 in the afternoon when factory authorities promised to clear their arrears, said Mollah Shoeb Ali, sub-inspector at Joydevpur Police Station.

Deadlines come and go

Workers unions had earlier given the deadline of Sep 16 (Wednesday) for owners to pay up the dues and bonuses that workers depend on to celebrate Eid with their families.

Workers of at least six garment factories, who had closed their doors without paying salaries and festival bonus to around 1,500 employees, marched towards the prime minister's office last Wednesday, with only one working day to go for payment of their salaries and festival allowances before the long Eid holiday began.

The plight of workers of closed factories ahead of Eid was mentioned in parliament earlier in the week, against the backdrop of protests over late payment of dues and bonuses.

Commerce minister Faruq Khan said his ministry would address the issue, making sure all workers were paid up in time for Eid.

He told parliament last Tuesday, "The owners have assured the government that they will pay the workers all dues ahead of Eid."

"The government has been closely monitoring the situation."

However, Thursday was the last working day before Eid, Saturday was the last banking day, and many factories were yet to pay their workers by Sunday.

There are around 2,010 garments factories in Dhaka and adjacent areas of Narayanganj, Savar, Ashulia, Tongi, employing over one million workers.

Some 80 factories have shut down in recent months due to recession-related troubles, according to authorities.

According to a police intelligence report another 51 factories with "no work orders" were in danger of closing their doors with owners absconding—as they had no way to pay dues before Eid—and their workers most likely to go unpaid.


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