May 25, 2013 | 12:42 AM (BD Time)
25 May, 2013 Saturday
Fresh unrest feared at Ashulia
. Kazi Zahidul Hasan
Labour leaders and industry insiders have blamed the management of Ha-Meem Group for the latest workers unrest at Ashulia, a garments industrial hub in the outskirts of the capital.
With 350 high-rated export-oriented garment units and 500,000 workforces, this industrial zone has been closed since Monday due to the workers agitation.
The latest event of labour unrest was originated from Artistic Design, a concern of Ha-Meem Group, located at Narasinghapur of Ashulia, on Monday. Later, it stretched to most parts of the industrial zone lasting for a period of consecutive four days.
It, however, came to an end on Thursday with the promise of immediate salary hike for the workers, which was decided by the authorities of Ha-Meem.
"Wage issue was not the prime cause of the latest workers unrest. But, the misbehaviour, mismanagement and over exploitation of workers by the Ha-Meem's authorities were the major reasons behind the unrest," Samima Nasreen, President of Swadhin Bangla Garments Sramik Federation, told The New Nation yesterday.
Ha-Meem Group, a top ranking apparel manufacturer in Bangladesh having more than 24,000 workers owned by the FBCCI President AK Azad, is exporting garments to the reputed global brands like Gap, Wal-Mart, JC Penny etc. for a long time. She said retired army personnel are holding most of the managerial posts, including mid-and-top level positions. They often fail to read pulse of workers as well as their emotion to behave accordingly.
"A vested interest group in the area is also influencing workers in creating troubles to the factory capitalizing the errant management practice," she noted.
Shamima also said the company officials used to behave harshly with the workers and the labourers are even facing punishment for their small mistakes.
Last week, a worker of the factory faced physical harassment while making a phone call during working hours, she alleged.
Some days back, in another incident, the security personnel have beaten a worker of the factory for demanding wage hike. "The worker was later handed over to police on charge of thievery," she added.
AK Azad, being the chief of the country's apex trade body, has been influencing the ministers and law enforcers to manage the workers somehow bypassing their (workers) resentment and demands.
"We are facing repeated threats from the authorities while raising voice and restoring labour rights," alleged a worker of the factory. He alleged that the authorities have secretly enhanced salary to the tune of Tk 2000 for each security personnel of the factory (Artistic Design) making the workers further furious.
Meanwhile, the workers have circulated leaflets inside the factory giving an ultimatum to stopping such malpractices by June 10; otherwise, they warned that they would go for work abstention by the very next day.
"As our demands remained pending, we started work from Monday. Later, our fellow colleagues from nearby factories joined with us resulting in a mass protest for the last four days," he added.
Admitting management problems, former BGMEA President Anwar-ul-Alam Chowdhury Parvez said, "Management efficiency is under question mark as labour unrest is spreading in Ashulia area from the Ha-Meem's factory time and again."
As the management is failing to control their workers repeatedly, he demanded a separate investigation in this regard.
Parvez also expressed his frustration over the inaction of law enforcers, who have failed to arrest troublemakers engaged in the latest incidents of labour unrest.
"It is frustrating that none of the troublemakers are yet to be arrested by the law enforcers," he said, adding, "We demand immediate arrest of the culprits to save the country's largest export sector."
Rejecting the allegations, Brig Gen (retd) Mohammad Ali Mandol, Chief Executive Officer of Ha-Meem Group said, "We're following good management practices from the very beginning of its production and allegation of workers' harassment is completely baseless and distortion of fact."
He said our workers are strictly following all the tools of compliance as per the buyers requirement. "Such practices have been maintained smoothly to ensure transparency from the production level to shipment," he added.
"Not only that we have provided the cell phone numbers of our workers to our valued buyers so that the buyers can make direct contact with them. We made the process transparent so that any kind of workers' harassment and deprivation can be brought under the buyers knowledge," he noted.
He also said that Ha-Meem is one of the leading apparel exporters of the country so the conspirators are trying to distort its reputation in a planned way.
"Those who are against the recruitment of ex-army personnel in the management of apparel industry are anti-military force who are working against the interest of the country," Brig Mondal blamed. Meanwhile, labour leaders have feared another spell of fresh labour unrest at Ashulia from today (Saturday) over the wage hike issue.
"Workers may take to the street again for raising demand for wage hike," said workers leader Samima Nasreen.
Ha-Meem authorities on Thursday declared a wage hike for their workers to tame the labour unrest. "But the workers of the entire Ashulia area demands that this should be implemented to all the factories simultaneously," she added.
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