BGMEA said that garment factories which were closed in the context of ongoing violent agitation demanding minimum wages will reopen on Saturday. Garment workers protested before the Minimum Wage Board announced wages. Among them, 400 to 500 factories in Dhaka’s Mirpur, Ashulia and Gazipur were declared closed under Section 13(1) of the Labor Act. In order to protect the industry, the owner held regular meetings with various circles including the Ministry of Home Affairs. Sector-related leaders said that despite fears, the owners will open the factory on Saturday. If the workers do not join the work or if they are attacked from outside after the work has started, the factory will be closed immediately. Besides, they also hope that the employers will accept the wages announced by the government in the interests of workers, employers and industry. That is why the owners and labor leaders have urged the workers to remain calm.
According to the statistics of industries under the jurisdiction of the Industrial Zone Police, the total number of garment-related factories in the country is 9 thousand 177. These include BGMEA, BKMEA, BTMA and Bepja factories. And 43 lakh 8 thousand 521 workers are working in these factories.
According to the Minimum Wage Board sources, the board has already held five meetings with all parties to determine the minimum wages of the garment industry workers. In the board, the owner has proposed a minimum wage of 10 thousand 400 taka and the labor side has proposed a wage of 20 thousand 393 taka. And since there is a big difference between the proposals of the two parties, the Board Chairman Liaquat Ali Mollah has proposed to both the parties to reduce the difference. Among them, the workers in the Gazipur industrial area started a movement to demand wages. Clashes with law and order forces also took place in this. One of the injured workers died. In this incident, protests spread in Ashulia and Mirpur regions. This resulted in loss of life and property due to attacks and arson in factories. The owners are claiming that there is no justification for the agitation before the wages are finalised. The laborers are becoming restless at the instigation of external miscreants.
About the situation, the BGMEA president of the garment factory owners told Daily Kalbela, “We want to keep the factory open.” We have said that we will accept the government’s decision on wages. After that there should be no restlessness. For that purpose, BGMEA has advised the owners to open the factory on Saturday. If the worker joins the work at the specified time, the factory will continue, and if the factory is attacked from outside after joining, it will be closed under section 13(1). Apart from this, I had a meeting with the Home Minister on the safety of factories and people. We have adequate security assurances.
Mohammad Hatim, the executive president of BKMEA, another association related to the garment sector, told Kalbela that the decision of our organization regarding the opening of factories is that the factories which are already closed will remain closed. Any factory newly infected shall be closed under Section 13(1). In that case the workers will not get any wages.
He said, “I don’t believe that workers came out of any factory and did these things in places where factories were attacked, vandalized and set on fire.” They are outsiders, attacking factories and attacking workers and officials. I do not consider it a labor movement. Those who are doing this, are not workers, outsiders, criminals.
President of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) Mohammad Ali Khokon told Kalbela that we have agreed with BGMEA and BKMEA. Any factory affected shall be closed under Section 13(1). Factories that have been affected are by outsiders. A lot of information about the agitators has come to our hands, it is seen that even though it is called a workers’ movement, there are presence of outsiders.
Bangladesh National Garment Employees League president Sirajul Islam Roni, the representative of the labor side of the wage board, said that it is undesirable to go outside the factory and protest without discussing with the factory workers union leaders. In the meantime, the government has constituted a wage board. We are working for the betterment of the workers with the goal of long expected wages. In that case, if any kind of disorder occurs, it will have a negative impact on the livelihood of 4 million workers. Due to which the just demands of the industry and the workers are ignored. You are patient that the wage board will determine the fair wages of the workers.