A fire broke out from the packaging unit of a factory belonging to the Standard Group in Konabari, Gazipur at 12:00AM when the clock just entered 29 November 2013. At least two hundred fire fighters from more than fourteen fire fighting units from different locations of the Tongi, Savar and other surrounding areas are at work to try and douse the fire which is still spreading across the different floors of the factory and also its adjacent buildings.
Although the cause of the fire is still unclear, agitated workers are being blamed for the incident by factory owners. Apart from the factory fire, nearby cars have also been crushed and torched by agitated workers in their protest against the minimum wage which has recently been added by the anger caused due to an alleged killing incident of a worker of Standard Group factory by Industrial Police gunfire. Worker’s later also tried to block to way for fire fighters to come to the building to douse the fire, which caused some delay for the units to start their work at the spot.
Till now, the evening of 29 November 2013, it has been confirmed by locals and different sources (media, Industrial Police) that some workers have taken to the streets demanding justice for their two colleagues allegedly killed by goons hired by the factory owner, which caused them to gather together and use mikes to announce such an onslaught. These two workers have previously been at the forefront of Standard Group’s worker protest for a better minimum wage and proportionate increase in the salaries of higher grades which consist of operators. By this time, workers have torched 3 factory buildings and 31 vehicles inside the compound of which 18 covered vans were fully loaded with products. Workers also have sustained wounds and at least one worker sustained a rubber bullet injury while more than 20 rubber bullets have been fired already.
Since the beginning of the minimum wage protests 2013, Standard Group workers from Konabari, Gazipur have been in the forefront, demanding at least 8000BDT as a minimum wage with proportionate increase in the salaries of the other grades. Although most of the major and smaller worker federations have sidelined themselves from these protests after their meeting with BGMEA and press conference later, ordinary workers from factories across the country have been increasingly restless in forcing forward their demands which they feel is crucial for their basic survival. It must also be noted that worker federations barely represent less than 1% or workers in an industry of more than 4 million workers and even more indirectly related to the garment sector in Bangladesh.