Apparel workers at Ashulia are still in panic although normalcy has returned at the industrial belt on the outskirts of Dhaka following labour unrests, which ended about two weeks ago without realisation of the workers’ demand of pay hike.
Workers and labour leaders said that the workers were in panic as at least 2,000 workers were sacked and many workers were on the run from law enforcers to avoid arrest or harassment as 10 cases were filed against 150 named and over 1,500 unnamed workers for joining the labour unrests in December 11-26, 2016.
Several workers said that they were under scanner and the authorities were allowing no gatherings in the export-oriented industrial belt.
‘Mass sacking and the cases against unnamed workers are the main causes for the panic,’ Bangladesh Garment Sramik Sanghati president Taslima Akter told New Age on Thursday.
Many workers said that some of their colleagues having no apparent connection with the unrest were also fired and implicated in the cases.
The labour unrest began on December 11 demanding Tk 16,000 as the minimum monthly wage for apparel workers instead of existing Tk 5,300 forcing the owners to shut at least 59 factories, according to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
The factories resumed operations on December 26, 2016.
Labour leaders said that an uneasy calm was prevailing in the area that housed over 1,000 factories, as most of the sacked workers were also on the run along with labour leaders.
They claimed that the police were raiding houses of the workers panicking the workers. Many sacked workers said that they could not leave the area for their village home as they were given no compensation.
Police officials said that they were running drives against people who had ‘plotted to destroy the prime export oriented sector’ of the country.
‘We have so far arrested 44 people in connection with the labour unrest and continued drives to arrest the others who were involved,’ said Dhaka superintendent of police Shah Mizan Shafiur Rahman.
He said that the police were verifying the identities of 159 workers to prepare a complete list of workers who led the protests. Measures were underway against these workers so that they could not manage any job at other factories, the Shah Mizan added.
The factories at the industrial belt were running in full swing but the workers would not like to talk to any stranger or gossip with colleagues even during lunch hour.
Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre general secretary KM Ruhul Amin alleged that factory owners in cooperation with police were oppressing the workers.
He also alleged that managements continued sacking workers.
Demanding withdrawal of all cases against workers, he demanded reinstatement of the sacked workers immediately.
‘Police are raiding offices and houses of the local trade union leaders every night,’ he said.
He alleged that police were ‘doing businesses’ out of arrests.
Different labour organisations, in statements, asked withdrawal of all cases against labour leaders and unconditional release of the arrested leaders and workers.
Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad, Sramik Nirapatta Forum and some other organisations called on the government to take an initiative to resolve the crisis at Ashulia industrial belt through collective bargaining.
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