Dhaka, June 21 (bdnews24.com) -- All the readymade garment factories in Ashulia industrial belt reopened Thursday after a four-day closure following a labour unrest.
"The factories have reopened from 8am [Thursday]. The workers have returned and joined work peacefully," Deputy Director of Ashulia Industrial Police Foyezul Kabir told bdnews24.com.
He said there were no reports of any chaos since morning so far.
But, Kabir said, law enforcers have been kept on alert as additional police have been deployed in the area.
The reopening was a result of a meeting on Wednesday when factory owners agreed to resume operations, said Labour Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain.
"All factories will remain open from tomorrow (Thursday). I'm urging workers to report for work," Mosharraf had said after the meeting.
The leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) met him at Sram Bhaban.
BGMEA President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said, "We gained the confidence to reopen the factories after discussions with the government and on assurance of security and other related issues."
"We did not set up the factories to keep them closed. They had to be shut for insecurity and disorder," he said.
Asked about hiking wages of workers, Mohiuddin said, "Neither the government nor the owners have received any such demand. We'll take steps if it is made."
In this regard, Mosharraf said, "The government has not yet received any logical and specific demand or proposal. So, no decision in this regard has yet been taken."
"The government will consider the matter if any specific demand or proposal is made," he added.
BGMEA and BKMEA decided to halt operations at around 350 Ashulia factories for an indefinite period on Sunday following violent demonstrations by the workers. They blocked highways and clashed with police for days demanding a pay hike effective from June 11. Some 500,000 people work at these factories.
According to government statistics, there are about 3,500 readymade garments factories across the country.
After a tripartite meeting of the government, factory owners and worker leaders a few days back, the workers were urged to report for work, but to no avail.
The garment workers last got a pay hike two years ago, but according to the union leaders, their wages had failed to keep pace with ever-rising inflation.
Earlier in the day, State Minister for Labour Monnujan Sufian sat with the leaders of worker unions.
Sufian agreed with them on their claim that prices of commodities, including food, and house rent, had shot up.
"As prices of commodities, including food, have been hiked, the prime minister has assured that the RMG workers will get ration soon," she said.
"The government will look into other issues later," she added.
The leaders said Sufian had assured them that a decision on their demand would be taken after discussions with the people concerned.