January 2014 is an important month this year, as this new January of this new year is the first month when payment based on the new Minimum Wage declared on 2013 will be enforceable.
On 27 December 2013 unrest started Fashions Limited garments factory in Mohammadpur, Dhaka. Workers protested for not being paid their due overtime on 15 December 2013 which was then delayed three times and promised eventually on 27 December 2013. However, on 27 of December 2013, the Production Manager informed that he can only pay half of their overtime payments and another half would be paid during January 2014 to which the workers did not agree.
Some workers went on to vandalize factory property which resulted in the factory being shut down for that day and production stopped.
The factory had been in production since the last few months with workers working huge overtimes to meet strict deadlines for famous western brands. Feelings of being let down by the management had been simmering ever since last November, however work continued for the sake of the pay which the workers use to barely exist.
Later on 31 December 2012, ten workers of the factory were sacked by the management due to their participation during the unrest. Again, on 11 January 2014, which was a payday, no workers got their attendance bonus and the wage was not adjusted to the new Minimum Wage 2013 as declared by the Minimum Wage board in Bangladesh and is supposed to be enforceable on the payments for the month of December 2013 to be paid on January 2014. Apart from the wage and attendance bonus, the overtime payment of workers in these factories were still pending and workers still were not given clear indication as to when they will get their pay, bonus or overtime.
On 12 January 2014, the infuriated workers gathered together in front of the factory gate and protested. They walked towards the “Buddhijibi” memorial near Mohammadpur, where the management contacted them to return to the factory after lunch, only to say that their payments cannot be given before 4 months have elapsed as the factory is short of money. Later workers continued their protest and demanded their due payments immediately.
On the 13th of January a worker of the factory connected to a Trade Unionist of Bangladesh Freedom Struggle Garment Workers Federation (BFSGWF) which took immediate action in reporting to the Crisis Committee of BGMEA with a Letter of Demands handed over with 120 workers of that factory. The demands included:
- Maintaining Attendance Card, ID Card, Appointment Letter, Service Book
- Implementation of the new Minimum Wage 2013 and implementation of Bangladesh Labor Law 2006 (amended 2013) in their factory.
- Overtime to be more transparent (it used to be given 50% of basic, which is against the overtime law).
- Workers should be given a reason before they are sacked.
According to Sultana Akter (President, BFSGWF), the workers in this factory did not even have their factory IDs, attendance cards, appointment letters or service books. They did not know how to calculate their overtime (which BFSGWF took the initiative to teach them later). The workers also reported having no custom of getting maternity leaves, which they now aim to add into their demands already made to the BGMEA.
On the 15th of January 2014, the BGMEA initiated a meeting between the workers and their representative with the factory management. After the meeting the factory management and its owner requested 10 working days to decide of a solution and solve the impending crisis.
Fashions Limited is a factory located in a vulnerable building in Mohammadpur which have been noticed for having cracks last year (2013) .