About 45,000 workers of Hazaribagh tanneries are now worried about how they would survive with no jobs as production at the factories stopped on Saturday.
The Department of Environment (DoE), following a High Court order, disconnected utility services to the factories there that day to force the tanners to move to the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate.
The factory owners did not tell the workers whether they would be employed in the new factories in Savar, as the relocation of the units could take a few months, some of the owners said.
“My employer told us that it may take five months to start production at the new factories in Savar,” said Riyad Hossain, a paid help at a leather goods factory in Hazaribagh.
Riyad, who used to work in gloves production, also said his employer gave them two options: go to Savar when production starts or leave with a few months' wages.
Fazal Mia, an operator of a factory for 10 years, echoed the same. His employer too gave him two options. “I will go to Savar as I am an experienced worker. I cannot change my profession now.”
Those who have the promise of a factory job in Savar now have to figure out how they would survive until then. Those who worked as supporting service providers do not even have that promise.
At least 1,200 pushcarts used to carry raw hide and leather goods in Hazaribagh area and the number of pushcart labourers was a few thousand, said pushcart labourer Mohammad Waliuddin sitting in the office of Hazaribagh Thelagari Bahomukhi Samabaya Samity, a platform of pushcart labourers.
“I used to earn Tk 15,000 a month. I cannot earn this now,” said Waliuddin, father of three.
He is worried how he would make rent, Tk 3,600.
The pushcart labourers worked with the factories on daily contracts. The labourers were hired only if there was production.
Waliuddin said the severing of utility services put many workers who lived in the factories in trouble.
The workers are eating in nearby restaurants as they cannot cook without gas. They cannot have a shower even. This is a problem especially for women and children, he said.
Mohammad Sohag, a grocer in the area, said his sales dropped to Tk 1,000 from Tk 5,000 a day. “Like me, hundreds of grocers will close due to the factories moving,” he said.
“I bought some lanterns as there is no power,” said Abdur Rahman, owner of Rahman Leather Products, a factory on Sher-e-Bangla Road in Hazaribagh. He said before closure, nearly 15,000 pieces of goat hides were supposed to be tanned at his factory.
Shahin Ahmed, president of Bangladesh Tanners Association, said the number of registered workers in the tanneries was about 25,000 and there were about 30,000 more unregistered workers.
“If any worker goes to Savar we will hire them or we will terminate them paying four months' salaries,” he said.
Meanwhile, the tanners yesterday threatened to go for a massive movement if utilities and other facilities in Savar were not ensured as per the order of the High Court.