Protesting Workers Driven off Highway
Tuesday, 03 August 2010

The police have clubbed and tear-gassed thousands of apparel workers off the Dhaka-Narayanganj link road, who had come out on the streets from Kathherpool, Kutubail, Ramarbagh, Shibu Market and Fatulla Post Office Road areas in Narayanganj to protest the minimum pay scales.

At least 20, including police officials, were injured in the sporadic clashes that occurred at Kathherpool and surrounding areas on Monday morning.

The angry workers blocked the Dhaka-Narayanganj link road in Shibu Market area at around 11am and the old Dhaka-Narayanganj highway at around 12:30pm snapping road communications with the capital.

However, police assault on the protestors saw the roads open to traffic at around 2pm.

Workers from a number of factories in Fatulla's Katherpul and surrounding areas started their protests in the morning demanding a raise in the minimum wage to Tk 5,000 and the implementation of the pay scales from Aug 1.

They also demanded the release of Garments Trade Union Centre lawyer Mantu Ghosh and protested the alleged attack on them by the police and the "hired goons" of factory owners on Sunday.

Production stopped at most of the factories in the industrial zone at the time.

Fatulla Model Police Station chief Jibon Kanti Sarker said that angry workers attacked the police and rained brick bats on them from rooftops in the area. Police tried to disperse the workers blocking the streets. Attempts are being made to bring the situation under control.

Witnesses and police sources said that at around 10 thousand workers of Pall-mall, Microfiber, Liberty, Mitsuwear and Cadtrex garment factories, all located in the city's Katherpul area, came to the factories in the morning.

However, they did not start work and started demonstrating inside their factories.

The police took up positions at the factory gates but were pelted with brickbats from the roof. At around 10.30am thousands of the workers took to the streets.

At the time, the workers and police clashed a number of times as the police tried to stop them.

At one point, the protesters succeeded in surrounding the police and the law enforcers were forced to draw back in self-defence.

Agitating workers blocked the Dhaka-Narayanganj link road at Fatulla's Shibpur market area, around 11am, halting traffic.

The police clubbed the demonstrators a number of times but failed to force them of the link road.

Finally, around 2.30pm, police fired tear gas grenades and baton-charged the workers and managed to get them of the main streets. However, the workers have taken positions in the alleys.

On 12.30pm, workers of Hamid Fashions laid siege on the old Dhaka-Narayanganj highway near Fatulla Post Office. At the same time, they attacked and vandalised around 50 residences, shops and two RMG factories on the post office road.

The police fired 20 rounds of tear gas grenades but failed to bring the situation under control.

Jibon Kanti Sarker, chief of the Fatulla Model Police Station, confirmed bdnews24.com of the workers' protests and said, "The police baton-charged the demonstrators a number of times but failed to force them off the link road."

Sarkar said, "Attempts are being made to bring the situation under control."

On Sunday, at least 50 people including three policemen were injured in a clash between readymade garment workers with the locals and law enforcers.

Most of the garment factories remained closed with additional police forces deployed in the area to avert any unwarranted situation. Personnel from the elite force Rapid Action Battalion were also patrolling in the areas.

On Friday,the family of advocate Mantu Ghosh, Narayanganj unit president of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) alleged that the advisor of the CPB-backed Garments Trade Union Centre had been detained by the authorities.

It claimed that some armed people in plainclothes, introducing themselves as members of Dhaka police's Detective Branch, detained him from his residence at Palpara at about 3am on Friday.

Advocate Mahbubur Rahman Ismail, president of the Narayanganj unit of the Bangladesh Socialist Party (SPB) and also of the Bangladesh Textile Garment Workers' Federation, said some armed people had raided his residence in Galachipa and also the party's city headquarters.

On Sunday evening, in a tripartite meeting between labour representatives, garment factory owners and the government, the labour leaders reneged on their rigid stance, accepting Tk 3,000 as minimum wage.

Source: bdnews24.com

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