Apparel industry workers on Sunday staged multiple protests, demanding timely payment of salaries, arrears and service benefits.
RMG workers of four factories took to the streets at Kanchpur in Narayanganj, Mirpur in Dhaka, and Birulia in Savar.
At Kanchpur, workers of Sinha Designers Limited and Sinha Denim Wear Limited have been abstaining from work for the past two days, protesting the appointment of their new executive director.
They demanded the withdrawal of the executive director; payment of monthly salaries within the first seven days of every month; and quick approval of maternity leaves, earned leaves and retirement benefits.
On Saturday, an office order had been issued on behalf of Sinha Group Chairman Anisur Rahman Sinha, accepting all the demands.
"On Sunday morning, when workers still abstained from work, senior officials announced the acceptance of their demands," said Md Omar Faruqe, Narayanganj Zone assistant inspector general at the Department of Inspection for the Factories and Establishment under the labour ministry.
However, workers of the two factories ignored the announcement and demanded that the chairman visit them and assure them upfront.
Later, workers of the two Sinha factories vandalised the chairman's bungalow and smashed the windows of other factories in the complex.
The Sinha Group complex houses 17 factories, which employ around 24,000 employees, according to the Department of Inspection.
Around 2,500 workers of Sinha Designers and Sinha Denim staged the protests.
Speaking to The Business Standard, an official of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said Sinha Group has a good track record of complying with all rules and regulations.
They are assuming that a third party is fuelling this unrest.
Blockade at Mirpur
While Sinha Group's chairman was dealing with his workers in Narayanganj, workers of Zaara Jeans and Knitwear Limited blocked the roads at Mirpur-1, demanding the payment of arrears.
Jamila Begum, a worker of the factory protesting at the scene, said: "Our factory did not pay our salaries or overtime wages in the last two months. When we came to our factory last Wednesday to take our salaries, we found the factory closed and our owner is missing too."
Police later found out owner Riajul Islam Raju on the ninth floor of Mollik Tower at Mirpur.
After six hours of protest, the workers left the roads and sat for a meeting with the owner, in the presence of police, and BGMEA and labour leaders.
Munsur Khelid, senior additional secretary of the Crisis Management Cell at BGMEA, said: "The unrest at Zaara had started before Eid vacations. The owner had fled but he was presented before the workers, and the government, the BGMEA, law enforcement, and labour leaders decided that all his factory equipment and machinery will be sold to pay the workers' dues."
At the time of writing this report, the BGMEA was negotiating to sell the machinery to other factory owners.
Protests at Savar
In Birulia, Savar, workers of Sark Knitwear Ltd started demonstrating fearing closure of their factory.
BGMEA sources, however, said the factory is still operational. "But the workers are anxious because the factory chairman has been abroad for a while and they had not seen the managing director at the factory as well," said Munsur Khelid.
He added that senior BGMEA leaders had spoken to the Sark Knitwear's chairman on Sunday, and he has assured them that his factory will remain open.
Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Inspection for the Factories and Establishment's Dhaka Zone, Ahamed Belal said the unrest had sparked due to non-payment of a month's salaries.
"We have served them with a legal notice, informing them that the Department of Inspection for the Factories and Establishment will take action against the owner if the factory does not pay its workers soon."
Why the sudden unrest?
BGMEA acting president Faisal Samad said the unrest in the industry has been caused by a shortage of work orders for the last few months.
"As a result, many factories have shut down and some of them failed to pay their workers in time," he added.
BGMEA Director Asif Ibrahim foresees more closures and more job cuts in the near future.
"Unless the government comes forward to assist the sector, we will become quite helpless soon. And Bangladesh cannot afford this," he added.