Demonstrators alleged that the company’s managing director had left for Singapore without clearing their payments
Western Marine Shipyard workers on Saturday staged demonstrations in front of its main entrance in Chattogram, demanding their four months' arrear salaries and overtime pay for 17 months.
"We haven't been paid since December last year. We were protesting at the factory gate as no one from the management responded regarding our payment," said Kamrat Jhulan Barua, a staff of the mechanical logistics section at the shipyard.
At least 400 workers worked in the company, which was shut down on March 26 after the declaration of the countrywide shutdown.
Managers unpaid for even longer period
The Business Standard has talked to some managers of the Western Marine who are unpaid or partially paid for a longer period, while some senior managers have already left the company as they were annoyed with management's indifference to run the company smoothly.
They have blamed the board chairman and the new managing director for this situation.
"Chairman Md Saiful Islam is busier with his leather goods business Picard Bangladesh and another shipbuilding business NESL near Dhaka, while new Managing Director Captain Sohail Hasan prefers to stay in Singapore, where he is a permanent resident," said a company official preferring anonymity.
The Business Standard called both of them on their cellphones, but none of them responded.
Western Marine Shipyard, the publicly listed shipbuilder, had sunk into massive default loans after the global market shock a decade ago.
A few years ago, the government had arranged a special rescheduling of its liabilities of around Tk1,500 crore considering the potentials of the shipbuilding industry.
The company managed to receive increased orders from local and international ship buyers and it has already delivered some of those too.
Right now, they have orders for around two dozen vessels worth over Tk500 crore, both from local and international buyers.
There are also some cases where international buyers are opting out or at least going slow considering the potential slowdown in global economy and trade, according to insiders.
The three-year moratorium period is set to end this year and the company will get 10 years to pay its long-term liabilities.
"The worst part of the company's crisis is, it is struggling to manage a mere Tk7-8 crore to pay workers. Things could be way smoother if the top management was active to solve the problems," said another official.
However, Commercial Officer Md Shahed Ul Bashar said, "The managing director is stuck outside the country due to the pandemic."
"We cannot pay the workers' dues because of the nationwide shutdown and things will be solved soon with the help of banks," he added.