Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– At least 55 apparel factories at Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka have been declared close for indefinite period amid demonstration of workers.
“Managements of the factories where workers had observed work abstention for last nine days have been forced to declare their units shut from Tuesday according to provision of 13(1) of labour law,” Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said at a press conference held at the its headquarters in Dhaka on Tuesday.
The section of the law empowers an employer, in the event of an illegal strike by any section or department of any establishment, to close either wholly or partly such section or department.
As per the law, workers participating in such illegal strike may not be paid any wages for such closure.
Workers of the apparel factories in the industrial belt have been demonstrating since December 11 demanding minimum wage of BDT 16,000, ignoring the repeated call of the government to join work.
Terming the work abstention illegal, the BGMEA chief said they (workers) did not follow the appropriate procedures as they did not place any demand in writing to either the government or any factory management.
He warned that more such closure declaration might come if workers observed work abstention.
“There is no logic behind framing new wage structure as, according to the law, wage board is formed five years after the last wage hike. Only three years have passed since the last wage hike was announced,” the BGMEA president explained.
On Monday it was decided in a meeting headed by the commerce minister that factory would open and workers would join, but they (workers) didn’t join.
Ministers for home, shipping, and labour were present at the meeting that was also attended by labour leaders and law- enforcing agencies, according to Mr Rahman.
The BGMEA president smelt local and international conspiracies as they (conspirators) know the RMG industry is the lifeline of Bangladesh’s economy.
On the other hand, State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque termed the work abstention by the garment workers at Ashulia illegal and urged them to join work immediately.
At a press briefing at the labour ministry, the minister said the demonstration of the Ashulia garment workers would be treated as misconduct and unfair labour practice as per the section 196 under the labour act.
If the workers do not join work, factory owners would be forced to close their factories under Section 13(1) of the Bangladesh Labour Act, he added.
Both the minister and the BGMEA president urged the garment workers to resume work immediately.
On Tuesday, workers from over 50 factories in the Ashulia industrial belt took to the streets and clashed with police in several spots.
The agitated workers then took to the busy Dhaka-Tangail highway at different points at Zirabo to Simultala, disrupting traffic movement.
Latter, the police charged baton and fired tear gas shells to disperse the agitated workers.
Additional forces were deployed in the area to avoid untoward incidents, a police officer said.