Due to protests at India garment factories, the Emperor got no clothes to wear

By Refayet Ullah Mirdha and Md Fazlur Rahman
The Daily Star/Asia News Network
Friday, Apr 26, 2013

Country’s garment sector has been dealt yet another blow, as most factory owners suspended production yesterday fearing a massive labour unrest over the tragic deaths of at least 250 workers at Rana Plaza.

The management of almost all factories in Dhaka, Savar, Ashulia, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Maona closed the units after the workers attacked many of the factories and staged demonstrations demanding punishment to the owners of Rana Plaza and the factories inside the building.

Nearly 60 per cent apparel factories in the country are located in these areas.

Instead of joining work in the morning, thousands of workers took to the streets and marched towards the collapsed building in Savar.

They blockaded highways around the capital, clashed with law-enforcers and vandalised factories and vehicles.

With the sector struggling to recover the losses owing to frequent hartals, a further suspension of production will put a huge pressure on the garment business, said industry insiders.

The sector loses around Tk 200 crore each hartal day owing to disruption in production, according to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

The garment makers said they will face cancellation of orders, and have to pay for expensive air shipment and give discounts to the buyers, following the suspension of production.

“Of course, there will be a negative impact on the business for suspension of production,” said David Hasanat, managing director of Viyellatex Group, a leading garment manufacturer.

If the problem persists for long, many garment makers may miss the deadlines for shipments to buyers, said Md Abdullah, managing director of Savar-based Al-Muslim Garments Ltd.

“When the factory management tried to use force to intimidate us, we staged a demonstration. And the management closed the unit,” said Ratan Mia, a sewing operator at a Gazipur-based sweater factory, who went to Savar to express solidarity with other workers.

Mashiur Rahman, a helper at Savar-based Al-Muslim Group, said the management closed the factory around 12:30pm after the workers staged a demonstration.

Kamal Hossain Shuvo, an assistant merchandiser of an export-oriented garment factory, said the international buyers want timely shipment of goods.

“Bangladesh will have to face a tough time, as the international buyers are unhappy with such untoward incidents in the garment sector,” he said.

BGMEA President Atiqul Islam said, “We are worried about the disruption in production owing to unrest and hartals. But at the same time, we cannot shirk our responsibilities.”

“At this time when we are trying to make up for the losses caused by hartals, the closure of factories following the deaths of workers at Rana Plaza is just another heavy blow to the garment sector,” Islam said.

Workers of several garment factories demonstrated in front of the BGMEA demanding immediate arrest and exemplary punishment to the owners of Rana Plaza and the factories inside the nine-storey building that collapsed on Wednesday morning.

The workers said they will also hold protests today.

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The real reason is decades of destructive competition has forced many industry players to cut standards of working conditions because the margins is too low, and extreme low wages, where the industry faces worst conditions than in China, many workers are just plain frustrated, and want the government to do something, but the government is not able to do anything. Do you think violence can solve anything?

Solution : I can buy 3 shorts for $10 but they only last a week, the quality is so bad the threads give way, and the cloth tears easily, now isn’t this a waste of resources? I am a consumer myself, and I do not mind paying $20 for 3 shorts if the quality is better and I can use it at least for more than 6 months, what you are talking is value, and this is the only way to get out of destructive competition, so you need to emphasise this to every buyer, and perceptions will change. You will find you need to produce lesser, but the profits are the same, and if all manufacturers do not produce trash, neither will they get peanuts, India just got to move up the value chain, and refuse to manufacture low quality inferior goods, where there is no demand.

– Contributed by Oogle.

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