Thousands of apparel workers in Dhaka, Gazipur and Savar staged protests on Monday for proportional wage hike for all grades of workers forcing to shut down over 55 factories for the day.
Agitated workers said that they would continue their protests until their demand was met.
Several thousand workers from factories in Uttara, Abdullahpur, Azampur and the adjacent areas blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway from Airport to Abdullahpur in Dhaka for the second consecutive day on Monday.
The protests halted traffic movement on the usually busy highway from 9:00am to 2:00pm causing sufferings to travellers and commuters.
A bus was set on fire during the agitation in front of the airport.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police said that about 10,000 workers of different factories blocked the highway at several points including Abdullapur, Jasimuddin, Airport and Azampur crossings.
DMP assistant deputy commissioner Mijanur Rahman alleged that the workers were influenced by ‘evil forces’ and set fire to an Ena Paribahan bus.
Police dispersed workers from the highway at about 2:00pm after a five-hour traffic suspension.
None was arrested and no casualties were reported, he said.
Simultaneously, hundreds of apparel workers of Standard Group staged protests at Hemayetpur of Savar.
In Gazipur, workers of East-West Group garment factory blocked the highway at Signboard for the same demand.
Factory manager Md Shamim alleged that outsiders were misguiding the workers.
At least 15 workers sustained minor injuries as the police charged batons and fire tear gas shells to disperse them.
Workers of Rupa Garments and Liz Fashion Industry Ltd at Kunia blocked the highway halting traffic movement for two hours until noon.
In the aftermath of the workers unrest all the factory authorities closed their units for the day.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association vice-president Mohammed Nasir said that at least 56 factories could not continue production due to the labour unrest in Dhaka, Gazipur and Savar.
Protesters said that in October 2018, the monthly wage of apparel workers in the seventh grade was increased to Tk 8,000 from Tk 5,300. But the wages in other grades did not increase at the same rate.
The new wage structure disappointed the workers for which they were compelled to take to the streets, Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre executive president Kazi Ruhul Amin told New Age.
In the 7th grade, the gross minimum wage increased by 51 per cent but in other grades the increase was disproportionately low, he said.
Workers demanded that the wages be increased proportionately in all the grades for implementation without any delay.
Superintendent of Dhaka Industrial police Sana Shaminur Rahman said that additional police force was deployed across the industrial belt.
BGMEA president Siddiquer Rahman said that there was no scope for an increase in the wages now.
He said BGMEA would take action against any factory owner that did not implement the new wage structure.
The government in its gazette in October published the new wage structure for the garment sector after five years. The new wage structure became effective from December 1.
The latest wage structure fixed minimum gross wage at Tk 8,000, up
from Tk 5,300 declared in 2013.
The sixth grader operator would get monthly gross Tk 8,405, Tk 8,855 for 5th grader operator, Tk 9,345 for 4th grader operator, Tk 9,590 for 3rd grader senior operator on a monthly basis.
A 2nd grade worker would get the gross wage of Tk 14,630 and the 1st grader Tk 17,510 per month.
The wage hike for the beginners was more than their senior colleagues who already put in seven to eight years’ service in the industry.
Apparel workers were on the streets for years demanding the basic wage at the entry point at Tk 10,000 and the gross wage at Tk 16,000 per month and proportional hikes in other grades.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country