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Dhaka Tribune

RMG owners: Even good factories vandalized for publicity

Over the past few days, demonstrators have vandalized factories that pay fair wages

Update : 15 Jan 2019, 10:54 AM

Several ready-made garment (RMG) factories, that comply with international regulations, pay their workers fair wages on time, and provide other benefits, have been vandalized in the past few days.

Despite giving their workers yearly increments, these factories were attacked during the ongoing RMG workers’ demonstrations, much to the shock of RMG factory owners.

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, many owners claimed that these model RMG factories were attacked and vandalized to give momentum to the workers’ movement and draw more publicity.

The owners furthered that the workers took to the streets in a movement, and vandalized vehicles and factories. As there is no publicity about the vandalism brought upon  lesser-known factories, the demonstrators are targeting successful factories with a good reputation.

Also Read- Apparel businesses bleed as labour movement turns violent

According to sources, demonstrators vandalized a number of well-known factories over the past few days, including those owned by Hamim Group, Envoy Group, and Palmal Group. 

Factories owned by incumbent and former leaders of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industries (FBCCI) and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) have also come under attack during this time.

Hamim Group is owned by former FBCCI president AK Azad; while Envoy Group is owned by the ex-president of BGMEA and lawmaker Abdus Salam Murshedy. 

Factories owned by new Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, and incumbent BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman, have also been vandalized.

‘More media attention'

Addressing the issue, RMG factory owner Abdus Salam Murshedy said: “The above-mentioned factories were recently attacked despite having a good wage structure and working environment. 

“They are being targeted because of their proximity to Dhaka, for the sole purpose of drawing more media attention. Factories owned by notable personalities or senior government officials generate good publicity when attacked.”

He added that this is the reason that good factories are being attacked instead of those not paying fair wages on time.

Discussing the practices of his RMG factories, Abdus Salam said: “Workers from my factories have never launched a movement, and never engaged in vandalism, because they have no reason to do this.

“My workers get their wages and increment on time, along with other benefits. Factories with a good reputation are being attacked and vandalized by workers from other factories. Sometimes, culprits with no ties to these factories join the perpetrators.”

Also Read- Despite pay raise, RMG workers continue demo in Ashulia

Meanwhile, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, who is also a RMG factory owner, said: “Workers from other factories are preventing my employees from working in my factory by using force and intimidation. They are also vandalizing the factories.

“I could have asked the police to intervene, but I am a minister, so I refrained from taking any action against these culprits.”

Both Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi and State Minister for Labour and Employment Munnuzan Sufian have said a certain quarter has infiltrated the RMG workers’ movement, as it is not possible for workers to damage their own factories. 

Adding that the state will not sit by and let this anarchy continue, they said a number of law enforcement and intelligence agencies are working to identify the true masterminds behind the recent attacks on RMG factories.

The matter was also confirmed by a number of sources at the Home Ministry.

On November 25, the government published a gazette notification setting Tk8,000 as the minimum wage of garment workers.

A Grade-7 worker will get Tk4,100 in basic salary along with: Tk2,050 for house rent, Tk600 for medical purposes, Tk350 for transport, and Tk950 as a food subsidy.

A trainee/apprentice worker will receive a total of Tk5,975 per month.

On January 13, the government announced a revised wage structure for the RMG sector, with a slight increase to both basic and gross wages in six of the seven grades, in response to eight days of workers’ demonstrations.

The increment ranges from a meager Tk15 to Tk747, effective from December last year and to be adjusted from February.

Worker wages were last raised in 2013.

Bangladesh is the largest exporter of RMG products, after China. The sector employs an estimated 40 million workers, mostly women, and contributes to more than 80 percent of Bangladesh's export earnings.

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