Garment factories are reopening, 5 new cases in Ashulia

RMG workers in a factory
Prothom Alo file photo

The garment factories that were closed down on ‘no work, no wage’ basis as per 13(1) of Bangladesh Labour Act in the face of the workers’ agitation have started to reopen. The factories start resumption of work on Monday and the workers went back to work peacefully.

Over a hundred factories in Gazipur, Ashulia and Mirpur, however, remained shut yesterday. These factories might reopen today, Tuesday and tomorrow, Wednesday.

Meanwhile, five new cases were filed against readymade garment workers in Ashulia on Sunday. A total of 61 named and 3,000-4,000 unnamed persons were sued in these cases filed by the factory authorities.

Dhaka district police’s additional police superintendent (Savar circle) Shahidul Islam confirmed the development to Prothom Alo.

With these latest cases, around 23,000 people were sued in 40 cases in Ashulia and Savar. A total of 95 persons were arrested so far in these cases.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Association (BGMEA) yesterday said the all but three factories in Gazipur’s Kashimpur and Konabari started operation yesterday while around 99 factories in Ashulia and Mirpur remained shut.

The situation in Tongi, Gazipur, Sreepur, Mawna, Mymensingh, Savar, Narayanganj and Chattogram has remained normal.

BGMEA president Faruque Hassan told Prothom Alo last night, “Our workers have come to understand that the wage cannot be increased further now. That’s why they are eager to go back to work peacefully and restart their works. Some factories in Ashulia and most in Gazipur have already reopened. We are discussing to reopen the remaining factories within tomorrow and the day after (today and tomorrow).”

Replying to a query on lawsuits and arrests, Faruque Hassan said, “Currently, we are emphasizing the reopening of factories, and then we will talk to the administration about the cases. We will seek punishment to those who are involved in vandalism and those who were not from the apparel industry but joined the workers’ movement. However, we will request the administration so that no innocent worker faces harassment.”

The government formed the Minimum Wage Board in April to fix workers’ wage. At a meeting of the wage Board on 22 October, representatives of workers proposed a minimum wage at Tk 20,393 while the owners proposed it at Tk 10,400, sparking labour unrest in the following day.

At first, workers demonstrated in Gazipur, but it spread out in Ashulia and Mirpur. The labour unrest left four apparel workers dead. On 7 November, the government fixed TK 12,500 as the minimum wage.

Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) recommended Tk 17,568 as minimum wage.

As workers continued demonstration rejecting the government decision, the owners closed their factories from 8 October.

Thirty-eight apparel factories remained closed in Gazipur’s Konabari and Kashimpur amid labour unrest. All but three factories reopened on Saturday, 11 November.

Visiting the factories on Monday morning, workers were seen joining their workplaces. Additional police forces remained deployed across the districts. Members of Border Guard Bangladesh were seen patrolling on the Dhaka-Tangail highway. No untoward incident was reported throughout the day.

Mosleh Uddin works at an apparel factory in Ambagh, Gazipur. He told Prothom Alo, “Perhaps, all of our needs will not be fulfilled by the increased wage, but we have to adjust.”

Replying to a query on whether workers will receive wages during the brief closure of the factories, BGMEA vice president Shahidullah Azim told Prothom Alo, “It is a matter of the factory authorities and we will not interfere.”