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Bangladesh: garment workers fight for their union to be legally registered

20 March, 2017Workers at the Orchid Sweater factory in Bangladesh are calling for solidarity support as their attempts to secure formal union registration have been repeatedly denied since February 2016.

Workers at the Orchid Sweater Ltd factory have been attempting to register a union since February 2016 and the Joint Director of Labour (JDL) has repeatedly denied the request on inadequate grounds.

When management became aware the workers’ initiatives, it unleashed a series of harassment and threats of termination of office bearers of the proposed union.

In November 2016, workers recruited more workers into the union and again applied for registration of the union. Despite having all appropriate documents, the JDL again denied the union registration on unsubstantial grounds.

The workers have made a third attempt and applied for Orchid Sweater Workers Union registration in January 2017. The JDL is expected to make decision on their application by 24 March.

Munni Begum, a linking operator, says:

“I became a union member to raise issues collectively with the management, the labour department should immediately provide union registration.”

Now Orchid workers call for solidarity support, as they are concerned that collusion between the management and government officials should not once again deny their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Shafikul Islam a knitting operator says:

“If any worker raises their concerns about wages, they are subjected to verbal abuse and terminated from work. To protest anti-worker attitude and to defend our rights we formed a union.”

Chandon Kumar Dey of IndustriALL affiliate Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation says:

“It is a matter of grave concern that the workers of Orchid Sweater Ltd. are repeatedly denied union registration for the past two years. The BIGUF will continue to fight for the legitimate rights of workers."

Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL garment and textile director added:

“IndustriALL supports their right to form a union; it is unacceptable that these workers are repeatedly denied their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The management must follow the law and engage in dialogue with the union.”

The Orchid Sweater Ltd factory currently employs around 2,250 workers.