Finding their workplace locked without any prior notice and any compensation, workers of an apparel factory in Mirpur-2 of Dhaka demonstrated leading to a clash with police yesterday.
Workers of Rezaul Apparels (Pvt) Ltd, an export-oriented company, also blocked the road leading to the zoo that triggered a scuffle with the law enforcers who fired tear-shells and charged them with batons to disperse them.
At least two workers were injured during the scuffle. They took treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
It came a day after workers sat with the management of Rezaul Apparels on the factory premises. During the meeting, the management told the workers that the factory would be shifted to Konabari in Gazipur on February 28.
Then, the workers demanded four-month's basic salary and gratuities as compensation. But the factory owners promised them verbally that it would pay two-month's basic salary and one gratuity for each working year.
Assured, the workers went back to their homes. But when “we went to the factory in the morning we found it closed,” Sonia, one of the injured workers, told reporters.
Another worker, Sumi Begum, said, “We talked to the authorities until 9:00pm on Sunday. They agreed to compensate us.”
The workers broke open the factory locks, and to their astonishment found out that all of its machineries were removed overnight.
Angered, several hundred workers started agitating in front of the factory, which employs about 1,600 workers, at 8:00am, and soon they were joined by some workers from neighbouring garment factories.
An hour later, the workers blocked the road, creating traffic congestion in the area, said Mirpur Police Station Officer-in-Charge Bhuiyan Mahbub Hasan.
Police tried in vain to disperse them. At one stage, the workers scuffled with police, according to eyewitnesses.
Masud Ahmed, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Mirpur division), said police intervened by way of firing tear gas and charging with batons, after the workers vandalised glasses of the factory and cars on the streets.
When a rumour of the death of one worker spread, the protesters became more agitated, forcing the police to retreat. The workers kept the road off-limit till 5:00pm. During the daylong protest, the workers demanded that the authorities of the garment factories promise the compensation in person.
None from the factory authorities was available on the spot of the 14-storey building that housed Rezaul Apparels upto the 10th floor.
The police asked the workers to go to the BGMEA Complex in Karwan Bazar, saying that the association would help them.
Leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) brought together the labour leaders and the owners to a meeting.
Mahmud Hasan Khan, a vice president of the BGMEA, said the factory owners want to shift the factory and was ready to provide compensation as per laws.
The laws stipulate that if owners shift factories to places which are within 40km of the existing factory their workers will have to move, said Khan.
If the workers refuse to move they will be considered that they have resigned and will get compensation for the days they have worked. But the workers are demanding termination benefits which entitle them to four-month's basic salary as compensation, said Khan.
The talks were ongoing till last evening.