Swan Garments seeks further loans to clear workers' dues

The Swan Garments payment committee yesterday requested the company's lender -- Islami Bank Bangladesh -- to extend further loans to the group to allow its management to resume production and clear workers' dues.

Islami Bank has taken until Tuesday to make a decision, said Syed Ahmed, chief of the committee, formed last week by the labour ministry to resolve the payment situation of Swan Garments.

Following the death of its Chinese owner, Toby Han, in April, the two units of Swan Garments, which employs more than 1,300 workers, have remained shut.

The workers have not been paid since, with many resorting to demonstrating in front of the National Press Club over the last few days for payment.

“If Islami Bank responds positively to our call, no workers will lose their jobs as the current owner has already agreed to run the factories.”

Ahmed's comments come after the committee held its first meeting yesterday.

Patricia Hon, wife of the late Chinese owner Toby Hon, representatives from the bank, trade union leaders, and officials from three ministries and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association attended the meeting.

In the meeting, Patricia agreed to reopen the factories as soon as possible if the bank agrees to lend more money to the group, according to the chief of the committee.

“Of course I will resume business if the bank gives me a substantial amount of loan for the company,” said Patricia, a Chinese-origin Bangladeshi.

“My company has been doing business here for the last 30 years. So I hope the bank will stand beside me during such a critical time.”

She has not sought any specific amount of loans from the bank as she is not fully abreast yet of the company's situation.

She also said she will speak to the officials of the company for resumption of operations.

The owner will have to pay the workers' dues since April this year though, said Ahmed, also the inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments.

If the workers want to leave their jobs, the owner will have to pay their dues according to the prevalent labour laws, he said. “But we do not want any of the workers to lose their jobs. Rather, we want operations to resume.”

Regarding the sale of four bighas of land owned by Swan Garments, Ahmed said nobody has responded to the advertisement yet, even though it was published a few days ago. 


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