They staged demonstrations on the streets – defying the ongoing hard lockdown – all day on Thursday before being dispersed by police
Readymade garment workers in Narayanganj and Gazipur on Thursday blocked three major highways for hours demanding payment of outstanding salaries and allowances.
The roadblocks generated significant tailbacks of up to 10km around the Kanchpur Bridge and the Gazipur highway area, hampering essential services such as ambulances and goods-carrying vehicles.
Thousands of workers of Opex and Sinha Group blocked the Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Sylhet highways near the Kanchpur Bridge in Narayanganj for nine hours, defying the ongoing nationwide hard lockdown to curb further spread of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, workers of Style Craft Ltd in the Laxmipura area of Gazipur had blocked the Dhaka-Gazipur Highway for two hours, from 10am to 12pm, with the same demands.
Confirming the matter, Sheikh Bashir Ahmed, inspector (intelligence) of Narayanganj Industrial Police, said that the workers had been protesting for their arrears since last month.
“After several hours, in the afternoon, the factory owners promised the workers that all the dues will be paid by July 13. But the workers found it hard to believe and continued their protest.”
However, at one point, police were forced go on action to disperse the workers and resume traffic on the highways, claimed the police official.
“Vehicular movement has returned to normal since 5pm on Thursday,” he added.
Earlier in the day, while speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Opex and Sinha Group workers said that they did not receive their salaries for the last three to four months and the authorities concerned have shut down factories without any prior notice.
Besides, they claimed, they did not receive their Eid bonus during Eid-ul-Fitr either.
Meanwhile, Style Craft Ltd employees claimed that they are owed wages for three months of last year and overtime allowances from over the past three years.
To this end, workers have been protesting every month, even before the last Eid, as authorities reportedly kept delaying the date of payment.
Samir Chandra Sutradhar, inspector of Gazipur Industrial Police, said that they were trying to resolve the issue by talking to the owners.
A factory official Shujauddin Ahmed said the wages of only six to seven workers are due for a few months. The authorities had planned to clear the dues within July 7, but it was not possible due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They then assured the workers of paying their wages and allowances within July 15, but they still protested and blocked the roads, he added.