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Wednesday, June 23, 2010
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Garment sector in dire straits

Law enforcers lob tear shells to disperse agitating workers at Jamgora, Ashulia yesterday. The workers angered by a shutdown of all garment factories in Ashulia torched vehicles, burnt tires and vandalised some factories. The garment manufacturers later announced reopening of the factories today. Photo: Rashed Shumon

The shutdown of all garment factories in Ashulia yesterday has given rise to fear of economic losses in the manufacturing sector, although the owners have decided to reopen today.

Apparel entrepreneurs said they were caught in a double bind, as they were forced to keep their factories closed in the wake of a labour unrest, but the shutdown has cut into production. As a result many run the risk of missing delivery deadlines.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said days of violent protests created "panic and anarchy", and forced factories to close.

Angered by the shutdown, thousands of workers blockaded roads for hours and vandalised vehicles in the industrial hub near the capital yesterday. The workers turned up for work, and began protesting the shutdown, and attacking law enforcers, said police.

The labour unrest stemmed from the workers' demand for hiking their minimum monthly salary to Tk 5,000 from the current Tk 1,650.

Now the owners might have to send shipments by air to meet the deadlines, which is costly, said Delwar Hossain, deputy managing director of Ha-Meem Group, a leading garment company hit by the labour unrest.

Another garment exporter said he might have to bear an additional spending of $36 lakh to send shipments by air to two buyers. It costs $4.5 per kilogramme to ship garment products by air, and the freight charges must to be borne by the garment factory owners, not buyers.

Sector leaders said economic loss from the shutdown of about 250 factories will be huge.

BGMEA President Abdus Salam Murshedy said he did not have an exact amount of the loss caused by the shutdown.

But another BGMEA official said the loss might run into millions of dollars, as now it might be nearly impossible for many factory owners to meet the delivery deadlines.

According to a report from, a fashion news website, international buyers Marks & Spencer, H&M, and Zara are facing the threat of severe delays in stocking deliveries following the closure of garment factories in Bangladesh.

Ifty Islam, managing partner of Asian Tiger Capital, an investment bank, said the minimum wage in Bangladesh's garment sector is the world's lowest. The cost of living has been increasing 10 to 15 percent a year, but salaries have not been adjusted, he added.

"The owners must compromise, and need to cut profit to raise workers' wages to a level which is acceptable."

The only solution is to increase wages for workers, but it will squeeze the profit margin for garment factory owners. So, foreign buyers should understand that they need to raise order prices as well, Ifty Islam said.

"We all should pay a little more. It will be a good balancing act."

The workers damaged some vehicles, burnt tires, and vandalised some factories in Ashulia yesterday protesting the shutdown, police said.

They put up barricades at Jamgora and Baipail on Dhaka-Tangail highway as well.

Police and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) rushed to the spot, and brought the situation under control at noon. Road communication was restored after the demonstrators were removed from the highway.

During the demonstration 30 workers were injured, said local residents.

Meanwhile, Labour and Employment Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain in a meeting with leaders of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and BGMEA said an initiative is underway to announce an acceptable wage scale for the workers before July 28.

He however issued a warning saying any chaos in the garment or any other industrial sector over wage raise will not be tolerated.

The government formed a minimum wage commission for the garment workers in January, headed by Ikteder Ahmed. The commission held some meetings, but could not reach any decision yet.

An alliance of 14 garment workers' associations yesterday reiterated its demand that the government must fix the minimum wage at Tk 5,000 immediately.

At the same time, it urged the government to take necessary steps to open the closed factories in Ashulia, and to stop arrests and harassment of workers who have been protesting for the last four days.

At a media briefing in the afternoon, Mahbubur Rahman Ismail, president of Bangladesh Textile Garment Workers Federation, said the government must protect the rights of all workers.

"The government took a three-month time from April 27 to fix the minimum wage for ready-made garment workers. But no progress has still been made," he complained.

Criticising BGMEA for closing all factories in Ashulia, he said, "According to the existing labour law, the association or an owner must give notice prior to any closure or production suspension."

He also complained that the factory owners in Ashulia have been harassing protesters using police and hired goons for the last couple of days.

The alliance announced a demonstration at Muktangon of the capital today at 4:00pm, and demonstrations across the country on Friday.

Idrish Ali, president of Garment Sramik Trade Union Kendra, and Moshrefa Mishu of Bangladesh Garments Workers Unity Forum also spoke.

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Again our garments sector is in unrest.I could not understand why the govt is not taking strategic steps to mend this problem.

The shutdown of all garment factories in Ashulia would render negative impacts upon our economy.We already know that more than 95 percent workers engaged in this sector are women.

So, the time has come up for the govt to take decision for this emergency period .The govt has to make all kinds of efforts to eradicate all irregularities from the country to ensure congenial environment for the garments industry.

: Eng.Md.Mehebub Haque

what is really disturbing is that anyone would pay someone 1,650 tk for 50-60 hours of labor. That is modern day slavery. I can't believe these hard working people are having to protest for a mere 5,000 tk.

Stop being greedy and practice fair trade apparel entrepreneurs.

: neena


  • Dr S Rahman
    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 09:13 AM GMT+06:00 (200 weeks ago)

    We should care for our people & industries. Why this type of situation should arise ? Prevention is the best thing . Destroying everything is not the way to progress. We should do immediate steps to sort out grievences. day to day living cost is important. I think the owner's of the garment's industries should sit together & discuss with others & govt. Minimum wadge should be review every year by a fair pay comission ombudsman. We want BGMEA & Govt to show their leadership for the sake of a valuable industries & our motherland. Still not too late.

  • Wednesday, June 23, 2010 09:37 AM GMT+06:00 (200 weeks ago)

    We are shocked and highly worried thinking the future of RMG industry of Bangladesh.

  • Reaz Hassan
    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 11:03 AM GMT+06:00 (200 weeks ago)

    The delay in the award of wage rise has created an unprecedented crisis in the garments sector. Moreover, the proposed rise by BGMEA is too inadequate to satisfy the expectations of the workers. No use threatening the poor and often uneducated labouring class. The BGMEA is advised to come up with standard wage rates comparable with other South Asian countries. A contented and satisfied labour force may, in fact, increase the productivity of the textile units. And, please import latest equipments and gadgets which will also spur productivity and lessen cost. Sharing profits with your workers can be a source of joy in your hearts! Give a try.

  • Shaheda Akter Neelu
    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 12:17 PM GMT+06:00 (200 weeks ago)

    The Garments Industry is burning by the unrest labours again and this news is very shocking for us. This issue of the workers demand for hiking their minimum monthly salary to TK. 5,000 from the current TK. 1650.

    This situation is burning day by day and this situation may turn any unexpected incidents. There is no doubt, Garment Industry is the prior earning source of our country. From labours to all classes of people are involved in this industry. When the lobour dissatisfaction and unrest remain, the production is hampered and ultimately shipment is delayed. Now many buying houses are shipping their products by air that is costly. so, what is the benefit?? It is not wise to close the factories which will be helped to destroy our Garments Industry.

    The market is competitive and we have to survive in the competitive market, at any cost we should remain the peace in this Industry. It is true, this Industry is surviving only for the cheap labour cost despite our poor infrastructure.

    The Government, BGMEA and the owner of the factories should come forward to negotiate with the labours and consider this matter cordially. If we do not take any proper initiatives to solve this problem, our Garment Industry will be snatched by other countries like Jute Industry that will not be benefitted for us.

  • Sohel Ahmed
    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 10:38 AM GMT+06:00 (200 weeks ago)

    I have said many times in the past that the future of Bangladesh is like a fresh Black Board. The Ashulia incident is just another example how fast we are heading towards the ultimate goal. The price of raw materials, yarn, paper fabric, cotton has gone up ridiculously in the past few years but unfortunately the cutting and making charge for the manufacturers have gone down as the global economy was at its worst after the world war II era. The military care taker government has failed to sort this problem during their 2 years rule and it seems that the present government is also reluctant to do any thing other than watch what happens next. If the minimum wages are fixed at 5,000 taka which means the most unskilled worker will cash in something around Taka 7,000 a month. Which sure is good for her/him but will surely result many established garment manufacturer to shout down or close the business as the entire cake will be eaten up by the workers and the buyers/customers. The garment manufacturers will end up with out profit which means the sector will soon be dieing. The small manufacturer will initially be benefited but eventually they will also close down as the cutting and making charge is no way going to be increased through the FOB price may increase. A solution is required fast as no on in Bangladesh especially in Dhaka can live earning take 2,200 a month as they do with the present minimum wage of Take 1,662.50 a month.

  • Muhammad Ali
    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 11:18 AM GMT+06:00 (200 weeks ago)

    Garments owners can bear $3.6m additional costs, still can not pay minimum wage. Tk.5,000 is less than $75, in a month!

  • Galib Hasan
    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 11:56 AM GMT+06:00 (200 weeks ago)

    Closing the industry or arrest or discharge from works will not solve the garment sector problem. Instead the garments owner and worker should seat to discuss their problem. And the owner of the garment industries must improve the day to day life of workers, have close ties between them, improve the working environement inside the industry. The owner should feel that when they go to industry with lexus car and workers are coming by walking, putting on sponge sandle or even bear footed with simple house keeping dress. Workers should not seat on the roof top or near by jungle to have their poor lunch. There should be a small place to have their lunch. Govt should find out all those facilities wheather avilable in the industry. Owner should be panalised for lack of fulfilling the need of workers or the lack of facilities with in the industries.


  • Kabir
    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 09:54 PM GMT+06:00 (200 weeks ago)

    Garment workers are the lowest paid workers in the country. Greedy owners are to be blamed for this unrest.

  • tanvir
    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 05:32 PM GMT+06:00 (200 weeks ago)

    Ready made garments is the biggest export oriented sector from which we can earn a significant portion of foreign remittance. For the interest of our country and until arisen of another sector alongside. We should pay our heed with meticulously to mitigate any agitation arising due to pay package or any other reasons to this sector. But it is a matter of great regret we used to see that due to pay package workers become unrest massively and vandalise factories and vehicles for such. As thus the owners of the factories fall in problem and finally they have to shut down the factories in which arises losses in this sector. Despite the many remainders of the civil society, why shouldn't the government takes any stern decision against both owners and workers? As a banker I know if the government will not tackle the matter cautiously, the country will have to fall in a uncertainty with in shortly because this sector is engaged with many other profit and GDP generating sectors like bank, leasing, etc.





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