Ashulia peaceful, yet factories shut | The Daily Star
12:30 AM, May 15, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:47 AM, May 15, 2013

Ashulia peaceful, yet factories shut

Frustrations grip workers

These two garment workers look at the notice declaring all factories in Ashulia closed yesterday for an indefinite period. Photo: Rashed Shumon These two garment workers look at the notice declaring all factories in Ashulia closed yesterday for an indefinite period. Photo: Rashed Shumon

At midday on Monday, Sabina Yasmin returned home after management of the factory where she works had announced leave in the face of demonstrations and violence in Ashulia industrial area.
In the evening, she heard the news, which was not good for her, that all the garment factories in Ashulia would remain closed for an indefinite period.
"I felt bad hearing the news. We are poor and have come to Dhaka to have better earning and a better living. A day's closure means a reduction in our income, at least from the overtime," said Sabina who had to sit idle at home.
She is not alone. Her colleagues at The Rose Dresses Ltd and others working at different production units also had to stay at their tiny rented rooms amid the shutdown enforced by the garment factory owners.
It turned the entire industrial area, which buzzes in other days amid busy foot stepping of the workers, quiet.
Almost all the factories were closed with no incident taking place.
Amid demonstrations and vandalism at some factories, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) announced the closure in Ashulia on a no-work-no-pay policy.
It means the workers would not get wages for the days of the factory closure, said BGMEA Vice-President Reaz Bin Mahmood Sumon.
He added no vandalism took place yesterday although production was suspended.
"We are holding meetings with the labour leaders to work out solutions for reopening the factories," he said but added, "We will reopen the factories if a peaceful environment is created."
The owners shared this stance at a discussion with State Minister for Labour and Employment Begum Monnuzan Sufian at her Secretariat office. She is the chief of the crisis management committee in the apparel sector.
According to the BGMEA, workers were demanding a minimum wage of Tk 8,000, higher bonuses, and allowances for tiffin and transportation during Monday's demonstrations.
"Our hardship will increase if the owners do not pay our wages for the days of closure," said Sabina, who lives in a rented room with her three kids and husband. Her husband is a small vegetables retailer.
She fears her dues to groceries will increase if her earnings fall for the closure.
The income of my husband was not enough to meet all family needs, said Sabina, claiming that they had got wages in the past even when factories were closed for unrest.
Her neighbour Rozina Akhter, who works at another factory, was also at unease for the unexpected shutdown and was concerned over a cut in salary next month.
"Our livelihood depends on our wages. It will not be a wise decision on part of the owners of not paying us for the days of closure. We have not enforced the shutdown and are not responsible for it," said Rozina.
Nurjahan Akhter, another worker, said like others she also wanted a hike in their wages as the existing wages are too inadequate to meet all family needs.
"But I am ready to join work if our factory opens tomorrow. A closure means loss for both the workers and the owners," she said.
Like Nurjahan and Sabina, Abul Hossain, a worker at Hollywood Apparels, is also concerned over the shutdown.
"We have no problem in our factory. But we are the sufferers for the unrest in other factories," he said, adding that he did not like the no-work-no-pay policy.
"I have not done any damage to the factory or called a strike. Why will I not get my salary?" Abul questioned.

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