Workers of more than 500 industries across the country are yet to receive their March salaries even though April is over and it is already May.
Of those, 170 are garment and textile factories, seven are under the export processing zone authority, and 327 are other industries, according to the latest data from the industrial police.
Among the garment factories, 81 are members of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and 69 are under the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).
In the recent days, thousands of garment workers staged demonstrations in front of their factories and blocked roads in different areas demanding payment of their due salaries. However, BGMEA officials claimed that most of their member factories had already paid workers.
Only a few factories have not paid yet as they have financial problems but they are also trying to pay, they added.
BGMEA former president Md Siddiqur Rahman told The Business StandardMarch salary issues should be solved immediately. He also acknowledged that a few factories always face a financial crisis but said this should have been solved earlier.
At least eight garment factories workers staged demonstrations in front of their factories and blocked roads in different areas in Ashulia and Gazipur industrial zone On Wednesday. About 1,200 workers of Bobs Apparels Ltd demonstrated demanding their dues at Hemayetpur in Savar, while the owner had earlier declared the factory closed till April 15.
About 120 workers of Eldridge Agros Industries Ltd staged demonstrations in front of their factory at Joypura in Dhamraidemanding arrears for March.
Similar demonstrations were staged outside Argus Metre Battery Factory at Dautia in Dhamrai. Industrial police said about 150 workers demanded their arrears while the owners closed the factory in March because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Industrial police zone-1 Assistant Superintendent of Police Jane Alam Khan said, "We have tried to solve the problems after talking to both factory owners and workers. In most cases, factory owners take time to pay their workers."
About 2,100 workers of Bando Fashion Ltd blocked Dhaka-Mymensingh highway at Board Bazar area in Gazipur demanding full salary. Workers of WM Fashion Ltd and Eba Fashion Ltd also blocked road raising the same demand at the Borobari area in Gazipur.
The government has instructed factory owners to pay 60 percent of the salary to those who are staying at home, and 100 percent to those who are working.
Green Sweater Ltd workers blocked Dhaka-Mymensingh highway at Gachha in Board Bazardemanding arrears. For the same demand, Earth Footwear Ltd workers also blocked Joydebpur-Shimultali road in Gazipur.
According to the industrial police data, a total of 3,357 industries opened on Wednesday. Of them, 1,594 were garment factories, 180 textile factories, and the remaining 1,583 were other industries.
45 Chattogram factories' workers yet to get March salaries
In Chattogram, workers of 45 factories – including 21 garments factories – have not yet received their March salaries.
According to the information of Chattogram Industrial Police 3, of the 21 garments factories which have not yet paid March salaries, 14 are members of the BGMEA.
Of the other factories which have not yet paid March salaries, four are the members of the BKMEA, one of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMEA), six of the Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Industry (Bepza) – including two garment factories – and 20 more are factories related with the garments sector.
Workers of many of these factories have been protesting in the streets, almost every day, demanding their due payments, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Papella Limited and UFM (BD) Limited are two such factories in the Chattogram Export Processing Zone (CEPZ) that have not paid the March salaries of their workers. The two factories employ about 2,000 workers.
On Tuesday, workers of these factories gathered in front of the CEPZ office in demand of their due salaries. Later, after a meeting held between the factory workers and owners, a deadline was set by when the salaries must be paid.
Khurshid Alam, general manager of the CEPZ, coordinated the meeting.
He said, "The salary crisis of these two factories has evolved because their shipments have been suspended. The authorities of the factories had said that they would pay the wages by 10 and 12 April. No other factories of the CEPZ have any due payments."
Kamrul Hasan, senior assistant police super of Chattogram, said, "Most of the factories of Chattogram have paid the salaries to their workers. However, there are some factories which have not paid yet. The workers of these factories are protesting regularly. We have discussed this with the owners. They have assured us that they will pay the due payments soon."
Anjan Shekhar Das, director of BGMEA, said, "Most of our member factories have paid the salaries of their workers. Some of them could not pay because of different crises. We have requested the owners of these factories to pay the due wages as soon as possible."
"Most of the factories, which could not pay the due salaries, work on a subcontract basis. These factories have gone out of our control. However, if any member factory fails to pay wages, the responsibilities come on our shoulders," he added.
The ministry of industries, in a directive, ordered the factory owners to pay the due wages of the workers by April 16. However, it has been 20 days since the deadline expired.
Hasan Maruf Rumi, vice president of Bangladesh Sramik Sanghati, an organisation that works to promote labour rights, said, "It is inhumane to not even pay the wages of the workers 20 days past the deadline. The government announced stimulus packages for the workers, but in reality, they are elusive. As a result, the workers are coming out into the streets, defying the novel coronavirus risk."
Until May 5, 442 of Chattogram's 625 ready-made garment factories had reopened after the Covid-19 shutdown.
Of those factories: 186 are of BGMEA's 326 factories, 54 of BKMEA's 82 factories, 17 of BTMEA's 23 factories, and 185 of Bepza's 194 factories.