Many Bangladesh factories renege on promise to pay by April 16

Garment workers continue demo for wages

Staff Correspondent | Published: 23:09, Apr 16,2020 | Updated: 22:01, Apr 17,2020


Workers of Binni Garments Limited set fire to waste papers and leaves on a road during their protests for wages at Kamalapur in Dhaka on Thursday. — Soural Lasker

Many of the readymade garment factory owners have failed to keep their pledge on paying wages for the month of March to workers by April 16.

Thousands of workers of at least 40 RMG factories at Ashulia, Narayanganj and in the Dhaka city took to the streets on Thursday demanding wages ignoring calls from different quarters to maintain physical distance and hygiene to slow coronavirus spread. 

Workers said they had to go on protests as their employers deferred the dates for wage payment several times.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, however, claimed that workers of about 87 per cent of its listed factories received wages of March by the deadline set by the employers and the government.

However, several thousand workers of at least 10 garment factories staged demonstrations at Savar and Ashulia in Dhaka for wages.

Workers of A1 BD Ltd, a Dhaka Export Processing Zone garment factory, blocked the Dhaka-Tangail Highway in front of the DEPZ demanding wages of March and arrears of February and January.

Protesters said that the factory management repeatedly gave deadlines and finally promised to pay on Thursday.

More than 1,000 workers of the factory went to the factory in the morning but when the management did not pay until 2:30pm, they decided to take to the streets to press their demand.

Agitated workers blocked the highway for more than two hours and ended their demonstration without payment as BEPZA and other monitoring authority assured them of payment soon.

BEPZA general manager in DEPZ Abdus Sobhan told New Age at about 5:30pm that they were yet to find out any solution for the workers.

A number of high officials of the factory were called over phone for their comments on the issue, but they did not answer the calls.

Ashulia Industrial Police said that workers of Glorious Dress, Aswad Composite Mills Ltd, SK Knitwear Ltd, Penta Food Ltd, and Alliance Knit Composite Ltd also went on demonstrations for wages.

Workers of ZA Apparels at Kathgara of Ashulia blocked the Jirabo-Bishmile road for wages.

Workers said they would continue demonstration today as the authorities did not pay them.

Workers of at least 22 garment factories in Gazipur on Thursday demonstrated for wages blocking roads and highways.

RMG workers blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway, the Dhaka-Tangail Highway and the Dhaka-Joydevpur Road demanding wages.

They, however, withdrew their protests after employers assured them of giving wages on April 20.   

According to BGMEA, it has more than 4,500 registered factories and 2,274 units of them are engaged in direct exports.

Rest of the factories are engaged in subcontracting jobs.

BGMEA data show that out of 2,274 units, a total of 1,665 paid wages until Thursday afternoon.

It also said that the wage disbursements were going on in some 97 factories in Dhaka and 119 in Chattogram.

BGMEA president Rubana Huq said that some small factories failed to pay their workers in time.

She also said that the factories, including which do works on subcontract basis and supply to both traditional and non-traditional markets, were facing liquidity problem.

Earlier, BGMEA and BKMEA recommended its members to keep the RMG factories closed in line with the government holiday to halt coronavirus outbreak in the country and to pay wages of March by April 16.  

According to Industrial Police data, a total of 7,602 industrial units, including textile and readymade garment factories, are under the purview of IP in its six industrial zones, namely Ashulia, Gazipur, Narayanganj, Chattogram, Khulna and Mymensingh, except the Dhaka metropolitan area.

Out of 1,101 factories registered with Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, some 900 paid wages.

A total of 314 out of 389 mills of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association paid wages for March while 75 mills did not pay.

A total of 22 factories out of 364 under Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority did not pay until Thursday, IP data show.

About 1,229 industrial units out of 3,893 units that belong to other sectors also failed to pay March wages until Thursday defying the government’s deadline.

Meanwhile, workers and labour leaders of Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre demonstrated in front of Shrama Bhaban in Dhaka protesting against the non-payment of wages, massive job cuts and factory layoffs during public holiday.

GTUC warned of labour unrest, if the government did not take any strong measure against factories shutting down their units during the crisis moment. 

The organisation claimed that about 30,000 garment workers were dismissed or suspended or forced to resign in last four weeks across the country.

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