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Bangladesh: 350 Garments Factories Vulnerable to Labor Unrest

Some Bangladeshi workers aren’t getting their wages or their festival allowance, and many are ready to strike for it.

More than 350 garment factories around the country are being labeled “vulnerable” to labor unrest over the lack of pay, according to the Financial Express. Some protests have already started in and around the country’s capital city, Dhaka, as workers are demanding back pay for wages and asking for their festival allowance, or religious holiday bonus. Monday was the deadline workers imposed for receiving their pay, but distribution has not yet taken place.

Two government agencies have sent lists to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) outlining factories where labor unrest could likely occur, asking that the apparel body settle the matter to avoid any “untoward incidents” before the Eid holiday on July 5.

The factories in question, according to the Financial Express, are reportedly those engaged in subcontracting as they’ve hit hard times with lack of work as a result of the spotlight on the industry’s safety and compliance issues.

“We received two lists from the Dhaka Metropolitan Police and the commerce ministry that mentioned 108 and 250 garment factories respectively where problems might arise over payment of wages and festival allowance,” BGMEA vice president Mahmud Hasan Khan told the Financial Express, who added that the more than 350 factories called out could be an inflated number.

Khan said BGMEA would communicate with the factories outlined to quell any potential uprisings and sit with the government ministries to discuss the issue this week.

But the issue may not be resolved so easily.

According to the Financial Express, labor leaders from Bangladesh Garments Sramik Federation, a group of 12 workers’ unions in the ready-made garment sector said at a rally Friday that many of the factory owners were trying to evade paying June wages and festival bonuses were even further from their minds.

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Federation president Mahbubur Rahman Ismail said if any instability arises over the lack of pay issue, factory owners will be responsible.

“We demand at least the allowance is paid by 20th Ramadan [June 20] so that workers can buy their tickets to go home and have some shopping and month wage before Eid,” he told the Financial Express.

In other Bangladesh news, commerce minister Tofail Ahmed said Monday that nearly 800 garment factories have been closed down for a multitude of reasons.

“Of them, production at 39 factories were totally stopped while production at 42 other factories were partially suspended due to their failure to ensure safety of the workers,” the Dhaka Tribune reported Tofail as saying to parliament.

The move is part of Bangladesh’s effort to improve conditions in its garment sector and to boost exports overall.