As the minimum wage demand enters its 6th day, workers have taken over to the streets in the industrial area of Ashulia, Savar, Narayanganj, Gazipur, Abdullahpur, Uttara, Tejgaon, Tongi and Badda. The BGMEA claims of more than 2000 factories being shut down due to worker absenteeism to support the movement and also due to worker agitation.
At least 3000 factories have been shut down while the garment factory owners report that the losses in business that they may have to suffer due to such unrest may be huge. Although the BGMEA has not given any clear indication, the factory owners claim that due to the unrest they are forced to shut their factories down till the Muslim Eid Holidays (the second biggest festival in Bangladesh); thus, with such a move, opening up a huge scope of denying festival bonuses for workers who would otherwise have planned few rare moments of happiness with their family during these holidays. It must be noted that a Garment Workers in Bangladesh often is found to be working 7 days a week for long hours which may even cross the legal 8 hours of work with 2 hours of overtime (10 hours maximum/daily).
Today, at least 144 factories have been shut down in the Gazipur area due to what the BGMEA claims mass vandalism by the members of their own read made garment family. The protests in Gazipur resulted in the deployment of three platoons of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) by the Deputy Commissioner of Gazipur Nurul Islam on the early hours of the day alongside Police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab).
Workers demand that their minimum wage is increased to BDT 8,114 from BDT 3,000 now. But the owners have so far agreed to hike the existing pay by only BDT 600, which would result in a meager increase of the minimum wage at BDT 3600 from what is currently BDT 3000.
However, despite the burning and visible pain which is evident as the midday sun for the world to see, the BGMEA came forward with their usual argument yesterday and claimed that the local and international media reports on minimum wages and working hours as a “conspiracy” against the highest export earner of the country.
As owners threaten not to pay Eid Bonuses by keeping factories closed till the coming Eid , the workers may as well be forced to pay the price of speaking out and get heard of their pain. Although the voices of the wise and privileged echo out to the workers encouraging them patience by saying, “Vandalism is not the solution…”, it has gained the attention and support of those who care for the industry to continue its activities in a sustainable manner, although agitated workers are yet to pay heed as their suffering boil over the pot of patience.
The hands which have the potential to change the fortunes of Bangladesh now lay helpless and agitated. The unrest have followed with baton charges from the Police against pelting of stones and brickbats from the agitated workers pressing home their demand for a better pay. Blank shots, smoke bomb and hot water tanks have been used over workers against their gathering together and express their suffocation.
A new wage board was made by the government which would give its decision on November this year, after which the new minimum wage would be active provided it is a unanimous decision of all the relevant representatives of in the board.
The RISE Society.