The Top Jeans Ltd, a garment factory based in Dhaka's Uttara, has been mulling over shutting down its operations for the last a few months due to a lack of international orders.
As a result, the factory workers did not get the wages for the month of November this year. And around 1,700 workers are likely to miss the current month's salary too.
Amid this situation, hundreds of workers of the factory demonstrated in Uttara on Saturday, demanding unpaid salaries and service benefits before its owner shuts it down completely.
The workers took to the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway and blocked the busy road for at least six hours.
Due to the protest, vehicles got stuck on both sides of the road for hours, causing immense suffering to the passengers.
Hundreds of workers holding banners and placards were seen staging a demonstration in front of Palwell market in Abdullahpur area around 11:30am, seeking punishment of the factory chairman Kabita Basu.
They stayed there for six hours. In the meantime, workers of nearby garment factories – Dazzling, Basic, Chaity, Versatile, Shanta, Azmiri and Fashion Garments – showed solidarity with the protesters and joined the protest.
The authorities of the factories also kept their units closed to tackle the situation.
However, the workers of the Top Jeans withdrew their protest around 4pm after getting assurance from the law enforcement agencies and the owner that the salaries and benefits will be paid soon.
Additional Deputy Commissioner Hafizur Rahman Real of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Uttara division said, "The workers withdrew their protest after receiving assurance from the owner of the garment factory. The owner sought some time to pay the dues."
While talking to The Business Standard, some workers said the officials of the factory are yet to get their last three month's salaries.
Rokeya, one of the workers, said, "We are struggling for the last one and a half months but the management is going to shut down the factory without paying our salaries. We need unpaid monthly wages. We have taken to the streets also for other benefits."
Another worker and trade union leader Zoynal Abedin said that if the owner decides to shut down the factory, they have to pay benefits along with the due wages as per the labour law.
"That is why, we took to the streets. We have been able to send a message to the owner that the factory cannot be shut down until the wages and benefits are paid," he added.
Zoynal claimed that the factory chairman Kabita Basu tried to negotiate with the workers with only the November's salary.
Talking to The Business Standard, Kabita Basu said she has decided to shut down the factory operations as she has been counting losses for months due to a lack of orders from international buyers.
"Who would run a factory incurring such a huge amount of losses? We used to make clothes for global brands and clients. It is the irony of fate that we have received no orders in the current month," she added.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) could not set a date when the payment will be made till filing of this report.
BGMEA Senior Additional Secretary Munsur Khaled said the factory's chairman Kabita stayed at the Uttarkhan Police Station for at least four hours.
Officials of the apex body of apparel industry sat with workers' representatives and Kabita at the police station to discuss whether the owner would run the factory, or shut it down paying the dues and compensations.
"We are trying to resolve the issue as per the labour law. But the owner sought some time to pay the dues and benefits," he added.