A group of workers of a jacket exporter have been staging demonstrations inside their workplace for the past five days demanding unpaid salaries and service benefits after its owner shut it abruptly.
“We have been staying on the eighth floor of the building since January 28 as the factory owner is not paying our dues after the closure announcement,” said Abdul Mohammad Reaz Hawladar, a machine operator of Luman Fashions Ltd on the DIT Road in Malibagh, Dhaka.
Some 600 of the factory's 800 or so workers are staging the demonstration, he said. “We do not even know the reason behind the factory being shut down. The owner all of a sudden announced that he will close the factory down. But he did not assure paying our dues,” Hawladar said.
Although a group of people representing the owner assured that the management would talk with the workers on January 29, it never came about, he said.
“We want the factory management to pay our dues, whatever the amount we get, as per the law,” he said.
Hawladar said the management could not shut the factory without issuing a notice well in advance and without clearing workers' dues. “We will continue the demonstration until the owners pay the dues,” he said.
If the management cannot mobilise the money to pay the arrears, the owner will have to sell off the machinery to make the payments, said the workers.
Rozina, another operator, said the workers have been staying on the floor mainly to prevent the management from removing the machinery. “We can't demonstrate on the streets as there is a possibility of police harassment,” said Rozina, who draws a monthly salary of Tk 9,000.
Some of the workers sat with the higher-ups of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) to settle the issue but it bore no fruit.
Babul Akter, president of the Bangladesh Garment Industrial Workers Federation, said: “The owner has already reached an agreement with the BGMEA and union leaders to pay the service benefits for the workers in March.”
The service benefits amount to more than Tk 3 crore, he said. The workers have already been paid the salaries of January and will receive February's salary in March, Akter said. “The factory management has partially paid the dues of some workers and some are still waiting to be paid,” said Siddiqur Rahman, president of the BGMEA.
He said the owner has been facing troubles in running business as he is not making profits, leading to the closure.
Lutfor Rahman, managing director of Luman Fashions, did not receive phone calls or respond to SMSs.