• Friday, Jun 25, 2021
  • Last Update : 05:24 am

Apparel owners relent to extend holidays after worker backlash

  • Published at 07:20 pm May 10th, 2021
Workers Protest
Workers of a Ha-Meem Group factory block the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway in Gazipur demanding extended Eid holidays on Monday, May 10, 2021 Dhaka Tribune

20 workers injured in protests in Tongi

RMG factory owners have now given into their workers demand for a 10-day-long Eid holiday after days of protests. 

Workers of several factories in Mirpur went on strike last Saturday to extend the Eid holiday. Later it spread to different areas. Workers of a Standard Group factory in Kalshi, Mirpur, went on strike on Monday demanding a 10-day holiday. Later the owner accepted their demands. 

Meanwhile, the workers of Ha-Meem group have protested to increase the length of Eid holiday on Monday. 

Ha-Meem Group declared a six-day Eid holiday for the workers on Sunday. But the workers started agitating on Monday demanding a 10-day holiday.

Workers of the factory demonstrated in the Millgate area around 11:00am and began moving towards the highway when police blocked them.

Demonstrators hurled bricks, rocks at the police who were blocking them on Dhaka-Mymensingh highway around 12:15pm.

Police fired teargas shells and rubber bullets to disperse the workers and At least 20 workers were injured and have been taken to hospitals for treatment. 

Additional Superintendent of Gazipur Industrial Police Shushant Sarkar said the workers left the scene after the factory acceded to their demand for an extended holiday.

Workers of at least 10% ready-made garment (RMG) factories have not yet received their wages for April, Eid bonuses, and other allowances though the Ministry of Labour had directed them to pay these by Monday. 

A top BGMEA official, requesting anonymity, said that there were strict instructions from the government to not issue any Eid holidays for more than three days for the workers, to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“We also welcomed it, but the workers want none of it. They want 10 days off, and are beyond reason now. That is why several factories are issuing 5-6 days of Eid holidays. As many factories overworked their personnel for 4-5 days, they are adjusting the upcoming days as holidays for those days,” he also said.

Babul Akhtar, chairman of Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF), said about 80-85% of RMG factories have already paid wages to their workers but the rest are taking time.

“This is a common occurrence in the garment industry of our country, which happens every year. Despite the instructions, they cannot complete the payment of wages and bonuses within the scheduled date,” he added.

“Some factories have already asked for two more days. We hope all factories will be able to pay wages, bonuses, and other allowances by Wednesday,” Babul further said.

‘Wages paid’

Md Nasir Uddin, vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said about 90% of the factories had paid wages of April and festival bonuses as of Monday.

“We hope the rest will pay by Tuesday,” he added.

State Minister for Labour Begum Monnujan Sufian on Sunday said that apparel factory owners must clear workers’ wages and other festival allowances by Monday, so that workers could enjoy Eid-ul-Fitr.

Apparel workers lost an estimated $502 million in wages during the March-May 2020 period, an aggregate drop of nearly 35%, with scores of workers, including pregnant and aged women, getting terminated or laid off without compensation, according to a recent report titled "The Weakest Link in the Global Supply Chain: How the Pandemic is Affecting Bangladesh's Garment Workers."

The study also revealed that 82% of interviewed workers' income in April-May 2020 had declined from February 2020, 77% reported difficulty of feeding all household members, while 69% were forced to eat less protein-intensive foods during the period.

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