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Wednesday, July 08, 2020

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Abdullah Kafi
29 May 2020 18:31:06

Frustration grips RMG workers as factories cut jobs

Frustration grips RMG workers as factories cut jobs
The Business Post photo

In a flagrant violation of labour law, owners of many ready-made garment (RMG) factories have started downsizing their workforce right after Eid vacation, much to the frustration of the workers. 

Allegations run rife that the owners are forcing the workers to sign resignation letters -- if need be, the owners are using the local hooligans to get the things done. The workers also alleged that local police stations are not recording their complaints. 

Earlier, a tripartite meeting between factory owners, government high-ups and trade union leaders, with Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal in the chair, took a decision that no garment owners would terminate any worker in the Covid-19 pandemic situation. And the owners agreed to obey the decision then.

However, immediately after the Eid vacation, the garment owners have started terminating the workers. Right after entering the factory premises, workers alleged, some authorities had snatched away their identity cards, while some had forcibly pushed them out the door.  

A garment worker of MHC Fashion Ltd in Gazipur’s Sreepur told The Business Post that in the present situation, job is more important than life.

“If there is no job, I won’t have any option except to die of starvation. Therefore, amid the risk of coronavirus, I joined the work,” he said.

“But the factory authorities forced me to sign the resignation letter. Whoever were not signing were beaten up; the workers were pushed out the door after snatching away their ID cards,” he alleged, adding that around 350 workers had been terminated in that factory.

Some injured workers alleged they went to Sreepur Sadar police station to file complaints but the officials there denied recording any complaint. 

Sources in garment industry said many workers have lost their jobs as around 50 factories located in Dhaka, Gazipur, Savar and Narayanganj are downsizing their workforce. Some of the factories include Dekko Garments Ltd, Waymart Fashion Ltd, Ridisha Fashion, Trouser Line, Froster International and Delta Textile Ltd. Apart from the local ones, some foreign-owned factories also terminated their employees, added the sources.    

Sirajul Islam Rony, president of the Bangladesh National Garment Workers Employees League, told The Business Post that owners agreed that they would not terminate any worker in this pandemic situation.

The apparel industries received loans under the government-announced Tk5,000 crore stimulus package for export-oriented industries, so they can pay workers’ wages. Yet the owners are forcing their workers to resign in a flagrant violation of labour law, he said.

The workers are being tortured, their ID cards are being forcibly taken away, and there are not being allowed to enter their workplaces, he said.

“Where will they go in this crisis period? Who will employ them?” questioned Sirajul. He warned that workers will take to the street if the owners do not stop terminating workers.

Contacted, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Rubana Haq said owners are not supposed to sack any worker in May.

If there is any specific allegation, BGMEA will take action against the factories concerned, she said. The BGMEA president also requested the owners not to terminate any of their workers.

No salary for April in 920 factories, Eid bonus in 1,258: Industrial Police

Until the last working day before Eid vacation on May 24, a total of 6,682 out of 7,602 factories, including members of BGMEA, BKMEA and BTMA, in Dhaka and elsewhere paid April’s salaries to their workers, according to the Industrial Police. However, the remaining 920 units shut their factories without paying the salaries.

A total of 1,721 out of 1,882 BGMEA members, and 1,041 out of 1,101 BKMEA members paid April’s salaries and allowances.

On the other hand, 349 out of 389 BTMA members paid salaries and allowances. However, the remaining 40 did not pay the salaries.

Out of 364 factories under the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA), 356 paid salaries.

There are 3,866 factories which are not members of BGMEA, BKMEA and BTMA. Of them, 3,089 paid salaries while 777 closed their units without paying salaries.

When it comes to Eid bonus, a total of 6,344 out of 7,602 factories paid festival bonus to their workers, whereas 1,258 did not.

Among the BGMEA member factories, 1,544 paid Eid bonus while the remaining 338 factories did not. Of the BKMEA (Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association) members, 1,016 factories paid Eid bonus, but 85 shut their factories without paying the festival bonus to their workers.

Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) has 389 member factories. Of them, 342 factories paid Eid bonus to their workers, while 47 did not.

Out of 364 factories under the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA), 353 also paid Eid festival bonus, whereas the remaining 11 did not.