Hundreds of workers of a readymade garments factory of the Nassa Group took to the streets for the second consecutive day on Thursday demanding outstanding wages and other benefits for workers who, according to the protesters, were fired arbitrarily.
After blocking the Satrasta intersection in the capital's Tejgaon industrial area for more than three hours, the protesters were forced to clear the road after police intervention.
The protesting workers claim that Nassa Mainland, a readymade garments factory of the Nassa Group, sacked hundreds of its workers without reason after Eid-ul-Adha.
The protesters claim that those workers did not get any compensation as per labour law.
"The factory keeps firing workers without serving any notice. They want to shut down the factory, but hundreds of us workers have been victimised by this decision," said Mohammad Azad, a machine operator at the factory.
Another worker of Nassa Mainland also said that they have taken to the streets to demand justice for the workers who have been sacked without reason.
However, Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters' Association (BGMEA), denied the allegations made by the protesters.
She said around 84 workers willingly resigned from the factory after Eid-ul-Adha.
"The factory was planning to clear all their wages and other benefits that they are entitled to get under the law," she said, and added, "According to the law, if someone resigns from their job, they will get payment equal to their salary for one month as a service benefit."
The BGMEA president also claimed that the 84 workers who have resigned from their job, along with their other colleagues, have taken to the streets to demand an increase in tiffin allowance, service benefits and action for the misbehaviour of mid-level officers at the factory.
"Rejecting the factory's proposal for a discussion, the protesters vandalised the infrastructure inside the factory and took to the streets," Rubana Huq claimed.
"Some outsiders also provoked them to demonstrate, and some of them said they won't work at the factory anymore," she added.
Meanwhile, the chairman of Nassa Group, Md Nazrul Islam Mazumder, said he is not fully aware of what has been happening.
He claimed that Nassa Group's business has been growing annually by more than 25 percent, so there is no reason for workers to be sacked on the pretext of a financial crisis.
He suggested that this correspondent talk to the managing director of Nassa Mainland on this issue. When contacted, Managing Director Saiful Alam claimed that they haven't fired anyone unethically.
He said, "We fired only some of the workers who didn't return to work on time after the Eid-ul-Adha vacation." He added that only about 15 workers had been sacked.
Echoing Rubana Huq, he claimed that the environment at the factory is fine, and apart from the sacked workers, the others resigned willingly.
Due to the blockade on the main road of the Tejgaon Industrial area, a long tailback was created from the Satrasta intersection to the Banani flyover, causing great suffering for commuters.
Police had to baton-charge the protesting workers to clear the road. Four workers were injured during the incident and were sent to the nearest hospitals for primary treatment.
Talking to The Business Standard, Assistant Commissioner Farhad Salman Hasan of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police of the Tejgaon Industrial Zone area, said that workers of the garments section of Nassa Group took to the street for the second consecutive day demanding payment of outstanding wages.
Assistant Commissioner Farhad added that: "The protesters were not allowing vehicles to pass. We requested them to free the road and called them for a discussion, but they refused, and even went to the extent of attacking the police with bricks and stones."
"For safety reasons, police also hit back at them," Farhad Salman said.
"Eventually the protesters freed the road after their employers promised to resolve the matter," he added.
The protesters said that they will take to the streets on Friday as well if Nassa Mainland does not agree to their demands.