Cops rough up a garment worker after picking him up during a protest in the capital’s Mirpur yesterday morning. The workers had been demonstrating for four days straight, demanding an increase in wages in the wake of price hikes of essentials. PHOTO: PALASH KHAN
As the garment workers continued their protests yesterday demanding pay increases, the government hinted at forming a minimum wage board to fix a new pay structure for them as soon as possible.
Former shipping minister Shajahan Khan gave the hint at a press conference in the capital’s Srama Bhaban.
Shajahan, also a former workers’ union leader, said the government would provide ration cards to workers soon to enable them to buy some basic commodities at lower prices as their prices have soared.
Before holding the press conference, Shajahan held a tripartite meeting of government high-ups, garment workers’ union leaders, and factory owners to discuss the demonstrations by RMG workers and the way forward.
Shajahan, a ruling Awami League lawmaker, was tasked with holding the emergency meeting and press conference regarding the protests as State Minister for Labour and Employment Begum Monnujan Sufian, secretary to the ministry and other senior officials of the ministry were now travelling abroad.
The lawmaker, however, did not give details of when and how the wage board would be formed and how the ration cards would be distributed.
He said he would inform Monnujan about the government’s plan on ration cards and the new wage board upon her return from a meeting of the International Labour Organisation, now being held in Geneva, Switzerland.
Earlier, the minimum monthly wage of garment workers was raised to Tk 8,000 in December 2018.
The minimum wage was fixed at Tk 5,300 in 2013, up from Tk 3,000 in 2010. The figure was Tk 1,662.50 in 2006, Tk 940 in 1994 and Tk 627 in 1985.
Shajahan blamed the BNP and Jamaat for the workers’ demonstrations alleging that the two parties were instigating the workers to take to the streets to dampen the joyous moment of the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, scheduled for June 25.
Garment workers staged protests in the capital’s Mirpur and Uttara areas yesterday, demanding pay hikes as prices of daily essentials have shot up.
The demonstrations, which began on Thursday, entered fourth day yesterday after a day’s break on Friday.
Witnesses said hundreds of workers took to the streets at Mirpur-10 intersection, Mirpur-13, Mirpur-14 and Kachukhet areas around 8:30 am. Protesters blocked traffic at Mirpur-13.
ASM Mahtab Uddin, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Mirpur division), said police tried to drive the workers away, but they hurled brick chunks at them.
Law enforcers then used batons, fired sound grenades and teargas shells to disperse the workers, Mahtab told reporters.
The protesters retreated to alleys while police took positions on the main streets. The demonstrators left the alleys around 11:00 am, said witnesses.
In Uttara, several hundred garment workers staged protests blocking part of the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway in Azampur area around 10:00 am. Protesters hurled brick chunks at several buses. Police later fired teargas shells to disperse the workers around 11:00 am.
Kamal Hossain, an RMG worker in Mirpur, said they were demonstrating peacefully, but police attacked them without any provocation.
Protesters also alleged that many of their fellow RMG workers were detained by police in the last few days.