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POST TIME: 11 January, 2019 12:51:20 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 11 January, 2019 12:43:54 PM
Go back to work, keep trust in govt
Labour secy urges protesting garment workers
STAFF REPORTER, Dhaka

Go back to work, keep trust in govt

Workers take part in a protest at Shewrapara of Mirpur as elsewhere in and around the capital yesterday, calling for an end to discrepancies in wage among readymade garment workers. FOCUS BANGLA PHOTO

The government has reassured readymade garment (RMG) factory workers of looking into the problems in wage grades and resolves disparities within a month. Besides reassurances, the government also urged the demonstrating workers to keep trust on it and get back to their respective workplaces. The call came amid continued protests by RMG factory workers, as they took to the streets for the fifth consecutive day in the capital yesterday demanding a revised minimum wage.

Senior officials held a meeting with RMG unit owners and workers’ leaders to discuss ways to address the ongoing workers’ grievances. Speaking at a press briefing in the Secretariat after the meeting, Labour Affairs Secretary Afroza Khan said the discrepancies in the salary structure will be resolved within one month. There are problems in wage grades of 3, 4 and 5 but it will be resolved within a month, she said.

“We are urging the agitating workers to have patience and return to their workplaces. Hopefully all the problems relating to wage grades will be resolved soon,” said Afroza Khan. “We will sit again on next Sunday to discuss this matter,” the labour secretary added. Abdus Salam, director general of Industrial Police, said they think there may be some ulterior motive behind the protest. They have identified some facts indicating ill motives behind the agitation, added the DG.

Abdus Salam said that some workers, employed in factories that pay higher than the minimum wage, were also engaged in vandalism, and that some workers were staging protests in Uttara, where no RMG units are located. Afroza Khan also cited an example where a factory was vandalised even when the wages there are higher than the structure.

She said the committee was given a month’s time to solve the issue and the matter will be resolved before that time. Reiterating the fact that the current government is labour-friendly, she said that there will be no reduction of salary of any worker. The labour department will also open a hot line for the workers, she said. Workers will be able to report their problems by calling the phone number 24 hours. Arrangements are being made so that the problems can be solved immediately. The number will be announced in the industrial areas by public announcements, she added.

Earlier on Wednesday, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi urged the workers to leave the street and return to work. Action will be taken against those who have been trying to profit from the unrest, said the Minister.

Any discrepancy of salaries would be adjusted with the current month’s salaries of the workers, he announced. However, despite these assurances from the minister, RMG workers continue their demonstrations on the streets. Meanwhile, at least 35 people, mostly RMG workers, were injured in clashes between garment workers and police in different areas of Savar, Gazipur and the capital yesterday.

The workers and police clashed when police fired tear shells and blank shots to disperse the agitating workers. Apparel workers took to the streets for the fifth straight day demanding changes to the newly-announced wage structure, blocking several roads including the Baipail-Abdullahpur road and the Zirabo-Bismail road, throwing the traffic out of gear.

Police charged batons on the workers to disperse them. In retaliation, the RMG workers hurled brickbats at the law enforcers. Later, members of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) were deployed in some of the areas.

Earlier, on Wednesday, 30 people were injured in a similar clash between RMG factory workers and police in Savar. Besides, a tense situation was prevailing in the area following the incident and a number of garment factories were declared laid off for Thursday to fend off troubles.

BGB teams were seen patrolling the areas to prevent any untoward incident. In Gazipur, hundreds of workers of different garment factories started demonstrating in the morning. At one stage, the workers tried to block Dhaka-Bypass road, but police dispersed them through baton charge. A chase and counter-chase took place among the workers and police, leaving at least five people injured.

At least 30 garment factories have kept their production suspended since Wednesday following the unrest. In Dhaka, the workers of several garment factories started staging demonstrations at Mirpur-10 intersection, Sheurapara, Kazipara and Agargaon areas after putting barricades on the busiest Rokeya Sharoni road, halting traffic.

On January 7, a similar clash in Savar left one dead. Family members and co-workers identified the dead as Sumon Mia, 22, a worker of Anlima Textile of Kornopara area in Savar. His colleagues claimed, however, that he was not a protester and was caught in the clash between the law enforcers and demonstrators while on his way to work.

German envoy for peaceful solution to RMG conflict UNB adds: German Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Fahrenholtz has sought a 'peaceful and fair' resolution of the ongoing labour conflict. "I'm in favour of a peaceful and fair resolution of this labour conflict," he tweeted urging the factory owners to give fair wages.

Germany, an European country, is currently the second biggest apparel export destination for Bangladesh after the United States. "Police shouldn't suppress striking garment workers," Fahrenholtz wrote in another message. "It's up to the factory owners to negotiate. Give fair wages and safe working conditions. Establish an accident insurance. Don't hide behind the government," it reads.

At least 35 people were injured in clashes between garment workers and police in different areas of Savar, Gazipur and the capital yesterday. The unruly workers started staging demonstrations for the fifth consecutive day yesterday Ashulia of Savar, Bhogra Bypass and Mogorkhal area in Gazipur and Mirpur area, demanding cancellation of the 'discriminatory' wage board announced by the government for them.

SR