Owners agree to reopen apparel units today
Workers at Ashulia factories to continue agitations if wages not increasedMoloy Saha
Apparel factory owners at a meeting with the government on Wednesday agreed to reopen their units in the Ashulia industrial zone today after a four-day closure in the wake of a week-long labour unrest.
The labour minister, Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, at a meeting with the leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association at the secretariat called on the owners to reopen their factories at Ashulia on Thursday.
The minister at another meeting with the labour leaders also asked the workers to join work and gave an assurance of steps to resolve the crisis that had hit hard the export-oriented sector.
‘All factories at Ashulia will remain open from tomorrow and I call on the workers to join work,’ Mosharraf told reporters after the meetings on Wednesday.
The labour leaders, however, said that the decision on the reopening of factories would not be meaningful if the workers’ demand for a pay hike and payment of dearness allowance were not met.
They feared that the unrest might not end in the present situation.
A number of workers at Ashulia told New Age that they would continue with their agitation if their wages were not increased.
The BGMEA president, Safiul Islam Mohiuddin, said that all the owners were being requested to reopen the factories at Ashulia that employ about five lakh workers.
More than 350 garment factories remained closed for four days beginning on Saturday amidst demonstrations by workers for an increase in their wages, raising concerns for the apparel sector that earns the country more than $20 billion a year.
‘I have also instructed the owners that the workers must not be affected financially for the closure of the factories. Lawmen have also been asked to ensure that ordinary workers are not harassed,’ the minister said.
He said that the government would also take initiatives to built hostels for the workers in the labour-intensive areas to resolve their accommodation problem.
Mosharraf said that the government would address the demands after getting a written charter from workers. Tripartite meetings would be held soon to reach a peaceful solution, he added.
The state minister for labour, Monnujan Sufian, the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on the labour ministry, Israfil Alam, the BKMEA president, Nasim Osman, the president of the Bangladesh Employers’ Federation, Fazlul Haque, and the FBCCI president, Abul Kalam Azad, among others attended the meeting.
Garment labour leaders Mahbubur Rahman Ismail, Moinuddin Mandal, Lima Ferdausi, Serajul Islam Roni, Shahidul Islam Sobuj, among others, were present at the meeting with the minister.
Earlier in the day, Monnujan held a meeting with the leaders of labour rights organisations at Labour Directorate for a resolution of the crisis. Leaders of about 45 organisations attended.
An eerie calm descended on the workers’ neighbourhoods at Ashulia as the workers started leaving their homes fearing arrest and also amid uncertainty over the reopening of the factories in a couple of days.
About 20,000 workers live at Manikganjpara of Ashulia and most of them have reportedly left for their village homes while the rest were preparing to leave, according to workers.
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