Workers’ violence rocks RMG centres for 4th day in a row
The country’s key apparel industry areas in Dhaka and on the outskirts were jolted again by agitated workers Monday, the fourth consecutive day, hours after a section of labour leaders accepted the latest wage structure urging the protestors to join their workplaces instead of engaging themselves in street violence.
The government in the face of the ongoing labour unrest sat in an emergency meeting with factory owners and union leaders at BGMEA headquarters Sunday where the workers’ leaders agreed to accept the new wages.
Some major unions have accepted the 80 per cent increase, but a number of smaller unions have rejected the deal, warning that they would not accept anything below Tk 5,000 triggering a fresh bout of violence in the garments-related industrial areas.
However, labour linister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain termed Monday’s violence as an isolated incident, saying that trouble may have erupted at one or two factories out of the country’s 4,700 garments (RMG) factories.
The minister said they had settled the issue Sunday night after discussion with the union leaders who accepted the new salary-structure.
“Most of the garment workers did not know about the late night decision. I hope the situation will become normal from tomorrow (Tuesday),” the labour minister told reporters at a function at BGMEA head office.
Meanwhile, leaders of different garment workers’ forums yesterday demanded the immediate release of their leaders as well as raising their minimum monthly wages to Tk 5,000.
They placed their demands at a press conference in Dhaka last afternoon.
On the day, tens of thousands of violent workers blockaded highways, ransacked dozens of factories, damaged a number of vehicles and clashed with police in Ashulia, Savar and Fatulla industrial areas demanding cancellation of the pay scale as they think the ‘wage hike’ would not change their fortune.
Police charged batons, fired rubber bullets, lobbed teargas shells and used water cannons to disperse the protestors from the highways as the blockades seriously disrupted traffic movement on Dhaka-Tangail, Dhaka-Narayanganj and Dhaka-Manikganj highways for hours.
Assistant sub-inspector of Fatulla police station Mizanur Rahman told the FE that nearly 20,000 workers of Pall-mall, Microfiber, Liberty, Mitsuwear, Metro, Radical and Cadtrex factories demonstrated in Kathherpool, Kutubail, Ramarbagh, Shibu Market and Fatulla Post Office Road areas at about 9am to protest the pay structure .
“Several policemen were injured in the clash,” he said, adding most of the apparel units in the violence-stricken area suspended production for the day fearing further trouble.
Witnesses said work started normally at the Ashulia Industrial Zone with most workers joining work on time. However, some 3,500 workers of Iris Fashions located at Jirabo skipped work and started demonstrating since morning outside the factory.
They also vandalised nearby Arunima Sportswear Ltd of Rising Group. A top official of Arunima Sports said suddenly the factory was attacked by outsiders minutes after workers joined work as usual at the factory.
Later, workers of dozens of other factories joined the agitation, leading to a series of chases and counter-chases between police and workers that left at least 40 people injured.
Owners said more than twelve factories of the area, including Iris Fashions, declared their units closed for the day.
Meanwhile, workers of HR Textiles, a concern of Pride Group, in Ulail bus stand on the Dhaka-Aricha Highway took to the streets and clashed with police, leaving at least 25 people hurt.
The violent protests were taking place in response to the government’s latest announcement that the minimum monthly wages for readymade garments (RMG) workers would rise by 80 per cent to 3,000 taka (43 dollars) from 1,662 taka (28 dollars).
BGMEA sought more security for the factories and hoped the situation would be normal from Tuesday as the union leaders accepted the wage hike.
RMG accessories’ makers express concern over violence in sector
Makers of garment accessories Monday expressed grave concern over fast deterioration of law and order and violence in the readymade garment (RMG) sector over wage hike.
Bangladesh Corrugated Carton and Accessories Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BCCAMEA) urged the concerned authorities to take stern action immediately against those directly or indirectly involved in subversive activities.
The association leaders urged the RMG workers to shun vandalism in the name of wage hike as a large number of garment factories have already closed down their units.
The concern was expressed in the backdrop of the ongoing workers’ unrest in the RMG units despite the fact that the government last week announced new wage structure, increasing wages of the country’s three million RMG workers to 3,000 taka per month, up by 80 per cent from the existing 1662.50 taka.
It said the daily production and exports have been severely affected by the violence and expressed fear that the sector might lose foreign market unless the situation was improved.
The BCCAMEA press release said garment and accessories are correlated and it mainly depends on the smooth functioning of the RMG sector. If the country’s largest foreign currency earning sector is affected then other sectors, including accessories, will not be far away from the negative impact.