Monday, May 20, 2024

RMG unrest continues, BGMEA to reopen factories today

Home minister’s assurance prompts industry move
The ongoing unrest in the country’s ready-made garments sector continued for the fifth consecutive day on Wednesday, with clashes between law enforcers and RMG workers leaving at least 50 injured in different garments hubs. Nearly 150 garments units were closed due to the unrest on Wednesday, though, in the evening, BGMEA, the platform of garments factory owners, have decided to open the factories from Thursday, after receiving assurances from the home minister, of necessary security measures.
Home minister MK Alamgir also warned the workers of stern action, if they went ahead with the demonstration, before the recommendation of the RMG wage board.
On Wednesday, the clash began when police tried to disperse the demonstrating workers in Gazipur and Narayanganj, The workers have been demonstrating to realise their demand for Tk. 8,000 minimum monthly wage.
At least 25 workers were injured when police charged baton on them, as they demonstrated for more than one hour, blocking the Dhaka-Tangail highway and Dhaka-Narayanganj link road. At around 9 am, several hundred of workers of different garment factories took to the streets at Konabari, under Sadar upazila of Gazipur, and at Chandra under Kaliakair upazila, police and witnesses said.
Witnesses said that workers of Standard Islam Sweaters, Niagra Textile, and Mahmud Jeans first gathered at their workplace and later staged demonstration, and called upon other garments factories’ workers to join their movement to realise the demand for increasing minimum wage.
At one stage, the agitators put up a barricade on Dhaka-Tangail Highway, blocking vehicular movements for half an hour, and also damaged several vehicles.
Later, members of law enforcement agencies reached the spot, and brought the situation under control, charging batons on the agitators. The barricades were also removed.
Meanwhile, workers of Marks Sweater Factory and Mim Noon Knitwear Limited staged demonstration at the Sinabah area of Kaliakair and later attacked their factories and carried out vandalism there, the witnesses said.
Many garment factories in Gazipur remained shut in the wake of the agitation, in order to avoid any untoward situation.
In Narayanganj, workers clashed with police in Shubi Market area under Fatullah police station, at around 9.30am on Wednesday, leaving at least 10 people including policemen suffered injuries.
Scores of workers blocked Dhaka-Narayanganj Highway in the area since the morning, demanding Tk. 8,000 minimum wage, police and witnesses said.
The workers pelted brick chips at policemen, as they tried to disperse them and in retaliation, they also charged batons and fired teargas canisters at the agitators, triggering a series of clashes, witnesses said.
Police, later, brought the situation under control.
In Savar, At least 20 RMG workers were injured during a 30-minute clash with law enforcers in Jirani area of Gazipur around 9:30 am, reports our Savar correspondent.
The clash ensured around 9:30 am when several thousand workers of Machihata Group, Pall-Mall Group, and Jeans Plus, blocked Dhaka-Tangail highway, which is the divider point between Gazipur and Savar.
When police tried to free the highway which was blocked for more than one hour, using truncheons, the clash erupted.
During the clash, the workers hurled brick chips while the law enforcers retaliated with teargas shells and truncheons.
The aggrieved workers also vandalised at least four garments factory including the three factories mentioned above, said Abdus Sattar, deputy assistant director of Ashulia Industrial police.
The government has assured owners that law enforcement agencies, such as police, RAB and BGB, will be deployed in the garments intensive industrial areas like Ashulia, Gazipur, Konabari, Kashimpur and Tongi. The owners have given the announcement after a tripartite meeting of government, garments’ owners, and workers’ leaders, held at the home ministry’s conference room.
Only three hours after the home minister’s remark that there is no unrest in the export-oriented apparel sector, the minister called the emergency meeting with the owners and trade union leaders in the RMG sector, to resolve the present crisis.
Shipping minister Shajahan Khan, also a labour leader in the transport sector, and representatives from BGMEA and BKMEA attended the closed-door meeting, in the face of on-going agitations by workers demanding an increase a minimum wage to Tk. 8,000 from Tk. 3,000.
Earlier on the day, after a meeting on law and order, the home minister claimed, “There is no unrest in the country’s RMG sector. Except one or two incidents, there’s no unrest in the RMG sector. There have been problems at Gazipur today, but not across the country.”
The labour unrest has spread fast across labour-intensive industrial areas of Savar and Narayanganj from Dhaka and Gazipur, as the owners offered only a Tk. 600 wage hike for apprentice workers in the RMG sector. Operations at around 400 RMG units were suspended on Saturday, in the face of violent protests by workers, over the demand for pay hike.
After the evening’s meeting, the home minister again claimed that there is no unrest over the garments sector. But, some stray incidents of disorder have been happening in the RMG sector for the last five days, which are against the interest of the sector, workers, owners and the government.
Stern actions will be taken against those who are involved in vandalism and destructive activities, the minister said, adding that law enforcers have been instructed to identify the offenders. “Some outsiders might be involved with these incidents. We will take tough action to stop vandalism and chaos,” Alamgir claimed.
Urging the workers to join in the work, the minister said, “The government has already formed a wage board commission to fix a minimum wages. It will be announced in the next November. The workers will have to wait until the wage board submits its report to the government.”
Bangladesh Exporters’ Association president Abdus Salam Murshedi, who is also a former president of the BGMEA, said factory owners have decided to reopen all of their factories from Thursday, following the home minister’s assurance.
He said that at least 160 garments factories in Ashulia, Gazipur, Konabari, Kashimpur and Tongi remained shut due to the labour unrest.
Earlier, the owners and workers leaders also met with state minister for labour affairs, Monnujan Sufian, in her ministry’s conference room.

-With The Independent input

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