The Tuba Group owner has illegally shut down his five garment units to deprive the workers of their termination benefits and gratuity, claim a lawyer, labour activists and trade union leaders.
The closing of the factories made 1,600 workers jobless. The five units were Tuba Fashions, Tuba Textiles, Mita Design, Taif Design and Bughsan Garments.
On Monday, Delowar Hossain, the managing director of Tuba Group, announced the shutting down of the five factories in line with article 13(1) of the Labour Act, 2006.
According to the Labour Act, 2006, employers may, in the event of an illegal strike by any section or department of any establishment, close down either wholly or partly such section or department and the striking workers shall not be paid any wages for such a closure.
But the factory owner made a vague announcement about the closure with retrospective effect from June 10, said labour activists and trade union leaders.
They said it was not illegal to stage demonstrations to demand the payment of dues. The government had also echoed the same and forced the owner to pay their dues, they added.
According to the law, the announcement about the lay-off should have been made during the notice period and on the day of strike. But the owner did not follow this.
“As per the Labour Act, 2006, the factory owners can shut down his or her factories under section 13(1) in case of illegal strike, but the declaration should be effective from the notice period and when the workers started their strike,” AHM Sazedur Rahman, a High Court lawyer, told the Dhaka Tribune. The owner could not announce the shutdown with retrospective effect, he added.
“The strike conducted by the workers of Tuba Group was not illegal. It was a legal fight for their dues and benefits,” Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, assistant executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Study (BILS), told the Dhaka Tribune.
“If it was an illegal strike, then the government would have certified that it was illegal. But the government had termed it their right to realise their demand for wages and other dues,” he said.
The owner had made the announcement only to deprive the workers of their termination benefits and gratuity, he added.
Nahidul Islam Nayan, general secretary of Sammilita Garments Sramik Federation, said, “There is no scope to shut down the factories without paying termination benefits and gratuities. Earlier, we sent a letter to the owner, having sensed the plot to close down the factories.”
In the letter, he said, they had asked the factory management to make it clear whether the factories would continue to operate or not.
After the strike, BGMEA and factory management agreed to pay wages on July 3 and said the decision to run the factories would be taken if the owner was freed on July 5, he said.
Moshrefa Mishu, a workers’ leader, claimed that BGMEA made the plan to save the owner and deprive the workers of their benefits. “I came to know that BGMEA had advised Delowar to hang the notice with a prior date,” she added.
Around 3:00 pm yesterday, the police picked up Mishu while she was trying to stage a demonstration near Hossain Market in Badda, protesting the closing of the factories. Later in the evening, police released her.
On July 28, at least 1,200 workers of the five factories went on an indefinite hunger strike at Hossain Market in Badda, demanding the payment of three months’ wages, overtime and Eid bonuses.
Following the demonstrations, BGMEA, under pressure from the government, paid two months’ wages to more than 1,600 workers of Tuba Group.
Later on August 10, the Tuba Group management paid the workers’ wages for the month of July and overtime dues, but the workers were yet to get Eid bonuses.