Demanding arrears, RMG workers of three separate factories demonstrated in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Savar yesterday. The protests resulted in chaos on roads, public sufferings and clash with law enforcers.
In Dhaka, several hundred workers of a readymade garment factory blocked Mirpur-1 intersection and adjacent thoroughfares for around six and a half hours.
The blockade lasted from 9am to 3:30pm, disrupting vehicular movement in the area.
“Workers of Zaara Jeans and Knitwear Ltd in Mirpur-1 demonstrated, demanding arrears and allowance,” said Dadon Fakir, officer-in-charge (OC) of Mirpur Model Police Station.
During the blockade, no vehicle could ply the two roads -- Mirpur-1 to Bangladesh National Zoo Road and Mirpur-1 to Mirpur-10. The demonstration also created gridlocks on other roads.
The workers said authorities locked the factory’s main gate on September 11 without paying their salaries and overtime of July and August.
“For the last two months, we could not pay our rent or loans. If we do not get our salaries, we will be forced to live on the street,” said Mizanur Rahman, 40, a swing machine operator.
Around 1,000 people work in the factory, workers said.
They said they took to the street on September 3 and the factory owner assured them of clearing their dues on September 12. “But they closed the factory on September 11,” Mizanur added.
Asked about public sufferings, workers said they are suffering too.
They withdrew their blockade around 3:30pm after meeting with the factory owner, who assured them of paying their dues and allowance, said police.
This correspondent could not get in touch with the factory officials.
Contacted, Faisal Samad, acting president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said the factories who are not getting sufficient orders for last three months are struggling to cover overhead costs.
“That’s why we are continuing meetings with workers and owners to come up with a solution with the help of BGMEA and banks,” he added.
30 HURT IN CLASH WITH COPS
At least 30 persons were injured when agitated workers of an RMG factory clashed with police in Sonargaon upazila of Narayanganj.
The clash took place as police fired 20 to 25 rounds of teargas shells to disperse the workers, who blocked Dhaka-Sylhet highway at Sonargaon demanding arrears of the previous month and reinstatement of sacked colleagues, reports our Narayanganj correspondent.
Over a hundred workers started agitating around 10am. Vehicular movement on the highway remained halted for around an hour. It became normal around noon, said police.
On information, police rushed there around 11am and requested the workers of Opex and Sinha Textile Ltd to withdraw their blockade, said Moniruzzaman, officer-in-charge (OC) of Sonargaon Police Station.
“But they [workers] hurled brickbats at us, leaving 10 police members injured,” the OC said. “We had to fire teargas shells to disperse demonstrators from the highway,” he added.
However, workers claimed that police charged batons, lobbed teargas canisters and fired rubber bullets at them, triggering the clash that left around 20 workers injured. The injured received primary treatment from local hospitals, they added.
They also said the factory authorities never pay them on time and deprive them of benefits such as maternity leave and health care.
Earlier around 10am, the agitating workers staged a demonstration on the factory premises . They also vandalised the factory during the time.
Sheikh Bashir Ahmed, inspector (intelligence) of Narayanganj Industrial Police, said the situation is under control now. The factory authorities are trying to solve the issue through discussion with workers, he added.
This correspondent called Shafiqul Kabir, executive director of Opex and Sinha Textile Ltd, for comments. After hearing that he is a journalist, Shafiqul hung up and did not answer again.
Around 16,000 people work at the factory, said workers.
DEMO FOR DUES
Meanwhile in Savar, at least 900 RMG workers demonstrated in Birulia area in the morning, demanding one month’s arrears. Workers of Sark Knitwear Ltd started their agitation around 8am, reports our Savar correspondent.
They said the factory authorities were scheduled to pay their last month’s salary before September 10, but did not. Last Thursday, they raised the issue with the officials who said they also did not get their salaries as the owner is currently abroad, workers said.
The Daily Star could not get in touch with the factory authorities, despite repeated attempts. The officials at the scene did not want to speak to this correspondent either.
Contacted, Sana Shaminur Rahman, superintendent of Dhaka zone industrial police, said workers continued demonstrating till 1pm. Afterwards, a group of workers and their leaders went to the BGMEA office in the capital, the SP added.
“They will discuss the issue with BGMEA officials there. Hopefully, it will be resolved soon,” he said. The SP said additional police have been deployed in the factory area to avert any untoward incident.