The IndustriAll Bangladesh Council, one of the largest platforms of labour organisations in the country, has warned garment owners that it will ask global buyers to blacklist factories that will blacklist workers.
"If garment owners blacklist workers, we will also inform apparel buyers to blacklist those garment factories," IndustriAll Bangladesh Senior Vice-President Babul Akhter said yesterday at a press conference at the National Press Club.
In the wake of the ongoing labour unrest resulting in deaths, cases filed against workers and labour leaders, IndustriAll Bangladesh called the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) for a reassessment of the declared minimum wage.
The platform also emphasised the need for justice following the deaths of four RMG workers amid their week-long protest demanding a minimum wage hike.
"Four workers have been killed. Those responsible for these deaths must be brought to justice," said IndustriAll Bangladesh President Amirul Haque Amin during the press conference.
The council's Secretary General Kutubuddin Ahmed said, "There must be a coordinated effort to increase wages in various grades of operators. Arbitrary arrests of workers and labour leaders must come to an end."
According to an IndustriAll Bangladesh statement, 62 cases have been filed against workers while allegations have been made against 23,000 unidentified workers.
"Law enforcement agencies arrested 120 of our workers, and this number is increasing regularly. Six union leaders have been arrested. Everyone must be unconditionally released," said President Amirul Haque.
He also said, "Most of the factories were not closed by the workers of those factories on strike. The factories that closed first were owned by the leaders of the BGMEA. The workers of these factories stopped working and then closed adjacent factories."
Such incidents cannot be considered under section 13 (1), which says an employer may, in the event of an illegal strike in any section or department of any establishment, close down either wholly or partly such section or establishment, he said.
"Again, it has been seen that the workers went to work and saw the owner had closed the factory through a notice – it also does not fall under section 13 (1) in any way," he added.
"Factories that were shut down as per section 13 (1) of the labour law must ensure full wage payments to workers," reads the IndustriAll Bangladesh statement sent to the media.
"No worker should receive reduced wages, and closed factories must be reopened promptly."
The statement further reads, "Medical care should be provided to all injured workers, and families of deceased workers should receive compensation as loss-of-life assistance."
In recent days, garment workers have been agitating to press for a significant increase in their minimum wage. Despite protests from apparel workers demanding a minimum wage of at least Tk20,000, the government has set it at Tk12,500, in alignment with the proposal put forth by factory owners.
On 22 October, their representatives at a meeting of the wage board demanded that their minimum wage be increased from the existing Tk8,000 to Tk20,390 while the owners proposed Tk10,400.
However, several workers' organisations have been demanding Tk23,000 to Tk25,000 as the minimum wage. Workers started to take to the streets from 23 October and their protests gradually turned violent.
On 30 October, at least two people were killed and about 40 injured in massive clashes between police and workers in several industrial areas in Ashulia, Savar, and Gazipur.
Following the weeklong unrest, the factory owners on 1 November agreed to pay minimum wages higher than Tk10,400.