Global clothing retailers have warned of grave impacts if the garment unrest continues and production remains halted for long, as protests continued for the fourth day yesterday after overnight negotiations failed to resolve the disputes over minimum wages.
A halt in production means delayed or costly shipment, or even cancellation of work orders, a senior official of a Spanish retailer said.
“We are observing the situation. Production suspension is an ominous sign when the sector was turning around after some deadly disasters,” the official said, asking not to be named.
Production at hundreds of garment factories in Dhaka and on its outskirts had remained suspended for three days until Monday due to the unrest that stemmed from the demand for a minimum wage of Tk 8,000.
However, the situation improved a little yesterday, after Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan met factory owners and labour leaders on Monday night and assured the workers of a pay rise by November.
At least 70 people, including four policemen and a journalist, were injured in clashes between factory workers and law enforcers in Dhaka, Ashulia, Savar, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Tangail yesterday morning.
The workers vandalised at least 10 vehicles and eight factories in Savar and Gazipur. At least 16 factories were forced to shut down and workers remained absent from work in more than 10 factories.
“The biggest loss for Bangladesh will be the loss of its image, as western customers have been gaining confidence after the Tazreen Fashions fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse,” the official of the Spanish retailer said.
He said Bangladesh had already been witnessing political unrest for the last 9/10 months. Now, if the labour unrest flares up and continues for long, the international buyers will not come up with new orders, he added.
“Orders will go to other countries if the unrest prolongs,” said an official of a German retailer.
The fall of the Indian rupee and the continuous labour unrest will erode competitiveness of Bangladeshi garments in the global market, he said, requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile H&M, Europe's second-biggest clothing retailer, joined the IndustriALL Global Union in backing the workers' demand for increased wages.
“We strongly support the workers' demand,” H&M spokeswoman Andrea Roos said in an e-mail.
“We have on various occasions urged the government to raise minimum wages and revise wages annually,” Bloomberg reported quoting Roos.
However, Roy Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, said the impact of production suspension will not be intense as the unrest would not last long.
Around 2,500 workers of at least five garment factories blocked Kuril Biswa Road and Airport Road in the capital from 9:00am to 10:15am, halting vehicular movement and causing immense sufferings to commuters, said Jewel Miah, a sub-inspector of Khilkhet Police Station.
Workers of many garment factories in the Tejgaon industrial area stopped working after the lunch break, according to BGMEA.
At least 10 factories were forced to shut and three were vandalised in the Ashulia industrial belt. More than 20 workers were injured during sporadic clashes with law enforcers.
More than 4,000 workers of six garment factories of Ashulia, including Mascot Garments, Macsuoka Apparel and Reliance Garments, went on work abstention in the morning and demonstrated in front of their factories, our Savar correspondent reports.
Earlier, workers of Mascot Garments tried to block a link road between Dhaka-Aricha and Dhaka-Tangail highway, by putting barricade at Bishmaile around 9:30am, said industrial police in Ashulia.
Abdus Sattar, deputy assistant director of Ashulia industrial police, said production halted in at least 10 factories due to the agitation.
In Kaliakoir upazila, workers of Apex Textile at first vandalised their factory around 8:00am and then ransacked adjacent Eye-Moon Tex, Inter-Staff Apparel Ltd and Divine Tex Ltd, reports our Gazipur correspondent.
Later, more than 10,000 workers of these factories blocked the Dhaka-Tangail highway and vandalised at least 10 vehicles.
Police dispersed the workers from the highway around 9:30am, said Mosharraf Hossain, assistant superintendent of Gazipur industrial police.
At least 30 people, including four policemen and a journalist, were injured in clashes between the workers and law enforcers.
The workers of Khan Textile first came out of their factory and blocked the Dhaka-Tangail highway around 9:00am. Later, workers of other factories joined them, reports our Tangail correspondent.
Khan Textile, Comfit Composite, Neotex Fabrics and South East Textile Private in the area were declared shut for an indefinite period, Mirzapur police said.