Published: Friday, October 11, 2013

RMG factory comes to a close

Owner points finger at trade union

Yasser Yousuf Khan is now struggling to pay the salaries of around 550 workers in his factory, Rebecca Fashions Ltd — unit 2.
It is a tricky business as he has to sell his personal car even to clear the dues tagged with his factory at Kafrul in Dhaka.
With his total bank liability crossing Tk 16 crore, it is a pity he has to stop operations and comply with the demands of his union leaders.
“I don’t know what to do now. I am in peril. Even I don’t take any unknown phone call as some workers threaten me for withdrawing the case from the police station,” Khan told The Daily Star.
Khan is the managing director of the factory that was closed down on the 15th of September. “My family and I are totally shattered as we are in a big financial mess.”
He started the factory in September 2010, investing around Tk 2.5 crore from the savings of his father, who is a retired pilot of Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
“We had no way but to close the factory as the workers are constantly threatening us with trade unionism,” Khan said.
The factory formally introduced the trade union in November 2012. “After that, the workers used to stop work and start making unnecessary demands, even after receiving their salaries and overtime altogether on the 10th of every month.”
Some of the demands included lunch bills for each employee, increasing attendance bonus from Tk 300 to Tk 500, and providing salaries including overtime by the 7th of each month, Khan said.
“These demands can only be fulfilled by large factory owners. It is almost impossible for a factory like Rebecca Fashions as it is a small factory,” he said.
Each month, workers used to work a maximum of 15 days, he said. “We, therefore, were not being able to make any shipments on time. All my goods were either sent by air or had to face huge discounts and order cancellations.”
The factory that produces trousers generally used to export goods worth $1 million a year mainly to Canada, the UK and other European countries.
The situation, however, got critical on September 19 when the factory owner started paying layout compensation to the workers.
“Workers vandalised the factory and some were involved in looting fabrics and readymade goods that were going to be exported, while the company was paying compensation to them,” Khan said.
He had to sell off the full factory setup, including machinery, tools, furniture, lights and fans, to pay the wages and service benefits for a total of three months as per the labour law under the strict supervision of the police.
Md Imran Hannan, president of the factory’s trade union, however, refuted the allegation that the trade union leaders were responsible for the factory’s closure.
“We always made logical demands. The workers used to do their job regularly,” he said, adding that the trade union leaders do not know the reason behind the shutdown.
Hannan said: “No single worker was involved in stealing or looting on September 19 as the police was present at the time.”
There had been unrest in the factory for a long time, said Kazi Wazed Ali, officer-in-charge of Kafrul Police Station. The owners shut the factory as they were incurring losses, he added.
However, the managing director of the factory lodged a complaint with the Kafrul Police Station to arrest the culprits behind the vandalism and looting on September 19, Ali said.
The case is now under investigation, he added.