Thousands of Bangladeshi factory workers left without salary on Eid

Around 60 factories failed to pay workers, most of them women, while 478 shut down in the last two months. (AN photo)
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Updated 26 May 2020

Thousands of Bangladeshi factory workers left without salary on Eid

  • 4,000 textile factories in Bangladesh employ over 4 million workers

DHAKA: More than 10,000 Bangladeshi garment factory workers spent the last day of Ramadan protesting for salaries but were left without allowances to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with their families on Monday. 

According to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), up to 60 factories did not pay their workers before the Eid holidays while 478 have closed over the past two months after orders worth more than $3.15 billion were canceled and payments stopped by Western retailers.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the country’s textile industry has received a huge blow to its exports as many Western retailers have withheld payments for orders that have been placed or delivered. 

In March, the Bangladeshi government announced a stimulus package of $600 million in lieu of salaries and bonuses for the garment workers. 

“Most of our factories have paid the workers their salaries and bonuses before Eid. However, few couldn’t clear the payments as they had lost all work orders and faced an extreme financial crunch,” Arshad Jamal Dipu, vice president of the BGMEA, told Arab News.

“The factories which were unable to pay their workers were the ones that didn’t qualify to apply for the government stimulus package. These are mainly small and medium-scale factories that worked as subcontractors for big factories,” Dipu added. 

According to government guidelines, only factories that have exported 80 percent of their products in recent years could claim government funding.  

Dipu said that in many cases the buyers are offering a discounted rate or deferred payment to the Bangladeshi garment suppliers citing an “act of God” which threw the industry into a “vulnerable situation.”

Nazma Akter, president of the combined garment workers’ federation, said her organization has the information of around 20,000 factory workers who were left unpaid before Eid. 

“We will sit with factory owners as well as the BGMEA leaders immediately after the Eid vacation. Our factory workers should be paid immediately as they belong to the marginalized group of society,” Akter told Arab News. 

Meanwhile, the government is considering legal action against factories that have failed to pay their workers on time. 

“The factory management was supposed to pay all the dues before Eid holidays. We will file cases in the labor court against the factory authorities once the courts resume after Eid vacation,” Shib Nath Roy, inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, told Arab News, adding: “We will also stop renewing their licence to operate for failing to pay staff’s dues.”

Textile exports are the largest foreign currency earning source for Bangladesh. 

Last year, the sector earned $36 billion for the country, according to the BGMEA.

There are over 4,000 textile factories in the country employing more than 4 million workers, most of which are women, the body said.

Srebrenica massacre, 25 years on Muslims still face Serb denial

Updated 3 min 57 sec ago

Srebrenica massacre, 25 years on Muslims still face Serb denial

  • Bosnian Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in a few days after capturing the ill-fated town on July 11, 1995
  • Bosnian Serb wartime military chief general Ratko Mladic was sentenced to life in prison by a UN court in 2017 over war crimes including the Srebrenica genocide

SREBRENICA, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Relatives of the Bosnian Muslims killed in the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II are getting ready to mark 25 years since the Srebrenica massacre on Saturday, but for many Serbs the episode remains a myth.
“It’s not easy to live here next to those who 25 years on deny that a genocide was committed,” says Hamdija Fejzic, Srebrenica’s Muslim deputy mayor.
For Bosnian Muslims, recognizing the scale of the atrocity is a necessity for lasting peace. But for most Serbs — leaders and laypeople in both Bosnia and Serbia — using the word genocide remains unacceptable.
Bosnian Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in a few days after capturing the ill-fated town on July 11, 1995.
The episode — labelled as genocide by two international courts — came at the end of a 1992-1995 war between Bosnia’s Croats, Muslims and Serbs that claimed some 100,000 lives.
Bosnian Serb wartime military chief general Ratko Mladic, still revered as a hero by many Serbs, was sentenced to life in prison by a UN court in 2017 over war crimes including the Srebrenica genocide. He is awaiting the decision on his appeal.
In the run-up to the anniversary, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described Srebrenica as “something that we should not and cannot be proud of,” but he has never publicly uttered the word “genocide.”
In July 2017, he said it was a “horrible crime” but added that “between 80 and 90 percent of Serbs do not think that a major crime was committed.”
Several thousand Serbs and Muslims live side by side in impoverished Srebrenica, a lifeless town in eastern Bosnia with just a few shops open in its center.
Mayor Mladen Grujicic was elected in 2016 after a campaign based on genocide denial — he said the number of victims was not “valid.”
“I claim here that the genocide was not committed,” Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodik told a rally of support to Grujicic at the time.
In 2019, during a conference gathering mainly Serb historians and aimed at “establishing the truth” about Srebrenica, Dodik said it was a “myth.”
“Every people need a myth,” said Dodik. “Muslims didn’t have it and they try to build a myth around Srebrenica.”
Ethnic Serb lawmakers in the Bosnian parliament have consistently rejected bills that would ban genocide denial.
So far, the remains of nearly 6,900 victims have been found and identified in more than 80 mass graves.
Most were buried at the memorial cemetery in Potocari, a village just outside Srebrenica.
On Saturday, the remains of nine victims identified over the past year will be laid to rest by their families.
Deputy mayor Fejzic said denial of the genocide was like the “last phase” of the atrocity itself, telling AFP: “We are facing that every day.”
For European Union enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi the Srebrenica genocide was “still an open wound at the heart of Europe.”
“This part of European history must be upheld against any attempt at denial and revisionism,” he said this week.
Meanwhile, Mladic and Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic, who was also sentenced to life in prison in The Hague, remain heroes for many Serbs.
A university campus in Pale, Bosnian Serb wartime stronghold near Sarajevo, was named after Karadzic in 2016, and the plaque with his name at the entrance was unveiled by Dodik.
The 25th anniversary of genocide is also the “25th anniversary of denial,” said Emir Suljagic, director of the memorial center and a massacre survivor.
“Despite forensic evidence... and judgments by international courts, the denial of the Srebrenica genocide intensified,” he said.
Denial of genocide, he said, means a lack of accountability and will always lead to more atrocities.