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Bangladesh: Tuba Group Factory Owner Seeks Loan to Reopen Factories

Tuba Group managing director Delwar Hossain has asked the Bangladesh government for 300 million taka ($3.87 million) in soft loans to resume production at five of his apparel factories, which he was forced to close earlier this month when workers went on strike over wages.

Garment workers from Tuba Group’s factories including Tuba Fashion, Tuba Textile, Mita Design, Taif Design and Bughsan Garments went on an 11-day hunger strike, which began at the end of July, in protest against unpaid wages for May, June and July, plus holiday bonuses.

While Hossain—who also owns the Tazreen Fashions Ltd factory where a fire killed more than 100 workers in November 2012—was in jail on charges related to the fire, workers at his garment units did not get paid. And reports earlier in the month noted that an estimated 40 million taka ($516,000) was needed to pay its 1,600 workers the wages owed. Hossain was released from jail on bail earlier this month.

According to Bangladesh’s The Daily Star, Hossain said speaking at a recent media briefing in Dhaka, “I have lost everything. I have nothing left to sell for money.” He added, “I was in jail. I could not pay the workers. The workers could not celebrate the Eid and I am guilty.”

The unpaid wages accrued, according to Hossain, because the company was performing subcontracted work, and when workers started striking, retailers started pulling their orders.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) stepped in to distribute wages and has since disbursed salaries to more than 1,400 workers, although festival bonuses are reportedly still outstanding.

Hossain said he sold a printing factory and machinery from the shuttered facilities in order to settle debts with the workers and repay the BGMEA.

“I hope I will again be able to export 50 lakh [$64,000] worth of goods a month if I can restart the business with the loan. I can also employ 6,000 workers again,” The Daily Star reported Hossain as saying. Following the Tazreen fire, Hossain ceased production at eight of his units leaving roughly 6,000 workers out of jobs.

Prior to the Tazreen fire, Hossain claimed he exported 40 lakh ($52,000) worth of garment items each month, and now that number is a much lower 28 lahk ($36,000) owed to retailers opting out of business with the group.

Hossain noted that he would resume production in the five units soon, but did not specify a date.