23 January, 2017**UPDATED**The Donglian Fashion Sommilito Sramik Union has signed a collective agreement with the company, setting an important precedent.
On 14 January, a two-year collective bargaining agreement was signed between representatives of the union and of Donglian Fashion, a ready-made garments manufacturer in Ashulia, the garment-producing hub in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The comprehensive agreement includes provisions on wages, time off, maternity leave, a grievance procedure, fire and safety, meal and festival allowances, space for union activities and more. Workers are now entitled to an annual wage increase, sick leave and paid holidays, and will no longer have their pay arbitrarily docked for arriving late.
Collective agreements are unusual in the textile and garment sector in Bangladesh, where recently union leaders were arrested in a government crackdown.
The agreement is a remarkable turnaround for industrial relations at the company, following a previous labour dispute in which 12 union members were fired. The Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation (SGSF) – an affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union – mobilized international support, and through IndustriALL, SGSF was able to work with Japanese affiliate UA Zensen. Donglian Fashion is owned by a Japanese parent company, and UA Zensen was able to raise the problems at the factory, and pressurize local management to negotiate with the union.
This resulted in the reinstatement of the 12 workers, and a memorandum of understanding being signed between the company and the union in February 2016.
The new collective agreement builds on this relationship, and is important for industrial relations in the sector.
SGSF president Nazma Akter said:
This agreement is a good example for the trade union movement in Bangladesh and shows what can be achieved with global solidarity. Support from IndustriALL and other unions has enabled us to turn around the situation at Donglian and produce a strong collective agreement.
The management at Donglian now realizes that the union is a very good platform to negotiate with workers and we have a much better relationship.
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Jenny Holdcroft said:
This is wonderful news. Just two years ago, union members at the factory were forced to resign. Now the company and union have signed a good and comprehensive collective agreement.
Donglian Fashion have chosen the right path by working constructively with the union. We need other garment manufacturers in Bangladesh to take the same approach.