IT is a story of aggrieved garment workers – with a difference! The ring of familiarity ends with their demand for payment of arrear salaries when this is drowned in the more strident chorus of serious grievances. About a thousand workers of two factories in Ashulia protested on Saturday against random termination of services and closure of factories.
While making their five-point demand, they were organised, peaceful and articulate under the banner of Garment Workers' Trade Union Centre marking a departure from the bashing or breaking sprees of the past. Their demands rooted in a situational reality sounded logical. They called for stoppage of retrenchment, payment of termination benefits in case of job loss, reopening of closed factories, an end to worker repression and of course, payment of arrears.
To view this catalogue of demands merely as customary ventilation of pent - up grievances by workers would be simplistic. For, it risks missing the core point of concern revolving around the latest Ashulia episode. In the backdrop of recent earthquakes, the workers demanded that authorities examine the buildings the factories were housed in to determine their safety status. Such a concern finds an instant resonance with the heightened level of anxiety over earthquake preparedness. It is common knowledge that a large number of factories in Savar were but residential buildings raised on earth-filled low lying land with weak soil capital underneath.
In an apparent reaction, the factory management fired 29 workers; closed the factory taking the plea of shortage of work orders. The real issues of employment and safety are given a short shrift.