(c) Derek Blackadder Workers from the NGWF (National garment Workers' Federation of Bangladesh) protest after the Tazreen fire in 2012 killed 112 workers.
Act now! Demand Bangladesh release 11 textile union leaders
Today we’re urging you to take online action calling on the government of Bangladesh to immediately and unconditionally release 11 textile trade union leaders detained in recent weeks. They were arrested after garment workers demanded an increase in wages in December. In addition, more than 1,600 workers have been fired and police have filed cases against 600 workers and trade union leaders.
This has been described by IndustriALL as an alarming step backwards for worker rights and democracy in the country. Security forces have raided the houses of trade union leaders and volunteers, and many have gone into hiding in fear of their safety. Trade union offices in Ashulia, the garment-producing hub of the capital Dhaka, have been invaded, vandalized and forcibly shut down, with membership documents burned and furniture removed.
IndustriALL General Secretary Valter Sanchez says:
“The crackdown on trade unionists and workers in the Bangladesh garment industry cannot continue. IndustriALL demands that the government immediately release the detained trade union leaders and activists, and drops the criminal cases against hundreds of garment workers. Government repression will not silence them or us.
“Garment workers have a fundamental right to organise and must be paid a living wage. The government risks losing its precious garment industry if it cannot treat its workers humanely.”
The garment industry is crucial to Bangladesh’s economy where it makes up 83 per cent of exports, and is the world’s second largest producer of textile and apparel, employing 4.5 million workers of which 80 per cent are women. A recent report suggests that UK brands have already started buying less from Bangladesh because Brexit has trashed the value of sterling and is leading to a reduction in demand on the high street.
Despite the crackdown, Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina has been joining the world’s elite in Davos this week telling business leaders and the international community that there are harmonious industrial relations in the readymade garment (RMG) industry in the country. She also said her country was “highly committed to ensuring compliance with regard to the RMG industry.”
Twenty global brands sourcing garments from Bangladesh – including Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) members like C&A, H&M, Next and Primark – have written to the Prime Minister protesting about the arrests and urging the government to adopt a wage board for the garment sector and suggesting that the local increased cost of living is contributing to unrest among garment workers.