LABOUR UNREST AT ASHULIA
80 wounded as RMG workers clash with copsRashad Ahamad . Savar
At least 80 people were injured, five factories were damaged and 10 vehicles were torched as several hundred workers engaged in clashes with law enforcers in the country’s readymade garment hub at Ashulia in Savar for the consecutive second day on Tuesday for pay hike.
The trouble erupted in the morning when workers of Artistic Design Ltd, a sister concern of Hameem Group, owned by Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries president AK Azad, blocked the Dhaka-Tangail highway demanding salary hike.
Police charged baton when the situation worsened, with workers from the neighbouring factories joining the demonstrators at around 8:30am.
They also fired rubber bullets and lobbed tear gas shells as the workers retaliated with stones, turning the area into a battle field for three hours.
Almost half of around 350 factories of the area, on the suburb of the capital, remained closed on the day after more then 50 factories suspended their operation on Monday, the first day of the labour unrest.
Movement of vehicles remained suspended for almost three hours on the busy highway after 10 vehicles were torched. The traffic resumed around noon when members of the Rapid Action Battalion and armed police joined the industrial and the local police.
Five factories, including Aibus, United Mebler and factories of Sharmen Group, were damaged when the agitators hurled stones.
Hafiza Akter, who works in a factory of Hameem Group, told New Age that the workers were demanding pay hike to cope with the abnormal increase in the prices of essential commodities.
It is tough to maintain family with the minimum wage of Tk 2,500 fixed in late 2010, she said.
Another female worker, wishing anonymity, said the factory owners were assuring them of increasing the salary to Tk 5,000 while they continued to deprive the workers of overtime bill and others.
Abdus Salam, director general of the industrial police, said demand of the workers was not clear to them.
He suspected that some local people were trying to cash in on the situation and added that they were trying to nab the culprit.
The officer-in-charge of Ashulia police station, Badrul Alom, said additional police forces had been deployed in the area to avoid any untoward incident.
Tension is still prevailing at the area, he said.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue executive director, Mustafizur Rahman, said it was ominous for the export-oriented garment sector whose income slowed down considerably in the last four months due to falling demand in Europe and America.
Mustafizur Rahman said demand for pay hike by the workers was not illogical as their purchase capacity had declined because of prevailing high inflation.
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