• Wednesday, Dec 02, 2020
  • Last Update : 01:17 pm

RMG workers' protests turn violent in Gazipur, 8 injured

rmg worker protest gazpur
Agitated readymade garment (RMG) workers clash with police in Gazipur during protest demanding unpaid wages on Monday, April 27, 2020 Dhaka Tribune

Protests also in Savar, Narayanganj, and Chittagong over closed factories and inadequate safety measures in others

At least eight people including a police official were injured on Monday after a clash erupted between police and agitated readymade garment (RMG) workers in Gazipur over unpaid workers' wages.

Protests also continued in other parts of the country including Savar, Narayanganj, and Chittagong, where workers demanded reopening of closed factories, payment of their arrears, and provision of adequate safety measures at reopened factories.

Unrest in Gazipur began on Monday after workers of Stylish Garments Ltd in Bhogra demanded that the owners reopen the factory after they suspended production on April 1.

Workers of the factory said at least 30 workers and 48 other staff were yet to receive their wages for February and March. 

They also alleged the owners were keeping the factory open for minimal production. 

When the workers went to demand their wages in the morning, the factory authorities again shut down the factory, further agitating workers who took to the streets.

They blocked the nearby Dhaka-Mymensingh highway, demanding immediate payment of their arrears.

Workers of nearby Valmont Fashion, Crown Fashion, and Techno Fiber Fashion, left their workplaces and joined the protesting workers soon after.

They proceeded to hurl bricks at their respective factories, and also set fire to three motorcycles and eight bicycles.

When law enforcement arrived and tried to calm them down, the workers hurled bricks at them as well, resulting in a chase and counter-chase.

RMG workers protest in Gazipur on April 27, 2020 | Dhaka TribuneEight people, including a police official, were injured in the skirmish.

Jalal Uddin, additional superintendent of Gazipur Industrial Police, said police had to fire at least 25 rubber bullets to disperse the agitating workers.

In Savar, workers of four apparel factories abstained from work after they found safety measures lacking, posing a risk of getting infected with coronavirus.

The workers belonged to Sharmin Group and Ha-Meem Group in Narsinghpur of Ashulia, Anjuman Apparels in the Unique area, and Next Collection in Jamgara.

Several workers alleged owners merely kept masks and hand washing facilities in their respective factories, just to show they were complying with government directives required to reopen a factory.

Meanwhile, workers of Sigma Fashion in Ashulia and KL Design in Savar demonstrated in front of their factories, demanding the owners withdraw the layoff and reinstate workers who lost their jobs.

SP of Ashulia Industrial Police-1, Jaane Alam, said the workers did not file any complaints against the factory owners regarding lack of safety measures. 

In Narayanganj, allegations of assaulting apparel workers were raised against a factory owner on Monday.

Workers of Advance Flexipack Industries Ltd at Fatullah in Narayanganj said at least 15-20 workers were reportedly injured when protesting against the forced layoff of 180 of their colleagues.

Protesting in front of the factory, they said some miscreants ambushed them and assaulted them on the owner’s orders.

Workers demand factory reopening in Chittagong

Several hundred readymade garment workers staged a demonstration for reopening their factory in Chittagong, on Monday.

According to the Industrial Police, some hundred apparel workers of Annex Fashion Ltd owned by Md Shamshul Alam demonstrated in front of their workplace for two hours from 11:30 am, demanding reopening of the factory.

On information, the Industrial Police rushed to the spot and tried to calm the agitating workers.

Uttam Kumar Paul, Chittagong Superintendent of Industrial Police, said the agitating workers returned home peacefully after the factory authorities agreed to reopen the factory tomorrow (Tuesday).

Workers confused about factory reopenings

There was confusion among workers about the reopening of factories, which created the chaotic situation. Some workers at Savar and Ashulia saw that other factories opened but their ones remain closed, which scared them about their jobs,” Sirajul Islam Rony, president of the Bangladesh National Garment Workers Employees League, told Dhaka Tribune.

Workers went wild and staged demonstrations demanding the opening of factories or to let them know the specific date of reopening, said Rony.

Some factory owners sacked workers in the name of layoff and their workers demonstrated for reinstatement of their jobs, said the trade union leader.

"I think there was a lack of coordination between government authorities and garment owners. Both should have informed workers clearly about the opening date to remove confusion," he added.

From April 26, the government formed a task force allowing the reopening of factories zone wise in phases.

"On top of that, some factory owners have still not paid wages for the month of March, which is another reason for the unrest," said Rony.

“Workers of Stylish Garments Ltd located in Bhogra of Gazipur blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway as its management did not declare the date of the factory's reopening but they (workers) wanted to know the exact opening date,” a BGMEA leader told Dhaka Tribune, seeking anonymity.

"Through the BGMEA, we are talking with the owner and trying to learn why he did not tell the workers about the reopening date issue," said the leader, also adding that necessary steps would be taken to resolve the issue.

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