The workers' unrest that was sprouting in the country's readymade garment (RMG) sector recently may take a serious turn if steps are not taken immediately to meet their demands, says an intelligence agency report.
In a recent letter to the Labour and Employment Minister, the intelligence agency recommended the ministry to take necessary steps beforehand, a source at the ministry told UNB.
The report referred to the recent protests staged by RMG workers at Ashulia on the outskirts of Dhaka City to realise their demands, forcing owners to shut witness down many factories over the last several weeks.
There are a total of 320 garment factories at Ashulia industrial belt, which manufacture about 20 per cent of the country's total RMG exports.
Asked about the steps taken, Labour and Employment secretary Mikhail Shipar said, "We've held frequent talks with owners, workers and BGMEA leaders to stave off any possible violence in the garment sector. We hope a solution will come out soon."
"There's no reason for workers to resort to violence as the minimum wage board for them has already been declared. It'll take some time to fix the new wage structures. We're trying our best to do it at the quickest possible time," he added.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Atiqul Islam said, "If workers' unrest at Ashulia continues and steps are not taken for tackling it, orders from our foreign buyers will be stopped and the buyers may decline to come to Bangladesh."
"We've built our garment factories with hard labour. We don't want to close down the factories, but some factory owners have been forced to do so amid unrest," he said.
"The government announced the wage board for the workers and we've accepted it. We'll comply with any decision regarding the wage board," said the BGMEA leader."
He called on the workers to have patience, saying that the BGMEA also wants the implementation of the wage board as soon as possible.
Recent unwanted incidents caused the closure of a number of garment factories in the last 4-5 days, which caused a financial loss worth Tk 1.0 billion, he said.
The BGMEA leader also called on the government to take effective steps to maintain law and order in the garment sector so that buyers' orders are not hampered.
Director of industrial police at Ashulia Mostafizur Rahman said that additional police have been deployed in Ashulia area for maintaining law and order. "We're doing whatever is needed to contain workers' unrest."
President of Bangladesh Textile Garments Workers Federation Mahbubur Rahman Ismail said: "We held talks with the Labour Minister to discuss the declaration of Dearness Allowance for the workers before the Minimum Wage Board comes into effect."
"The minister has assured us of looking into the matter positively. If the government comes up with a declaration over the DA immediately, it'll help contain any possible unrest," said Ismail.
President of Sammilito Garments Sramik Federation Nazma Akhtar said the workers recently took to the streets demanding their wage hike and outstanding allowances. She said the DA prior to the wage board can help contain any possible unrest.
The BGMEA had to close garment factories in Savar, Ashulia and Gazipur for several days recently due to labour unrest in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1,127 workers.