Police are drawing up a list of industrial and apparel factories that may see workers' unrest over non-payment of wages and bonuses ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr.
The list will be sent to the police headquarters and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Sources said a committee comprising members of associations of workers and owners, police, and government representatives would also be formed to ensure that salaries were paid before the upcoming festival.
Workers' unrest usually flares ahead of Eid over anomalies in festival bonus payments at factories in Savar, Ashulia, Gazipur, and Narayanganj, said industrial police.
Seven power plant workers were killed in police firing during a demonstration in Chattogram's Banshkahli on 17 April. Police headquarters ordered police of all units, including industrial police, to prepare the list in the wake of the incident.
Signed by the inspector general of police, the letter carrying the order said there should be a coordination between workers and owners to avert workers' unrest at all factories, including those producing clothes.
Mohammad Rasel Sheikh, additional superintendent of police in Gazipur, said there are thousands of industrial factories in the district and most of them make garments.
He said there was a downturn in some apparel factories due to the coronavirus pandemic and their workers could take to the streets to protest if salaries and allowances were not paid before Eid.
"With that in mind, we are listing factories that are in trouble due to the slowdown in business caused by the pandemic. We are holding meetings with owners and workers. We will then hold a meeting with BGMEA," he further said.
Police will work to prevent unrest through coordination between workers and owners, he said.
The police official said workers usually become aggressive if they do not get paid for several months but dissatisfaction grows among them even if they are paid festival bonuses.
In most cases, mid-level officials instead of owners talk to workers to stop such unrest but workers cannot trust them, Rasel said.
"We arrange meetings between owners and workers in these situations and in most cases, the former accept the latter's promises," he added.
Md Mahabubor Rahman, additional inspector general of industrial police, said they had already held meetings with superintendents of police in charge of Dhaka, Narayanganj, and Gazipur.
He said intelligence surveillance had been increased in those factory areas to avert possible instability.
Industrial police said worker dissatisfaction and unrest were less likely this time as the government decided to keep factories open despite the rise in Covid-19 infections.
They said meetings were being held with factory owners to prevent possible unrest.
Jamal Hossain, a Bangladeshi official at the Japanese garment company Tayosheba, said his firm was now ordering more products from various factories in Bangladesh than the past few months.
"Workers should be paid wages and bonuses as factories are open. Good factories will pay their workers but those facing a downturn in business may create troubles," he told The Business Standard.
Owners and labour leaders said BGMEA and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) in their 2020 letters had mentioned that 50% of bonuses would be paid due to the pandemic. Workers then took to the streets and demonstrated by blocking several roads. They also protested outside owners' homes.
Unrest may grow this year as well if workers do not get full wages and bonuses, said labour leaders.
Jahangir Hossain, a marketing officer at NR Spinning Mill, said prices of goods had gone up during Ramadan and workers were coming to work risking their lives amid the pandemic.
"In this situation, if they do not get their salaries and bonuses, they will take to the streets. Some factories have not yet paid March salaries and unrest may escalate if their workers do not get paid before Eid."