In a letter to the Minister of labour and employment on 5 March, the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) demanded immediate intervention of the government to withdraw false cases, free the imprisoned and reinstate all dismissed workers in the backdrop of mass protests for wage hike across readymade garment manufacturing units.
Over a hundred workers were imprisoned, over 12,000 were retrenched and cases were filed against over 5, 000 workers in the aftermath of workers’ protests against a meager wage hike in December 2018 to January 2019.
Despite both the government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) assured that no vindictive actions would be taken in the aftermath of the protests, workers have faced severe repression.
Employers of 107 readymade garment units used this opportunity to punish innocent workers for participating in union activities, as most of the dismissed workers are plant level trade union activists and union members. About 2, 500 workers were dismissed at the East West Group and Abonti Color Tex factories. On 26 February, a total of 300 workers at Garib&Garib Company Limited were fired without receiving two month’s wages.
Employers are using a database of over 3.5 million garment workers, collected and maintained by the BGMEA to blacklist dismissed workers and union activists from getting jobs in a new company. After the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, it was difficult identify workers as no credible record was maintained and a database was created for a record of workers - This is now also being used for blacklisting workers.
Many companies have published photos and names of retrenched workers on their website, making it difficult for them workers to find alternative employment.
Valter Sanches, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, says:
“We are deeply concerned over the continuing violations of workers’ rights in Bangladesh. It is unacceptable that the employers are continuing to be active agents of persecution; the government and multinational brands cannot remain quiet accomplices and need to take immediate action. We stand in solidarity with our affiliates in Bangladesh, in their fight to defend workers’ rights.”
Salauddin Shapon, secretary general of IBC, says:
“Bangladesh garment workers are facing unprecedented repression. Employers are targeting union activists and dismissing workers at will. Many are arrested on false charges and large numbers of workers fear arrests.
2The use of the database, created with the good intent, to blacklist workers must end immediately. The government must act immediately and release the imprisoned, reinstate the retrenched, and stop repression and harassment of workers.”