Clashes in Savar and Gazipur leave over 50 people injured
Despite government assurance of meeting their demands regarding the pay structure, workers of numerous readymade garment (RMG) factories in Dhaka city, Savar, Ashulia and Gazipur abstained from work, demonstrated by blockading roads and clashed with police on Wednesday for the fourth consecutive day.
While the protests in Dhaka were comparatively peaceful, violent confrontations between morning and afternoon in the three other areas left more than 50 people injured, including workers, policemen and journalists.
While police did manage to disperse the agitated workers, authorities decided to deploy Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) at the end in different areas of Savar and Gazipur to bring the situation under control.
Owners were forced to close 12 RMG factories — three in Savar and nine in Ashulia —for the day following the unrest, said Superintendent of Police (SP) Sana Saminur Rahman, director of Ashulia-based Industrial Police 1 unit.
On the other hand, the Standard Group shut down three of its factories in Savar indefinitely, the company’s General Manager Abdul Razzak confirmed to the Dhaka Tribune.
Over 100 factories were also closed for the day in different areas of Gazipur during the clashes to avoid further escalation.
RMG workers have been demonstrating in Savar, Gazipur and different parts of Dhaka city for the last three days — protesting the discrepancies in their newly-announced wage structure.
On Tuesday,a worker named Sumon Mia died from gunshot wounds sustained during a clash at Savar’s Ulail, while clashes between workers and police in different areas of Savar and Gazipur also left over 50 people injured.
Different RMG worker organizations on Wednesday had demanded justice for Sumon in separate protest rallies held in front of the National Press Club.
After a meeting with RMG factory owners and workers on Tuesday evening,the government announced that a 10-member committee would look into the workers’ allegation of discriminations in the pay structure, review it and recommend steps to resolve the issues before January ends.
However, the workers continued their protests on Wednesday calling for immediate steps to address their demands regarding their wages.
30 hurt in Savar
In Savar, at least 30 people were injured in separate clashes and running battles between the RMG workers and police in 12 areas, including Ulail, Genda, Hemayetpur, Kathgora, Narsinghpur and Zirabo, along the Dhaka-Aricha Highway between 8am and 12pm.
Industrial Police SP Saminur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune that police had fired teargas shells and blank rounds, charged batons and used water cannons to disperse the workers, while the protesters retaliated by hurling brickbats.
He confirmed that around 30 people, including policemen, were injured in the clashes.
Later at noon, BGB personnel were deployed to keep the situation under control.
Firoza, an operator of the Al Muslim Group factory at Ulail, said that they began protesting after the general manager fired many workers and had the security guards thrown them out,when they went to him in the morning with their issues relating to the new wage structure.
Her colleague Suranjit said: "The new wage structure says a garment helper will get a raise of Tk3,000, whereas an operator will get a raise of only Tk900.This is absurd and unfair. We want a proper solution to this problem."
Over 20 injured in Gazipur
In Gazipur, at least 20 people, including two journalists, were injured during clashes between workers and police in different areas, including Gazipura, Naojore, Bhogra, Islampur and Boardbazar, between 9am and 11am.
Witnesses said the workers had demonstrated by blockading the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway.Police fired teargas shells and charged baton to disperse them.
Afterwards, the district’s Deputy Commissioner Dewan Md Humayun Kabir said, four BGB platoons were deployed in Tongi, Gazipura, Hotapara, Konabari and Kaliakoir’s Mouchak areas around 11:30am to maintain law and order.
“They [BGB personnel] will be on duty as long as they are needed to keep the situation normal,” he said.
The two injured journalists were identified as Syed Monirul Alam and Rafiqul Islam, Gazipur correspondents of private TV stations Somoy and Channel 24, respectively. Theywere later admitted to a local clinic.
Industrial Police’s Inspector Rafiqul Islam confirmed that police had to resort to charging batons and lobbing teargas shells to disperse the workers and remove their blockade from the highway.
In Dhaka city, however, the RMG workers had rather peacefully demonstrated by blocking a road in Mirpur area on Wednesday.
Workers from a 22-storey factory named Standard Group, had blocked one side of the Kalshi Road demanding changes to their new wage structure and payment of their dues.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Mirpur Division Additional Deputy Commissioner Shahen Shah Mahmud told the Dhaka Tribune that vehicles had moved on the other side of the road while the workers staged their protest peacefully.
“However, police were deployed in the area to prevent untoward situations.”
Justice for Sumon demanded
Meanwhile, leftist organization Ganasanghati Andolan’s Chief Coordinator Zonayed Saki and Executive Coordinator Abul Hasan Rubel condemned the death of garment worker Sumon Mia from “police firing.”
“The autocratic government must take responsibility for Sumon’s death,” they said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
Women’s rights organization Naripokkho on Wednesday also issued a statement, expressing frustration and concern over Sumon’s death and the ongoing “police attacks on garment workers, cases and arrests” over the past few days.
The organization extended its full support to the workers and also urged the government and industry leaders to meet the workers demands following proper discussions.