More than 50 garment workers at Haesong Corporation Ltd. in Bangladesh have been injured after being attacked by hired goons as they took part in a peaceful protest against the sweater manufacturer on 16 August.
The sit-in and strike, which took place outside the Korean-owned company’s headquarters in Hizalhati, Gazipur, was organized by IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF).
Among those injured were the union’s general secretary and vice-president who are both women. Furthermore, an NGWF organizer was kidnapped and released many hours later at 9pm in the evening. Despite multiple requests, local police have refused to file workers’ complaints about the kidnapping or the attacks.
The demonstration was rooted to an ongoing dispute with Haesong, which suspended 218 workers on 4 April. The workers had been demanding payment for their unused leave for the year 2016.
Haesong presented the workers with a ‘show cause’ letter saying they were being suspended under the pretext of false charges, including work stoppage. Workers responded to the letter but the company has not since replied, nor has it officially terminated the workers.
On 22 June 2017, following workers’ protests, workers reached a written agreement with factory management, which promised to pay all dues and legal compensations by 4 July 2017. When the company failed to comply, the deadline was extended to 4 August. However, the workers have still not been paid, which led to the demonstration on 16 August where the attacks took place.
The NGWF is demanding that the Bangladesh government arrests and conducts a judicial trial of the factory owner, general manager and the attackers. Workers’ representatives have also urged the government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association to take steps for immediate payment of all legal dues to Haesong workers. They urged the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to intervene to make sure that the owner of Haesong does not flee from Bangladesh without addressing workers’ demands.
Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL director for the garment and textile industry said, “IndustriALL strongly condemns the physical attacks on Haesong workers and the kidnapping of a union activist. Haesong must respect workers’ rights, reinstate suspended workers and should immediately release their dues and wages. The government should take stringent action against the attackers.”
Amirul Haque Amin, President of NGWF, said: “All suspended workers should be reinstated and pending wages and dues must be paid immediately. The factory management must bear all expenses for medical treatment of injured workers. In the meantime, the government should investigate and take action against the police officer who refused to take workers’ complaints.”