The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has asked its member factories to suspend fresh recruitment as the Western buyers are delaying new orders amid ongoing labour protests demanding "fair wages".
At a press conference on Sunday, the apex body of the country's apparel sector said factory owners can shutter their operations under the labour law if workers cease work, abandon their posts or engage in vandalism.
The association also called for adequate security from the government to keep the production lines running, noting that the country's largest foreign currency-earning sector requires special attention during a period of slow remittance growth and struggling dollar reserves.
"Until vandalism stops and unless law enforcement agencies ensure the safety, factory owners can keep their units shut under the Labor Law provision 13 (1) to protect the industry and property," BGMEA President Faruque Hassan said.
"Every entrepreneur has the constitutional right to protect their industry and property from outsiders," he said during the press briefing at BGMEA headquarters in the city.
Hassan said owners of the closed units will resume production if workers return to their jobs, shunning unrest.
The BGMEA president told the media that around 130 factories in Ashulia, Kashimpur, Mirpur and Konabari were indefinitely shut due to ongoing worker demonstrations and factory vandalism.
Regarding fresh recruitment, he said the sector is facing a shortage of work orders while foreign buyers, concerned about the ongoing unrest, are delaying new orders for the time being.
"Buyers are concerned and holding orders due to the current labour situation," he commented, adding the association is attempting to clarify to the buyers that only 5.0 per cent of factories are affected by the unrest, while the rest remain operational.
"New recruitments would place an additional burden on factories," he said. If a factory has excess work, it can outsource the order to other factories that are experiencing a shortage.
This approach would help maintain balance and address the overcapacity issue in apparel manufacturing.
Talking to the FE, Amirul Haque Amin, president of the Industriall Bangladesh Council, urged the government to review the minimum wage structure, setting it at a minimum of Tk 13,000 with a basic pay of at least 60 per cent.
With the gazette yet to be issued, he also called for restructuring the grades to increase wages accordingly in the upper grades.
He said that a total of 37 cases have been filed against 14,000 individuals over the ongoing labour demonstrations, with six arrests made to date.
Amin demanded the withdrawal of these cases, compensation for the deceased workers and the release of those arrested.
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