A substantial number of industrial units, including many in the apparel sector, might not be able to pay monthly wages and festival allowance to their workers before upcoming Eid-ul-fitr, the largest religious festival of the Muslims, according to industrial police and industry insiders.
Non-payment might also trigger labour unrest in a number of industrial hubs, sources expressed the fear.
An estimated 1,090 industrial units, including more than 600 are textile and RMG units, 437 are non-RMG units, and 41 located in the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) are unlikely to make payments to their workers before Eid.
Since the reopening of factories on April 26 last, incidents of labour unrest have been more or less a regular occurrence in different industrial zones over non-payment of wages and other allowances.
Workers from nearly a dozen of garment factories protested on Sunday, demanding full payment of wages for April and festival allowance.
More incidents of workers' protest might occur, if these factories fail to pay wages before the Eid, opined industry insiders and officials concerned.
Most of these RMG units are sub-contracting factories, and they are not eligible for getting funds from the government's stimulus package due to procedural complexities.
Moreover, many of them did not have any work order in March and April, following lockdown in exporting countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they added.
In April, intelligence agencies recorded a total of 444 incidents of labour unrest in 374 factories, including those of RMG sector, in different industrial zones across the country mainly over non-payment of wages.
A total of 279 incidents of labour unrest were recorded in 179 factories in March. Such incidents occurred in Savar, Ashulia, Gazipur, Chattogram, Narayanganj, Mymensingh and Khulna areas.
Sources said non-payment of dues, varying amounts of festival allowance, and sudden closure of factories are among the reasons that might have fuelled workers' unrest.
The Industrial Police officials have prepared a list of 1,090 units that are at risk of facing workers' unrest, and they already started talks with the relevant factory authorities over the issue.
The list includes 442 member factories of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Another 126 on the list are member factories of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), and 44 of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA).
When asked, Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, a director of the BKMEA, said majority of the units listed with the law-enforcing agencies were doing sub-contracting for more than one year. Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak they are in severe financial crisis now.
They did not have sufficient work orders, and they are not eligible for getting assistance from the government-announced stimulus package for export-oriented sectors, he added.
Only direct exporters, having more than 80 per cent export volume, are getting loan from the government's Tk 50 billion relief fund and other packages, disbursed on the basis of bank-client relationship, industry people said.
When contacted, the BGMEA said 1,377 of its member factories have applied for getting loan from the fund, and 1,089 have already paid wages until Sunday.
A total of 2,890 factories paid wages for April until Sunday, out of the 7,602 units under the jurisdiction of Industrial Police.
Of these, 889 factories are the BGMEA members, 345 are the BKMEA-listed units, 183 are the BTMA mills, 285 are the BEPZA units, and 1,188 are non-RMG units, according to the police officials.
On the other hand, a total of 332 factories did not pay wages for March and other allowances until Sunday, of which 101 are RMG factories.