RMG wage sparks violent protests

July 31, 2010

Rampaging workers vandalise over 200 business establishments, several factories in city a day after announcement of new pay structure
Several thousand garment workers yesterday rampaged through different parts of the capital and Gazipur rejecting new wage structure and demanding Tk 5,000 minimum wage from August.
The workers damaged around 200 business establishments, including several garment factories, and seven vehicles at Mohakhali, Tejgaon industrial area, Banani Chairmanbari and Gulshan Avenue, reports The Daily Star.
The violent protest yesterday rocked the upscale neighbourhood of Gulshan Avenue, a popular shopping area. Angry workers vandalised a series of shops and smashed the glass fronts of offices on both sides of the avenue.
At least 20 people including five police personnel were injured in yesterday’s clashes in Dhaka between law enforcers and workers.
Witnesses said around 8:30am about 4,000 workers blocked the roads at Nabisco in Tejgaon industrial area while some 1,000 others took position near Mohakhali flyover at Chairmanbari, Banani.
Heavily outnumbered, police put barricades on roads and tried to disperse the protestors by charging truncheons and lobbing teargas canisters.
The barricades, however, could hardly hold the agitating workers for long. They started vandalising glass exteriors of many business centres including Navana Tower, Habib Super Market, Jabbar Tower in Gulshan-1, United Commercial Bank at Mohakhali Commercial area and Prime Bank at Amtoli in Mohakhali.
Witnesses said the workers damaged the glass fronts of the establishments, as the business centres were closed for the weekend.
Meanwhile, the agitators at Tejgaon Industrial Area swooped on a dyeing factory and brought out a huge volume of fabrics on the street. They set fire to the fabrics.
Security guard Abdul Ali was on duty at an ATM booth in Mohakhali commercial area. He said garment workers hurled brickbats and damaged the booth around 11:30am. He and his two other colleagues were beaten up when they requested the protestors not to damage the booth.
The workers damaged five vehicles including three CNG-run auto rickshaws at Shahid Tajuddin Ahmed Sarani and torched a vehicle at Tejgaon-Gulshan link road and a motorbike near Navana Tower in Gulshan-1.
Deputy Commissioner (DC) AKM Hafiz Akhter of Gulshan zone told The Daily Star that the factory workers damaged over 40 business centres in Gulshan.
He said they have picked up 15 people from the spot in connection with vandalism.
DC Chowdhury Manjurul Kabir of Tejgaon zone said around 4,000 workers took to the streets in the area. At one stage police were compelled to charge truncheons and use teargas as the workers pelted them with brickbats, said the DC.
Around 12:30pm police brought the situation under control and restored vehicular movement in the areas.
Garment worker Parvin said, “We were forced to take to the streets as the owners exploited us right under the government’s nose. I have to spend Tk 1,000 for food and Tk 1,500 for house rent. How will I maintain other things with this wage?”
“Moreover, the factory owners want to deprive us of the increased Eid bonus by trying to implement the wage structure from November,” she added.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner AKM Shahidul Haque at a press briefing at the DMP headquarters yesterday said police would show zero tolerance to those who destroyed public properties.
“Cases will be filed today [Friday] against the garment workers’ leaders who instigated the violence in the city. Police have an intelligence department report on those leaders and none would be spared,” he said, adding, “We are left with no other choice but to deal with the situation with an iron hand.”
The commissioner suspects yesterday’s violence as an act of sabotage. “We cannot rule out the chances of sabotaging as a quarter will take advantage of the RMG chaos,” he said.
Sub-Inspectors Nazrul Islam and Minul Islam Khan of Tejgaon Industrial Area Police Station filed two separate cases under Speedy Trial Tribunal Act accusing around 1,500 unidentified people.
Meanwhile, SI Sayeed Iftekher Hossain filed another case with the police station in connection with assaulting police against the same number of people.
Mohammad Selim, general secretary of Navana Tower, filed a case with Gulshan Police Station accusing around 700 unidentified people of damaging the shopping mall, looting optic store Eye Lander and torching vehicles parked in front of the building.
In all the four cases 10 garment workers–Mahbub Islam, Bazlur Rashid Feruz, Moshrefa Mishu, Montu Ghosh, Sultan Bahar, Nasim Nasrin, Kalpana Akhter, Ruhul Amin, Babul Akhter and Abul Hossain–have been implicated.
Gulshan police arrested six people while Tejgaon industrial police arrested two people last night.
Meanwhile, around seven thousand garment workers demonstrated at Tinsarak Purba Chandana in Gazipur yesterday afternoon pressing for the same demand.
They barricaded Dhaka-Gazipur highway and clashed with police as law enforcers tried to disperse the workers charging truncheons.
The workers vandalised five vehicles including three buses during their one-hour roadblock from 4:00pm. The situation came under control around 5:00pm.
On Thursday, the government announced a new pay scale for the garment sector. According to the new wage structure, the minimum wage at entry level has been fixed at Tk 3,000, up from the present Tk 1,662.
The garment workers’ leaders expressed resentment over the pay scale as they have been bargaining for Tk 5,000 minimum wage for years.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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