Owners were forced to close nearly two dozen factories in Gazipur yesterday as workers staged demonstrations and vandalised production units to voice demands for a minimum wage of Tk 8,000.
Workers from at least 20 units remained absent from work in the morning over the minimum wage issue, said inspector Jakir Hossain of industrial police.
The industrial police intervened when workers began vandalising the units. Later, the workers sat for talks with the factory owners, remaining fixed on their demands. The factory management declared their factories closed for the day.
However, Interstoff Apparels Ltd, a garments unit, announced closure for an indefinite period.
The unrest in the $20-billion industry comes just a day before the Minimum Wage Board, a government body, will hold its final meeting to revise the minimum wage.
The monthly minimum wage for the garments workers, the lowest in the world, is Tk 3,000 and was last revised in 2010.
At the same time, management at ESE Knit Wear Ltd at Khejurbagan in Ashulia was forced to shut their sweater factory following workers' agitation over a piece-rate hike.
Shahid Ullah, senior assistant director of Ashulia industrial police, said workers have been demonstrating since October 24, demanding a pay hike.
At one point, workers beat up two factory officials, prompting the owners to sue 170 workers.
Yesterday, the agitated workers arrived at the factory to demand withdrawal of the case.
The workers demanded a piece rate of Tk 46 for each sweater they make; factory owners had agreed to pay Tk 43 a piece.
Md Salahuddin, managing director of the factory, said they would take a decision in this regard on November 2.
Meanwhile, several hundred workers of Intraco Sweaters Ltd, an export-oriented sweater factory at Ganakbari in Ashulia, also demonstrated demanding arrears.
Shahid Ullah of Ashulia industrial police said workers started demonstrating when they came to the factory in the morning and found it shut.
He said the owners of the factory, which has more than 900 workers, did not pay the salaries for September yet.
Jahangir Bhuiyan, assistant superintendent of Ashulia Industrial Police, said factory management assured workers that they would pay the arrears on October 27, and had declared the factory shut till yesterday.
But the workers became restless as factory management could not pay the arrears, he said.
Some workers said management is terminating workers gradually without paying their salaries.
Muzibur Rahman, managing director of the factory, admitted to The Daily Star that the factory is now facing a financial crisis.
“I will pay the workers by Monday.”