Desperate workers surge on streets risking themselves of being infected
Hundreds of desperate apparel factory workers took to the streets on Monday in Dhaka’s Savar, Gazipur and Narayanganj on Monday to pile pressure on owners to clear due salaries.
In Savar, the industrial suburb on the outskirts of capital Dhaka, several hundred workers of three factories blocked the Singair-Hemayetpur Road for the straight second day.
Workers of Rakeb Apparels Washing and Packaging Industry Ltd claimed that they were not being paid for months.
According to them, the factory management has not been disbursing salaries since January and that when the shutdown amid the Covid-19 ouybreak was announced in March it was closed without clearing the dues.
Agitated workers said they would continue with the demonstration until paid.
The local unit of the Gazipur Industrial Police have brought in additional forces to prevent any untoward situation, said Assistant Superintendent Sana Samiur Rahman.
“Some 3,000 people work in the [three factories]. Some of them haven’t got paid at all for two months. Since most of the workers are not enlisted as voters in this area, they did not get any aid provided by the authorities,” said Rafiqul Islam Sujon, president of Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers’ Federation.
In Gazipur’s Tongi, workers of Alauddin and Sons Private Ltd demonstrated at the BSCIC (Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation) industrial area.
“The management told us salaries for March will be paid on April 9, before changing it to today [Monday]. But now we find a notice that it’s not happening,” says Shyamoli Akhter, who works at the factory.
The workers left after the authorities assured them of clearing salaries by April 16, said Assistant Superintendent Alam of the Industrial Police’s Tongi unit.
In Narayanganj, workers of several factories have been demonstrating since Saturday after a round of protests on April for salaries.
According to them, the factories were closed without paying salaries after the government announced the shutdown to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Sources at top apparel trade bodies — the BGMEA (Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers & Exporters Association) and BKMEA (Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association) said that some 400 factories out of the 1500 have been able to pay salaries.
“Narayanganj is completely locked down. All the banks are closed, which has caused the delay. We have spoken to the authorities so that owners can withdraw funds at least once to pay workers,” Md Morshed Sarwar, vice president of BKMEA said.