BGMEA ‘sorry’ as Tuba workers keep collapsing

On the seventh floor of their factory, on the same table where they pressed clothes, workers of Tuba Garments are now lying down with IV saline tubes through their arms.

Golam Mujtaba Dhruba and Sheikh
Published : 30 July 2014, 04:36 PM
Updated : 3 August 2014, 08:59 AM

Overcome with fatigue on the third day of an ongoing hunger strike, most of them are sitting or lying down on the floor.

In one room, workers are making speech, demanding three months of unpaid salaries and Eid bonuses.

The owner’s mother-in-law Laili Begum, is practically a hostage in the ninth-floor packaging room. Workers are standing guard over her and feeding her. She is sleeping on the floor wearing a sari supplied by the workers.

A police car stands in front of the 12-storey building, and on the ground floor several policemen are standing on alert.

Over 300 workers of the garment factory have been holding a hunger strike inside Hossain Market, the building owned by Tuba Group, since the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr.

Neither the owners, police nor BGMEA, the apex body of garment manufacturers, has been able to provide a solution to end their plight.

Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association’s Labour Standing Committee Chairman Ahad Ali Ansari said, “We’re really sorry. They could not celebrate Eid and they’re on a hunger strike.”

In 2012 Tazreen Fashions, a factory owned by this group, burned down, killing hundreds of workers. The owner, Delwar Hossain, is now in jail for negligent deaths.

Over 1,500 workers from the group’s five factories had been protesting for their salaries for the months of May, June and July and Eid bonuses. BGMEA took up the matter several times but could not reach a solution.
Tuba Fashions Cutting Supervisor Mujibur Rahman told that every day almost 10-12 workers were falling ill.
Some of them were being put on drips at the factory. Some were being sent to the Maghbazar Community Clinic.
“But the workers keep returning to the factory whenever they feel a little better,” he said.
One Dr Arju of the Progressive Doctors’ Forum, a doctors’ association affiliated with the Communist Party of Bangladesh, is giving them first aid on the seventh floor of the building.
He said 10-12 workers were becoming hypoglycemic every day and were getting IV saline.
Garment Workers Solidarity Forum leader Moshrefa Mishu has been taking part in the hunger strike from the first day.
“As long as the workers do not get their salaries we will continue this movement,” she said.
Sewing supervisor Mohammad Sohag said the factory had done Tk 260 million worth of work during this football World Cup.
“Even so the owner is talking about financial losses. This is obviously not true,” he said.

BGMEA looking at the government
BGMEA has made several attempts to resolve the crisis and announced several dates to issue salaries but could to deliver.
On July 23, Tuba Group’s workers protested in front of the BGMEA building.
Afterwards BGMEA Labour Standing Committee Chairman Ahad Ali Ansari said, “(Tuba Group) was supposed to deposit the money in the bank. But another Tuba Group factory drew that money from the bank. So we could not pay these workers.”
BGMEA President Atiqul Islam and Vice Chairman SM Mannan Kachi’s phones were switched off.
“We tried our best. The government told us to sell off Tuba Group’s property if necessary. We tried to sell a floor of the building and then found out it was mortgaged to Jamuna Bank,” he said.
Then they tried to sell a tin-shade factory in Badda owned by the group but could not find a buyer.
“We thought of paying the overdue salaries from BGMEA’s own funds, but we could only have paid a handful of people. That would only have created more problems,” Ansari said.
He said BGMEA was still trying to sell off the tin-shed factory to resolve the crisis.
“We have urged the government to take charge of paying their salaries at any cost,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (Gulshan Zone) Nurul Alam said, “There is no progress since all offices are still on vacation. Tomorrow (Thursday) offices will open. Hopefully we will find a solution.”
Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher