Garment workers stage sit-in in Ashulia for arrears | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 19, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:20 AM, November 19, 2020

Garment workers stage sit-in in Ashulia for arrears

Workers of A-One BD staged a sit-in in front of the Ashulia Press Club for the second consecutive day yesterday, demanding ten months arrears from their factory in the Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ).

Around 700 workers have been protesting since 10:00 am on Tuesday.

At least 1,100 people who were employed by A-One BD, owned by Italian national Alessandra Ferry, have been living in dire straits for the past 10 months due to a lack of incomes, according to the workers.

"Besides, even though the factory was closed in March, our wages have not been paid since January," they said during the sit-in.

And despite multiple protests, neither the factory authorities nor the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority and the government have taken the responsibility to ensure payment of the arrears.

Ever since the factory was shut, the workers have been running door to door of DEPZ officials to secure their dues.

"We also held several programmes in various areas, including the National Press Club in Dhaka," said Ashraf Ali, one of the workers.

DEPZ officials have repeatedly assured that the payments would be made, but these promises have not been kept yet.

"While it is difficult to run a family without even a single month's salary, we have had to do it for the last 10 months amid the Covid-19 pandemic," Ali said, adding that they would continue the protest until the dues are paid.

Ujjal Hossen, another worker, said that DEPZ authorities are yet to resolve the issue even though they spoke to the workers about their demands many times.

Most recently, the DEPZ officials assured that they would pay the arrears by auctioning off the factory's equipment.

However, the DEPZ now says that the auction process has been suspended due to a stay order from the High Court.

"Therefore, we are seeking the prime minister's intervention," Hossen said.

Following the stay order, members of the Bangladesh Garment Sramik Sanghati and some workers of A-One BD rushed to the DEPZ authorities to discuss the issue.

"But they said they could do nothing until the court order is vacated," said Taslima Akter, president of the Bangladesh Garment Sramik Sanghati.

If the prime minister intervenes, the workers' suffering will come to an end, she added.

When contacted, Abdus Subhan, general manager of the DEPZ, said the workers would get salaries for three and a half months as arrears.

"We have already paid two months salaries to most of the workers," he said.

The rest will be paid by auctioning the factory's equipment, but this has not been possible due to the stay order that came on October 20 following an argument of a bank.

The factory authority shut the factory in the middle of April as it had no work orders, said Subhan. "We asked the factory authority to pay the worker dues multiple times."

"As the factory authority failed to pay the workers, we had decided to pay the workers by auctioning off the belongings of the factory," he said.

The bank lent the factory, so it filed the writ petition seeking the stay order, saying if the auction is held, it will face huge losses, he said. 

"We are trying to have the stay order vacated through the attorney general," Subhan said, adding that there will be a court hearing on the matter next week.

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