Labour leaders have warned that further unrest, related to the garment sector, may flare up in the capital as well as the other cities following Wednesday’s collapse of the Rana Plaza complex.
“They [garment owners] said the workers died were their children. I want to throw a question [to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and other garment factory owners], why is it that the children die every time and the fathers accept these types of deaths?” garment leader Nazma Aktar said.
“Just one moment has claimed 1000 lives. How can we blame them [protestors]? How can we calm them?”
Police said at least 800 people, mostly garment factory workers, were missing in the collapsed building. After April 24, worker unrest has flared up in many areas where factories were located. Clashes took place between garment workers and police in different areas including Dhaka, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chittagong.
Workers in front of Rana Plaza said they never wanted to become dead bodies at their workplace. Crying for the return of their colleagues alive or dead, they threatened garment factory owners that any future incidents would not be tolerated.
Expressing their helplessness with regards to working in unsafe environments, they demanded strict measures from the government. They also condemned the recurrence of deadly incidents that have left many people missing.
In November last year, a devastating fire at Tazreen Fashions in Ashulia, near Savar, killed at least 112 people. A home ministry probe termed the fire "sabotage" and recommended suing nine officials of the factory and its owner Delwar Hossain, but police have failed to arrest him.
Labour leaders responded to recent development by suggesting that workers are agitated and may burst into violent protests at any time.
“We did not receive any compensation from anybody. We have contacted the BGMEA and other sources, but no one gave us anything. Moreover, they told the mass media that they gave us thousands of taka. But it is not true,” claimed Kabir Hossain, husband of a dead worker of Tazreen.
Hundreds of “missing” notices have been displayed at the Savar Adhar Chandra High school gate. The first two days people were in mourning. As more time has passed, they have become worried and angry. They feel unsafe now. Many of the relatives are simply seeking information about their loved ones, regardless of whether or not they are alive.
Garment leader Moshrefa Mishu said: “We are trying to keep them calm. But the reality on the ground has made them restless. The government and the BGMEA have to understand the workers’ emotion.”
Slamming the army’s plans to use bulldozers, she said: “Thousands of people, who are still waiting for their relatives, do not want such measures to be taken. They still hold on to the hope that they will get their relatives back.”