“We don’t want to suspend production but have been forced to do so as the owners feel insecure following the continuous unrest” – BGMEA president Atiqul Islam, May 15, 2013.
BGNEA President Atiqul Islam at a press conference further said that they had taken the decision to shut factories as per the Section 13 (A) of the Labour Act, meaning the workers will not get salary or their dues.
The workers blockaded the Dhaka-Tangail Highway for about an hour in the morning. They also threw brickbats in some factories and tried to vandalise vehicles on the highway.
The law enforcers charged batons to disperse them, leaving scores of workers injured.
A devastating fire had claimed at least 112 lives at Tazreen Fashions Limited at Ashulia in November last year. At the end of April this year, the disastrous collapse of a nine-storey commercial building Rana Plaza at Savar has so far claimed 1,136 lives.
After the two deadly incidents, Western buyers and the Bangladeshi government have come under renewed pressure to find ways to tighten oversight of the sector, which employs four million people and accounts for 80 percent of exports.
“The impact of suspension of production is enormous and unbearable,” Abdus Salam Murshedy, managing director of Envoy Group, that runs its manufacturing activities in Ashulia.
It is a widespread belief among workers and interest groups that the Factory Owners lead by the President of the BGMEA have planned this indefinite shut down of the most state-of-the-art factories to shut down as a show of strength both against the Government and the Workers during these times when they are being forced to compromise.
As the minimum wage board is asked to be fixed and the Labor Law amendment done, factory owners are increasingly weary of the current developments. Apart from raising the minimum wage of workers, the greatest concern for factory owners and some of their western buyers is Trade Union Registration liberalization that the Government if planning to implement. They believe that a higher pay along with expenditures on safety will compromise the scale of profits that they had been enjoying, while trade unions and the Government leaning in favor of workers might threaten the all powerful position of Ready Made Garment factory owners of the Country.
In July last year, garment makers at Ashulia and Savar areas kept their factories closed for two weeks due to a massive labour unrest.
The trouble followed a rumour that a worker had died at an Ashulia-based factory of Ha-Meem Group, a leading garment exporter.
Earlier in the day, the authorities of at least 100 apparel factories at Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, suspended production in the face of agitation by workers demanding pay hike, benefits and workplace safety.