Trade union leaders demanded reinstatement of all apparel workers who were sacked following the recent unrest over the new wage structure, withdrawal of cases filed against them, and release of all the detainees. Secretary General of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) Salauddin Shapon, on behalf of all trade union leaders, made the demands at a press conference at the National Press Club in Dhaka. “As of owners of 99 apparel factories have fired over 11,000 RMG [readymade garment] workers—the highest number ever—over the recent unrest at Ashulia, Savar and Gazipur,” Salauddin claimed. He added that the factory owners have filed 34 cases with several police stations at Ashulia, Savar and Gazipur against some 3,500 workers.

“So, the government has to withdraw the cases filed against the innocent workers and the owners have to reinstate the jobs of sacked workers,” Salauddin urged, asking the factory owners to stop harassing workers on the pretext of increasing production targets. Previously, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi and State Minister for Labour and Employment Monnujan Sufian at a meeting on January 13 assured trade union leaders of stopping harassment of innocent workers. “They had then pledged that no workers will be sacked further,” the trade union leader said.

“But the factory owners have continued filing cases and terminating workers, even though the crisis has been resolved. The owners have targeted factory workers who are members of trade unions, or those who have applied for union registration,” he added, terming the situation unfortunate for the RMG sector. In order to realize their demands, the IBC has decided to submit a memorandum to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and go for tougher demonstrations. On September 13, 2018, the government set Tk8,000 as the minimum monthly wage—with Tk4,100 as basic salary—for the country’s apparel workers. The new wage structure came into effect from December 2018. Following this, apparel workers staged demonstrations, from the last week of December till the first week of January this year, demanding revision of the wage structure as they found discrepancies in some grades. Later on January 13, in face of continued workers’ protests, the government revised the wage structure again.