Workers’ rights in crisis in Bangladesh
Nine trade union members of IndustriALL affiliate, the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation, were detained over the weekend of 11-12 February in Chittagong after police interrupted a training session in union offices. The new arrests, and, in particular, the targeting of national-level union leaders, represent an escalation of the government’s campaign of repression against the Bangladesh union movement.
The TUC will join unions around the world and hold a protest today at 12.30pm outside the Bangladesh High Commission in London. The action is part of an international joint campaign organised by global union federations IndustriALL, UNI Global Union and ITUC, to defend the trade unionists and call for the Bangladesh government to immediately and unconditionally release the detained trade union leaders and activists, and drop all related criminal cases.
Since December 2016 at least 26 trade unionists and garment workers in Bangladesh have been jailed for participating in a strike, which gained support and spread to around 20 garment factories in the area, following demands to increase the minimum wage. Since the strikes, IndustriALL affiliates’ union offices in Ashulia have been forcibly shut down, ransacked and vandalised, sustaining substantial property damage and theft. In addition, more than 1,600 workers have been fired and police have filed cases against 600 workers and trade union leaders.
The government of Bangladesh has imposed a climate of fear and retaliation across workers’ legal organising and trade union activity and is refusing to engage and negotiate with legitimate trade unions. Many union leaders have gone into hiding for fear of being arrested and union offices have been closed down.
The international trade union movement continues to call for an end to the violations of workers’ rights in Bangladesh. IndustriALL’s General Secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
“We demand the government stops this shameful repression of trade unionists in Bangladesh. The government must drop the charges and release all those that are still detained. By continuously flouting international laws on trade union and worker rights, it is seriously risking its most precious asset – the garment industry.”
The TUC, along with the international trade union movement will continue to call for the rights of our trade union colleagues in Bangladesh to be respected and for the endless repression to stop!