The workers of Tuba Group have received promises since before Eid, but have faced repeated disappointments over which the bail of Delwar Hossain came as salt on wound. With workers getting ill and more public opinion being generated by them, the BGMEA and the Government are coming under increased pressure to challenge Delwar Hossain’s bail which was previously given on grounds that his presence would expedite pay the 3 month worth of salary and festival bonuses – which also has been labelled by worker leaders, right activists and the workers themselves as plain blackmail.
After 9 days of hunger strike by 1600 workers of the Tuba Group, Garments Workers Unity Forum leader Moshrefa Mishu announced that her along with Tuba workers under the umbrella of “Tuba Group Workers Movement Committee” may go on a Countrywide General Strike over their 5-point demand which includes:
- Payment of 1600 worker’s salary and overtime in full, immediately.
- Ensuring regular employment in all the Tuba group factories.
- Cancelling Delwar Hossain’s bail and ensuring his highest punishment.
- Providing compensation of the dead and injured of the workers of Tazreen garments.
- Compensating the workers who have been participating in the movement for their physical-mental-financial loss.
These 9 days have been eventful, laborious and continuous to be heartbreaking. However, these nine days were preceded by dreadful months of suffering to which these 1600 workers were condemned by their rich masters who plotted and planned to get things their way at the cost of lives which they clearly value not.
How have the workers spent their months without salary? – Working tirelessly to meet deadlines, while taking loans from friends and family to feed their family, these factory workers have been reduced to slavery without what even most slaves in the days of the past had as the basic minimum, i.e. food and shelter.
Unpaid house rents, piling loans and bills, a festival on doorsteps … with the countless eye balls of family staring … life for them now depends on their basic minimum rights being met by the factory owners and the BGMEA. These workers actually have a lot to loose if they live and do nothing about the plunder that is carried out by Tuba Management and the Elites of BGMEA.
Capacity to pay
It is not at all difficult for Tuba Group Management to pay 4.14 crore (398890 Euro) which would include 3 month worth of salaries and bonuses. As per the Export Promotion Bureau, the Tuba Group exported garment worth 39 crore (3.75 million Euro) . From just one factory, the exports have been well over 2 million Euros.
This scenario cements the theory suggesting the whole catastrophe being staged to bring Delwar Hossain from prison to freedom.
The LC records from one of Tuba Group’s factories show that export related income between April and June is USD 540957 (Tk 4,32,000,00), and income is USD 4910000 (Tk392100000). This income is from Tuba fashions alone, the owner have earned from the other four factories tool. Besides, Tuba Group is also doing subcontracting work as well. If we add up this income with what the owner has earned from the other factories (Mita Design, Tuba Textile, Taif Design and Bukshan Garments), its clear that paying the workers is well within the capacity of Tuba Group.
With activists from different right organizations uniting in their efforts, actions are bring taken everyday. A calender of events made by the ongoing action of various organizations and individuals/groups is listed below;
Calender of Events Surrounding the Tuba Group Workers Movement:
- May 17, 2014: In the face of workers agitation, Md. Khalekujjaman, Factory Manager gave it in writing that it will pay due from April, 2014 onMay 20, 2014 (before lunch) and next months salary by June 10, 2014.
- June 26, 2014: A tripartite agreement was signed between factory management, labor representative (35 workers from Tuba and labor organizations including AWAJ Foundation and Sromik League. In this agreement, the factory management agreed to pay workers in the following payment schedule according to which all due should be paid by July 3, 2014. Around this time, workers were reportedly told, at times persuaded to actively participate in campaigns to free the owner of Tazreen Fashions Ltd. On the same date a letter of warning was issued by the Department of Factory Inspection against the administration of Tuba Group as they failed to pay workers salary in a timely manner.
- June 27, 2014: After the management failed to meet their obligations on three separate occasions, they were forced to take the step of confining Laily Begum (mother in law of Mr. Delwar Hossain), and Rubel Hossain (brother in law of Delwar Hossain).
- July 7, 2014: A legal notice was issued the Department of Factory Inspection asking why legal action should not be taken against the factory management as they failed to pay the workers salary for three months in a row.
- July 9, 2014: Workers started a procession and block the adjacent Bishwa Road. Police used water cannon to disperse the workers. At this phase workers realized labor organizations that were with them earlier are no longer around, and they were used as human shield to secure the owner’s bail.
- July 24, 2014: Several hundred workers of Tuba Group besieged the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA) Building demanding due wages and festival allowances. At around midnight, they were told that their dues will be paid by 27 July, 2014. The owner Mr. Delwar Hossain got bail from the Court by this time.
- July 28, 2014: The day before the Eid day, workers began to assemble in front of the factory, some of the workers were already inside the factory taking care of Laily Begum (Mother-in-law of the owner). They all decide to take control of the factory space until they were paid. We were contacted by the workers and Comrade Moshrefa Mishu of Garment Workers Unity Forum tried to talk with the president and vice-president of BGMEA and the labor minister. Workers gave an ultimatum that if they were not paid by evening they will begin a hunger strike at 7pm. Their demands remained unmet, so they begin their strike.
- August 4, 2014: 122 workers are suffering from different level of dehydration and 14 hospitalized as their health condition took a critical turn. Protest programs continued and more programs are scheduled for August 5, 2014.
- August 5, 2014: Symbolic Hunger Strike organized by university teachers. Sit-in protest in front of BGMEA organized by Tuba Group Workers Movement Coalition; workers beaten by Police by baton charge and were water cannoned to be dispersed. Rights activists and intellectuals of the society held a human chain in front of the High Court in solidarity with Tuba Group workers.
According to right activists and labor leaders, the 5 factories manufactured garment for popular brands such as KiK, Lidl, Li & Fung, Walmart as well as for FIFA World Cup fan jerseys. All these firms have their goods and the workers are still without pay, which surely lays an obligation over them to put pressure on the BGMEA and Tuba Group to pay its workforce already.
In Solidarity and Unison,