The BGMEA yesterday sought emergency funds from big garment companies to clear the dues of Tuba Group workers who continued their protests for the sixth day.
The development came at a meeting between leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu at the BGMEA office in the capital.
A source present at the meeting told The Daily Star that initiatives had been taken to pay the workers. "We hope the big groups will respond to our call, as we have already said the workers will be paid within seven working days."
The sum would be given to Tuba Group as loans, said another meeting source.
More than Tk 4.14 crore is needed to pay three months' arrears and Eid bonus to 1,600 workers of the Group.
Both the BGMEA and Tuba management had applied for bank loans to pay the workers. But the applications were rejected for failure to provide a guarantee from Group's Managing Director Delwar Hossain, who has been in jail since February 9 for his role in Tazreen fire that killed 112 people in November 2012.
Following yesterday's meeting, Chunnu told reporters that the workers would be paid in a day or two.
The government cannot pay the workers of a private company like Tuba Group, said the state minister. “That is why I urged the garment factory owners to manage funds for paying the workers.”
He said Delwar was granted bail before the Eid holiday, and the court order for his release was expected to reach the jail authorities today or tomorrow.
Meanwhile, workers of the Group took to the streets, and obstructed the road in front of the factory at North Badda around 11:00am.
The demonstrations, also joined by 11 left-leaning organisations, continued till 1:00pm.
The agitating workers vowed to continue their hunger strike until they receive their dues in full, and reiterated their demand for cancelling Delwar's bail.
“I have not been able to feed my son properly for three months. I better die here protesting rather than seeing him starve,” 26-year-old Shapna, a worker of Tuba Group, told this correspondent.
Around 100 workers have fallen sick since the fast-unto-death began Monday last. About 80 workers were given intravenous saline, with 11 undergoing treatment at nearby medical centres.
Several hundred workers and leaders of left parties staged a sit-in in front of Hossain Super Market that houses three units of Tuba Group at Pragati Sarani.
Under the banner of Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee, the protesters demonstrated for several hours. They got into a scuffle with police when the latter foiled their attempts to hold a procession after the sit-in.
Speaking at the sit-in, Anu Muhammad, professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University, said, “The fact that we have a government is only felt when workers are beaten. We do not see the government when workers starve.”
The government and the BGMEA should be held accountable for creating a situation that left the garment workers with no alternative but to go on a hunger strike during Eid, he said.
Mujahidul Islam Selim, president of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, urged the government to confiscate Tuba Group's property and pay the workers their arrears.
Demanding exemplary punishment to Delwar, he said it was tantamount to genocide to deprive workers of wages and let them starve for days.
Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal General Secretary Khalequzzaman; Nijera Kori Coordinator Khushi Kabir; and leaders of Ganatantrik Baam Morcha, an alliance of eight leftist parties, were also present.
Meanwhile, the condition of Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garment Workers Unity Forum, who has been fasting since Monday evening, deteriorated yesterday. She refused to leave the spot and get hospitalised.