RMG factory set ablaze amid labour unrest: Cops fire blank shots to disperse demonstrators demanding payment of arrears; 10 hurt

Workers demonstrating for arrears allegedly set fire to a garment factory at Hemayetpur in Savar yesterday, damaging all the machinery of the factory and garment products.

Witnesses said the workers of Mohammadi Fashion 2000 Ltd, a sister concern of Mohammadi Group, torched the factory around 1:00pm and the fire continued till evening.

Police fired around 40 blank shots and charged batons on the agitating workers, leaving at least 10 persons injured.

Local sources said some 550 workers burst into violence at about 12:30pm, as the factory authorities were not paying their dues. At one stage, they set fire to the three-storey building of the factory.

Police blamed the workers for the arson. But the factory authorities and fire fighters could not tell anything clearly about the cause of the fire.

The agitating workers brought out processions protesting against the non-payment by the factory authorities and put barricades on Hemayetpur-Shingair road during the violence causing traffic jam.

Sources said the workers had been demonstrating for the last several days demanding their payments, including overtime and other allowances.

Several units of fire fighters in presence of the members of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and police doused the blaze after a long struggle. A group of workers initially prevented the fire fighters from reaching the spot of the fire.

When contacted, Reazul Huq Reaz, compliance manager of Mohammadi Group, said, “Though the factory is running at a loss, we have been paying salaries of the employees. But we made two days late to pay the overtime dues.”

“Without investigation, we do not want to blame workers for torching the factory,” said Reaz.

AKM Nasir Ullah, officer-in-charge (OC) of Savar police station, told The Daily Star that the angry workers set fire to the factory as the authorities had been making dilly dally over the payment of workers.

The OC said police went into action and fired at least 38 blank shots to disperse the workers. No arrest was made yet in this connection, he added.

Fire Service and Civil Defence officials said the fire came under their control around 7:00pm but they could not ascertain the cause of the fire and its loss.

Source: The Daily Star, 28 May 2009

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