Sweater workers go on rampage

50 hurt as they block road, clash with cops
At least 50 people including an assistant superintendent of police and 14 other policemen were injured as garment workers clashed with law enforcers at Naojore in Gazipur yesterday.

Several thousand workers of Diganta Sweater Factory took to the streets at about 8:30am protesting low pay. They were paid Tk 42 per piece of sweater instead of Tk 45 settled earlier.

Vehicular movement on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway remained suspended for nearly six hours, as the workers put blockade on the motorway and vandalised at least eight vehicles.

They also damaged two covered vans and a bus of the factory, and set fire to a motorbike of an employee.

The clash ensued as police attempted to disperse the agitating workers and clear the road. The two sides got involved in chase and counter chase from 9:30am to 12:00 noon with an hour’s break, and exchanged brickbats.

Protesters beat up Anwar Hossain, assistant sub-inspector of Detective branch of Gazipur police, as he was taking photographs of the clash. They also tried to snatch his pistol but failed, witnesses said.

Assistant Superintendent of Police (sadar circle) Md Akhteruzzaman, Joydevpur Police Station Sub-inspector Rafiqul Islam and Miran Hossain are among the injured, said Abdur Rashid, officer-in-charge of Joydevpur Police Station.

Police put up barricade at Chandna crossing, some two kilometres from the spot, to prevent the agitators from spreading to adjoining areas.

Normalcy returned to the area around noon after local lawmaker AKM Mozammel Haque brokered an agreement between the workers and the authorities.

Haque held a meeting with representatives of the owners and workers on the factory’s main building premises to negotiate a deal between the two sides.

Workers put forward a 10-point demand including announcing Friday as weekly holiday and increasing their salary and other allowances.

Kamaluddin Ahmed, managing director of the factory, admitted that the unrest broke out over low pay.

“We’ve decided to pay the workers Tk 45 per piece [of sweater] as per their demand. In addition, each worker will get Tk 800 to Tk 1,000.”

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