Tuba apparel worker crisis over pay lingers onmm

Protesting workers of Tuba Group have taken an unyielding stance, foiling BGMEA’s efforts to pay part of their overdue salaries.

Ashik HossainShaikh Abdullah and bdnews24.com
Published : 6 August 2014, 07:15 PM
Updated : 6 August 2014, 07:18 PM

Around 1,500 workers of five factories of Tuba Group went on hunger strike on July 28, demanding the payment of three months' wages and festival allowances.

On Wednesday BGMEA prepared to pay the workers at their headquarters but only one-thirds of them turned up.

Most of the workers are continuing their hunger strike at the Badda factory. Workers’ leaders and other activists are there as well.

Since morning police and activists have clashed several times. Ganasanghati Andolan chief Zonayed Saki was injured in police assault.

Agitating Tuba workers' five demands include immediate payment of unpaid wages, overtime and Eid bonuses and factories be kept open so that over 1,500 workers can retain their livelihood.
The other demands are compensation for workers who have fallen ill, 'cancellation' of Tuba Group Managing Director Delwar Hossain’s bail and damages for the victims of Tazreen Fashions fire.
Workers have threatened a strike on Thursday if these demands are not met.
Police raided the factory building on Wednesday afternoon and threw out 20-25 people. Workers alleged that police were trying to send them forcefully to collect the pay from BGMEA but police said they were removing ‘outsiders’.
Delwar Hossain was in jail in a case filed over the deaths of 112 workers of readymade garment factory Tazreen Fashions, which was gutted in a blaze in 2012. The Group owned Tazreen Fashions.

However, Hossain secured bail from the High Court on July 24 alle gedly 'suppressing facts' and was released last Tuesday.

Tuba workers began their hunger strike on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, and were later joined by activists of 15 labour organisations.

After mediation by the government, BGMEA agreed to pay two months of salaries to the workers and fixed Wednesday for the distribution.

Workers refuse pay

From Wednesday morning, BGMEA had set up a booth at its headquarters to pay some 1,500 Tuba Group workers two months' pay.

Earlier BGMEA had turned back Tuba workers when they came protesting to their office. On Tuesday they even threatened that the workers would get nothing if they did not show up in time to collect the salaries.

A few turned up in the morning, but the numbers grew in the afternoon.
Until Wednesday night, 550 workers had collected their pay. BGMEA says it had a list of 1,458 workers who were to be paid.
The workers are demanding that the entire three-month salary and Eid bonus has to be paid. Expenses for the treatment of the workers who have fallen ill during the hunger strike must also be met.
BGMEA President Atiqul Islam told reporters the owners had decided in a meeting that since many of the workers could not come on Wednesday, the salaries would be offered from 9am-5pm on Thursday.
Some workers alleged that they were forced to go to BGMEA to collect money.
On the other hand, the BGMEA president alleged that some workers’ associations had stopped the workers from coming to collect their pay.
Call for strike
Tuba Group workers threatened to strike down all readymade garment factories across Bangladesh on Saturday if their five-point charter of demand is not met by Thursday.
They will also demonstrate across the country on Thursday and Friday.
Tuba Group Sramik Sangram (workers' action) Committee Convenor Moshrefa Mishu made the announcements from a fifth floor window of the Tuba factory in Hossain Market at Dhaka's Badda using a megaphone.
She alleged police obstructed them from holding a press conference on the ground floor.
Law enforcers have positioned themselves in front of Hossain Market since Wednesday morning. At noon, police pushed around 25 protesters out of the factory claiming they were 'outsiders' and not workers.
While Mishu was announcing the programmes, some workers threw notes from the building where they said they would not mind taking two months' salaries if the owners or BGMEA came to the factory and paid them.
BGMEA chief Islam alleged that the protests were efforts by “some sectors” to “divert” the incident into a different issue.
“The workers are protesting for money, and we’re sitting here with money. Millions of lives depend on the garment industry. We should not let anyone play with its fate,” he said.
He urged politicians to keep the garment sector ‘above’ politics.
Activists, labour group clash
Leftist activists clashed with a workers’ organisation to prevent them from whisking away two workers from the factory.
The leaders of that organisation tried to bring out the workers Neela and Taslima. The Leftist leaders locked in a clash with them. Poilice were quiet at first but charged baton later and dispersed both the groups.
Two Dhaka University teachers who brought food and saline for the workers were injured in the baton charge.
Police action
Police entered the Tuba Group's factory in Badda in the morning to clear out activists of labour organisations.
About 20 to 25 people were pushed out of the building and reporters were barred from entering the premises.
Police said they were checking IDs and bringing out people who did not work in the factory.
Two people, however, said they had showed their IDs to the police but were still expelled from the ground floor.
Locked up
Around 10am all the gates of the Hossain Market, where the factory is housed, were locked up. Workers alleged that this was done by the police.
After midday, police broke the lock on the main entrance and started asking workers to go to BGMEA headquarters to collect their pay.
Police then entered the building to 'clear out' activists of labour organisations.
They also pushed out doctors who were with the workers during their hunger strike, Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee Convenor Moshrefa Mishu said.
They were also stopping doctors from administering saline to workers rendered sick by hunger strike, she said.
Police have denied her accusations saying they have been checking workers’ ID cards to expel only those who are ‘outsiders’.
Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher