Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday suggested Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association form an emergency fund to handle precarious situations like the Tuba Group workers' payment crisis.
“It is my suggestion to the BGMEA to form the fund to face any emergency," Ahmed said at a press conference at the BGMEA office following the completion of payments to Tuba Group workers.
The association yesterday distributed the salaries and overtime allowances of 1,417 workers of Tuba Group on behalf of its owner Delwar Hossain. Hossain sold off his land and machineries to arrange the Tk 1.4 crore that was needed.
Ahmed also came down heavily on former commerce adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman for his comments on the garment sector.
Rahman in a roundtable on Saturday said the government and the BGMEA always stand beside the non-compliant garment factories.
“Hossain Zillur was a commerce adviser once. During his time as well there were incidences of labour unrest, but he could not stop them.”
About the fate of Tuba Group now, Ahmed said it remains in its owner's hands.
“If he is able to re-start the factories, he will do it. Otherwise, he must declare lay-offs and pay the salaries for four months as per the laws of the land.”
The commerce minister also said a section of people tried to gain political grounds by creating a crisis out of the Tuba Group situation.
Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan echoed the same. “A conspiracy was going on to destroy the garment sector,” he added.
Khan said the Tuba Group owner will pay the festival bonuses, which is still outstanding, to workers later.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu said the government arranged for Hossain's bail in the workers' interest.
If Hossain was still in jail, it would have taken six months or more for the workers to get their arrears, he said. “We created pressure on Delwar Hossain and on the BGMEA to pay the workers,” Chunnu said.
Meanwhile, Khokon Mia, an operator at one of Tuba Group's factories, said every worker received a month's salary and overtime payment yesterday. But, in many cases, the overtime amount was not calculated properly and workers did not get the exact amount.
Khadiza Akter, an operator of Bugsan Fashion, a unit of the Tuba Group, said she got the right amount of salaries.
Sirajul Islam Rony, member of the minimum wage board for garment workers, said every worker got their salaries properly. “I have not noticed any problem in payment to the workers.”