Tuesday, May 23, 2006
2 RMG units set ablaze, 100 damaged, 1 killed Are we Stupid?
Angry garment workers(inset), throng the highway in front of Dhaka EPZ demanding payment of arrear wages and higher wages. They torched buses parked on a field while a garment factory is in flames in the background. PHOTO: STAR
A garment worker of Savar export processing zone (EPZ) was killed yesterday as several thousand of his colleagues clashed with employees loyal to the owners of factories while rampaging through the area demanding that their 11-point charter of demands including a pay raise be met.
Workers of different garment factories in the EPZ yesterday came out on the street, set two factories on fire, damaged more than a hundred factories and a number of vehicles, and put up barricades to drive home their demands. They also demanded payment of all unpaid salaries, overtime wages, basic wages for all, and an end to harassment by employees loyal to the owners of factories.
They torched 10 to 12 vehicles on Parishad road in Ashulia inside the EPZ.
More than a hundred persons including workers, police and journalists were injured as employees loyal to the owners attacked the workers.
Rana, 25, a garment worker from the EPZ, was admitted to the National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation with a bullet wound in the back. He died there in late afternoon. Tejgaon police sent the body to Dhaka Medical College morgue for autopsy. Three other garment workers were admitted to hospitals with bullet wounds.
Another worker Saiful, 30, received treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital for an injury in the head.
This was the second incident of garment workers' protest in a week in the capital. Following the incident EPZ authorities announced a two-day shutdown of the factories.
Demonstrating workers became violent as a rumour spread that at least one worker in the EPZ was killed as law enforcers opened fire.
A witness said the incident started as workers of Universe Knitting Factory in the EPZ called a strike yesterday morning for fair 'piece rate' (rate of wages per piece of ready made garment).
Workers of the production unit, who do not get basic wages, demanded basic and overtime wages.
"Employees loyal to the owner keep three percent from our salaries for an unknown reason. They have been doing it for years making the workers angry," said Ashiq, a worker from Universe.
Following an altercation with the management regarding yesterday's strike and their demands, the workers of Universe got locked in a battle with employees loyal to the owner. Some workers vandalized some cars inside the EPZ. The Ansars opened a few rounds of fire to control the mob, which made the workers more violent and they started damaging factories, sources said.
The demonstrating workers went to other factories and asked the workers there to join them. Hundreds of workers stepped out on the street and started damaging vehicles and throwing brickbats at windowpanes of garment factories and the EPZ branch of Shahjalal Bank.
Within an hour several thousand workers with iron rods, bamboos, and wooden planks in hands blocked the Savar-Ashulia road and started attacking all garment factories around.
"They do not pay us wages regularly. So we are on the street and damaging factories," said a garment worker.
They put up barricades on the Ashulia-Tongi road, forcing several hundred vehicles on the busy route to halt in long queues till 5:00pm. Hundreds of workers were seen walking all the way from Savar EPZ to Tongi Bridge as no vehicle was plying the road.
Fire brigade sources said the workers set fire to the factory of Bando Design Ltd in Jamgara area near Fantasy Kingdom and to A-1 Garments Factory inside the EPZ.
"Suddenly they came and started throwing brickbats at my factory. Cloths worth at least Tk 15 crore were damaged as they set my factory on fire. They also burned five buses of my factory," said Siddiqur Rahman, chairman of Bando.
BDNEWS reported that Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA) said agitators from outside incited the workers, forced into the EPZ and ransacked garment factories there. It said there are several Chinese, Korean and Malaysian factories in Savar EPZ.
PHOTOJOURNALIST ASSAULTEDSaiful Islam Kallol, a photojournalist of the daily Prothom Alo was assaulted by some employees loyal to the management of a garment factory inside the EPZ while discharging his duties there. He was assaulted as he went inside a factory to take photograph of a scene where some employees were beating some workers. The employees of the factory beat Saiful up and vandalised his motorbike.
RAB TOOK CONTROL As the workers became furious, the law enforcers allegedly took a passive posture at one stage. Later large contingents of armed police and RAB went to the scene at 2:00pm. A bullhorn in hand, a RAB officer reached the EPZ gate and told the workers that persons responsible for opening fire on them will be punished.
Getting the assurance the workers slowly calmed down. However, they continued damaging factories at different places outside the EPZ.
While throwing brickbats at a glass façade of Irish Knitwear Ltd, one of the workers said the owner of Irish Knitwear has not been paying workers' wages for the last two months.
As this report was being filed yesterday evening hundreds of police and RAB personnel took control of the area while hundreds of workers were still demonstrating at the EPZ gate.
So who is behind this?
They are saying India is it because they don't have the guts to utter the word Opposition?
So India from thousands mile away putting fire in our Factories? Indain did progress a lot?
Isn't it all political ? are we stupid or the government is stupid or the opposition is stupid?