Moreover, those who are still working at the factories, on the outskirts of the capital, accuse their employers of forcing them to work extra hours without any overtime.
Since the labour unrest, at least 1,600 workers of a readymade garment factory lost their jobs. Around 1,500 unnamed sacked workers were also sued in separate cases filed for “inciting” the unrest, leaving most of them in fear of arrest at anytime.
Jewel is one of them and was temporarily suspended as a sewing operator of IDS Group on December 26 without any reason.
With a Tk7,099 monthly salary, Jewel used to work in the factory along with his wife, who is still continuing with her job there.
A disappointed Jewel said: “After the factory reopened, I went to work. But, I found my photo, name and address on the list of sacked employees.
“The suspension shocked me so much since it was done without any explanation. When I talked to our admin officer, he said there was no chance for me to get back my job here, and not even in Ashulia in any way.”
Claiming innocence, Jewel said that he may get arrested if he looked for a job in the area since many most of his ex-colleagues were sued.
Like him, a sacked female garment worker of another factory, Asma, expressed her grief, saying: “I was in sick-leave during the unrest and was not even involved in it. Despite the fact, I was dismissed.”
Meanwhile, an employee of IDS Group said they were working extra hours since their authorities are mounting pressures on them.
The factory authorities were also threatening the workers with arrest if the latter do not do additional work, the employee claimed, adding, even some factories have doubled the workload.
Admitting the situation, Rafiqul Islam Pathik, a labour leader, said: “Arrest warrants were sent to the respective police stations at the home districts of the accused, with raids continuing throughout Ashulia.”
Thirty workers and labour leaders were arrested and some of them were put on remand, he said.
Crackdown on labour leaders, right activists
Crackdown on the labour leaders and labour rights activists for their alleged link to the recent unrest in the area is going on as well.
On December 22, police booked the president of Garment Workers’ Unity Forum, Moshrefa Mishu, from Topkhana Road, hours before she was supposed to attend a press conference over the situation.
Released eight hours later, Mishu said: “I think, they are trying to stop us. This is dictatorship and also against labour and human rights.”
She alleged that another three labour leaders were also detained in Dhaka and kept in police custody on December 29 for circulating leaflets related to the unrest.
Letter to NHRC chief
Amid the situation, the central committee of Garments Sramik Adhikar Andolan, a platform of 12 labour rights organisations, yesterday wrote to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), seeking its interference to help resolve the crisis.
In the letter that described the situation as a gross violation of human rights, eight points were placed.
NHRC Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said: “We will go through it and arrange a tripartite meeting engaging the government, garment owners, and labourers and labour activists.”
Workers started demonstrating on December 11 at Ashulia, demanding an increase in minimum wage to Tk16,000 from Tk5,300. The following day the protest was joined by workers from around 50 more adjacent factories.
Following the situation, the factories at Ashulia were closed on December 20 and reopened after a five-day break.