Labour leaders on Tuesday said that around five crore workers in the country are suffering because of the fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Fazlul Haque Montu, Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad (SKOP) joint coordinator and National Sramik League president, claimed that at least half of these workers might not receive their wages for March and April.
"A large number of workers have been affected by layoffs and pay-cuts, and could become jobless at any point," he stated. "Before Eid-ul Fitr, every worker should get their wages and bonuses, as per the labour law. Or else, we will call for protests."
Montu made these demands while participating in a human chain at the National Press Club on Tuesday.
The labour leaders said the general holiday, declared by the government to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, has affected workers the most.
The government has given an incentives package of Tk5,000 crore to garment factory owners to pay wages, even though the factories are closed during the general holidays. Despite this, there have been debates and delays on the percentage of wages to be paid to the workers, the leaders said.
Montu said that aside from the ready-made garments (RMG) workers, many: steel and re-rolling workers, transport workers, shipping workers, tea workers, domestic workers, salon workers, hotel and restaurant workers, handicraftsmen, printing and binding workers, goldsmiths, tailors, hawkers, shop workers and others, are also in trouble amid the pandemic.
"The number is about five crore," he stated.
"Many employers have unreasonably laid off factory workers in order to deprive them of their wages – a violation of the labour law," he explained.
"Owners who have laid off workers must be punished. This should be stopped immediately and those who have already been laid off should be reinstated," Montu added.
Protesters urged one-time payment assistance be provided to both employed and unemployed workers, along with rations to the workers in the informal sector.
Labour leaders said that employers and factory owners had put the workers at further risk by reopening factories during the general holiday.
In this situation, if the workers are affected by the novel coronavirus, the owners have to take full responsibility for their treatment. In case of death, their families must be compensated by the factory owners.
Labour leaders at the protest threatened to escalate protests if the above demands are not met immediately.
Among others, Anwarul Hossain, president of the Nationalist Workers' Party, Saifuzzaman Badsha, president of the National Workers' Alliance of Bangladesh, Rajekuzzaman Ratan, president of the Socialist Workers' Front, and Kamrul Ahsan, acting president of the National Workers' Federation, were also present at the protest.