197 unpaid workers continue agitation | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 06, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 06, 2010

197 unpaid workers continue agitation

Bangladeshis allege abuse at workplaces in Libya

At least 197 Bangladeshi workers, protesting alleged torture, non-payment of salaries and substandard living conditions in Libyan labour camps, are refusing to join work despite the company's assurances of addressing grievances.
The Bangladeshis, along with 28 Indian workers, left their camp on August 30. They have been staying in an open field near a police station of Borak Al Shafi, about 1,000 kilometres from Libyan capital Tripoli.
"An official [first secretary] from our embassy came and discussed our issues with the company and police. They asked us to go back to work, but we are still afraid. The company bosses might torture us on our return," said Mahbub, one of the workers.
They went to the North African country five to 12 months ago to work for construction company Al Rayed at Borak Al Shafi through recruiting agency Reaz Overseas.
"If someone is absent from the construction site even for a moment, the managers slap and kick him,” Mahbub said adding, “We are treated like dogs."
The workers had been unpaid for the last three months, he told The Daily Star over the phone yesterday.
The company didn't arrange any air cooler at the tin-roofed labour camp leaving the workers to suffer in intense heat of the desert, said Mahbub, a foreman.
"The food we were served was insufficient."
A worker, who was too weak, died three months back. "Earlier, we had requested a manager to take the worker to a hospital. Instead of taking care, he beat him up."
The worker said they had left the labour camp as it was in no way possible for them to stay.
"In the evening some Libyans come here and give us some food. This is how we are now surviving," Mahbub said.
First Secretary Ahsan Kibria Siddiqui of Bangladesh embassy said from Tripoli that he flew to see the workers at Borak Al Shafi where he met the employer and regional police chief on Saturday.
"The employer agreed in writing that he would solve workers' problems. I then requested the workers to return to work," Kibria said, adding the employer assured them of paying one month's salary before Eid and the rest after the festival.
The local police chief had said he would deploy police in the company to ensure workers' security, he added.
"Is it possible to send so many workers home when they are yet to earn the money they spent to come here?" Kibria asked adding he was scheduled to meet the Libyan labour ministry yesterday to discuss the issue.
Reaz-ul-Islam, proprietor of Reaz Overseas, said the workers' complaints could be true to some extent, but as the employer has given assurance solving all the problems, they should join.
He, however, said brokers are promising some workers jobs in Europe, he said.
Libya is now home to around 55,000 Bangladeshi workers. It, however, stopped hiring workers from the country to maintain discipline in foreign workers' sector, officials said.

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