The eight-day-long workers’ agitation in Bangladesh that brought the country’s vibrant readymade garment sector to a near standstill is over and work in the garment manufacturing units has resumed in full swing.
The turn of events though brought back smiles on the faces of factory owners, the same cannot be maintained for the workers! As per reports, the workers having resumed work – after the Government assured to look into their demands and hike wages in accordance – are now living in fear of reprisal and lay-off.
Two apparel manufacturing factories – AR Jeans Producers Ltd. and FGS Fashion Ltd. – have reportedly suspended more than 100 workers temporarily for their alleged participation in the strike and involvement in vandalism.
“As per the labour law, over 100 apparel workers of AR Jeans Producers Limited and FGS Fashion Limited have been temporarily suspended as they staged illegal strikes and vandalised factories,” reportedly maintained Md Nazmul Kabir, Managing Director and owner of the factories while speaking to the media, adding, “Show cause notices have been served to the apparel workers in accordance with the law. Based on their response to notices and findings of investigation, legal actions will be taken against the guilty workers.”
The authorities of the concerned factories reportedly pasted the names and pictures of the temporarily suspended workers on a notice board while alleging them of holding illegal strikes in their factories over the new wage structure. Contrary to the factory management’s claims, the accused workers reportedly maintained that they did not participate in any demonstrations and were not involved in any vandalism.
Many workers in Ashulia further alleged that the authorities terminated them illegally even as there was no violence in the factory but peaceful work abstention during the protests for wage hike.
Further, labour leaders in Ashulia and Savar claimed that as many as 1,411 workers have been laid off from 16 factories since the protests began in the apparel hubs over alleged disparity in wages.
“When I went for duty today, our Production Manager asked me to leave saying I had been suspended,” said a worker on condition of anonymity.
So far 11 separate cases have been filed with Ashulia and Savar police stations against 215 named and more than 1,000 unnamed garment workers for their involvement in vandalism and looting, maintained concerned police officials while adding of the cases, six were filed with Ashulia Police Station and two with Savar Police Station. Overall, 40 workers have reportedly been arrested by the police thus far.
Meanwhile, addressing the media, Dhaka District Police Superintendent Sha Migan Shafiur Rahman reportedly said that police were investigating the incidents of labour unrest to find out the instigators and have also rounded up some perpetrators for instigating the protests.
Labour leaders claimed that police have arrested at least 15 workers from their houses at Ashulia while KM Mintu Miah, Organising Secretary, Garment Workers Trade Union Centre alleged that police have arrested the office secretary of the workers union Joynal Abedin.
We don’t want sacking of workers illogically or illegally,” observed Amirul Haque Amin, President, National Garment Workers Federation speaking on the issue of alleged sacking of innocent workers while reportedly supporting actions against the wrongdoers.
“If necessary, we will meet Labour and Commerce Ministers soon to express our concern as a good number of workers have already been fired,” said Amin who led union leaders in a recent tripartite crisis management committee meeting.
There are about 4,000 apparel factories in Bangladesh that employ about four million workers, mostly women and, given the current state of affairs, mutual faith and harmony amongst workers and entrepreneurs is all one could wish for, keeping the industry’s future in perspective.