Garment makers have been counting millions of dollars in losses every day, due to a halt in production amid the ongoing labour unrest that stemmed mainly from a rally called by a minister early this week.
More than 160 garment factories remained closed in Gazipur, Savar and Narayanganj yesterday as workers continued violent demonstrations for a fifth straight day, demanding a near tripling of their wages.
Like many exporters, the DBL Group counts loss of around Tk 4.5 crore a day due to the unrest, its Managing Director MA Jabbar said yesterday.
It is, however, difficult to estimate the total loss in the sector.
Jabbar has kept all his four factories in Gazipur shut since the Saturday rally in the capital’s Suhrawardy Udyan, where Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan spoke for increasing the garment workers’ pay.
The DBL Group tried to reopen its factories every day but some outsiders instigate the workers and vandalised the factories that employ around 11,000 people.
Momin Mondol, managing director of Mondol Group, another leading garment maker, said all his 16,000 workers in three factories had been sitting idle for the last five days.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir yesterday said the enhanced wages would be announced in late November.
“I have ordered the law enforcers to ensure security of factories and go tough on outsiders,” he told reporters after a meeting with the garment owners and workers at his secretariat office in the capital.
Former BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedy said they requested the government to deploy members of Border Guard Bangladesh along with Rab and policemen in the factories of the crisis-hit areas.
The home minister has asked the factory owners to resume production today and assured them of security, said Murshedy who was present at the meeting.
Jabbar of DBL Group said, during the protests in the last five days, the unruly workers not only vandalised the factories, but also burnt eight delivery vans and an ambulance of the company.
He added he would have to go for expensive air shipment to maintain the lead-time set by the buyers.
The owner of Mondol Group said he would have to pay an additional $6 lakh for air shipment due to the delay caused by the unrest.
“Other garment makers will face the same fate,” Mondol said.
Meanwhile, labour leaders have assured the state minister for labour and employment of their support in reopening the factories today, Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar said after an emergency meeting.
In a statement, IndustriALL Bangladesh Council’s General Secretary Roy Ramesh said they had proposed the minimum wages for workers based on the Millennium Development Goals and the cost of living, which is around $120 per month.
“There is a consensus among all sections of Bangladeshi society that wages are low and workplace safety is negligible,” the statement added.
It is now to be seen whether the employers and the government come up with a proposal that meets the aspirations of the agitating workers, said IndustriALL Global Union Regional Secretary Sudhershan Rao in the statement.
Meanwhile, at least 25 workers were injured when police charged batons on them as they were demonstrating for more than one hour, blocking the Dhaka-Tangail highway and the Dhaka-Narayanganj link road.
The workers vandalised at least 10 vehicles and eight factories in Savar and Gazipur.
The managements of more than 144 RMG units were forced to stop production at their factories fearing further vandalism, our correspondent reports.
The demonstration started around 8:30am when the workers blocked the Dhaka-Tangail highway, halting traffic movement for two hours.
The workers vandalised four factories — Mahmud Jeans, Niagara Textile, Apex and Dressman — in Kaliakoir.
Later, they put barricades at different points from Konabari to Chandra and vandalised at least 10 vehicles there.
The agitating workers, however, moved from the highway around 10:30am.
At least 20 workers were injured during a 30-minute clash with law enforcers in Zirani area of Savar around 9:30am.
The clash began when several thousand workers of Masihata Group, Pall-Mall Group and Jeans Plus blocked the Dhaka-Tangail highway.
The workers also vandalised at least four factories, said Abdus Sattar, deputy assistant director of Ashulia industrial police.
Around 5,000 workers of at least seven garment units gathered in front of Shibu Market and tried to block the Dhaka-Narayanganj link road around 9:30am.
The road communication resumed after an hour. At least five workers were injured during the clash.