Garment workers seek clarity over wage

Protesters act over misinformation; 100 factories shut and 30 injured in clashes

Sarwar A Chowdhury with Abu Bakar Siddiqui, Rashad Ahamad

Garment-workers
Police stand guard to disperse the garment workers who took to the streets in the industrial zone of Ashulia yesterday, following the death of two workers in Gazipur earlier. They are also calling for higher wage

Confusion over new salary structure and rumours of casualties in other garment factories have been causing the labour unrest in Ashulia and Gazipur over the last couple of weeks, much to the frustrations of garment owners.
“When I went to the management to find out how much I would get under the new salary structure, I was informed that it may be Tk 8,500,” said a female worker of Rose Dresses in Jamgarah in Ashulia.
She now gets Tk 8,000 per month, meaning a pay rise of possibly just Tk 500 is forthcoming in contrast to the 77 percent salary hike for entry-level workers.
“This is totally unfair. An entry-level worker would get a raise of Tk 2,300 whereas I, an experienced worker, would get only Tk 500. How is this just?”
Amena Khatun, a sewing operator in another factory in Ashulia, too, felt hard done by.
“The new salary structure doesn’t bring any good news for us—they didn’t think of our interests but only of entry-level workers. This is unacceptable.”
Mamun, a sewing operator at Quaval Textile at Konabari in Gazipur, however, is holding his reservations until he hears an official announcement from the factory announcement.
“We just heard from workers in other factories that a pay rise is on the way. The authorities didn’t tell us anything yet but people are getting all worked up and fighting.”
The factory management and owners, however, are at a loss over the confusion surrounding the new wage structure.
“We haven’t got the gazette notification yet and we have even informed our workers so. I don’t know where this information is coming from,” said Mominul Islam Momin, a general manager of Kader Composite Spinning Mills.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, a former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and managing director of Envoy Group, said the new pay scale will be implemented once the gazette notification arrives.

Meanwhile, Farid Hossain, a production manager at a factory in Ashulia, said word of demonstrations or casualties of workers in other factories sets off workers in all neighbouring factories.
“They do not even want to verify whether the news is true or not. They are just looking for an excuse to wreck havoc,” he added.
Kabir Hosen, secretary of National Garment Workers Federation of the Savar industrial belt, however, is stumped by the recent wave of unrest.
“This is an embarrassing situation for my association. I don’t know why they are protesting when a salary hike is on way, that too when it is in line with what we demanded.”
Meanwhile, another bout of unrest took place yesterday at Ashulia, leaving at least 30 workers and passers-by injured and over 100 factories shut.
The workers set out to put up a barricade at Jamgarah but the police foiled their attempt. In retaliation, the workers threw brick chips at law enforcers, which they responded with rubber bullets and tear gas, said Mostafizur Rahman, director of Ashulia industrial police.
The clash arose after news of deaths of two garment workers in Gazipur during a similar confrontation with police on Monday.
Police detained Ziaul Kabir Khokan, president of Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Trade Union, on Monday night on charges of instigating the workers to unrest, said Kamrunnahar, a sub-inspector of Joydevpur Police Station.

Source: The Daily Star

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