IndustriALL intervenes in defence of sacked Berger Paint union leader in Bangladesh

17.03.2014

Golgar Hussein, General Secretary of the Berger Paint Bangladesh Employees’ Union was sacked on 4 December 2013 for his trade union activities. IndustriALL and BCEF’s immediate intervention has not yet achieved his reinstatement. The action continues.

The Berger workers’ union is part of IndustriALL Global Union’s long-standing affiliate the Bangladesh Chemical, Energy and Allied Workers’ Federation (BCEF). The union in Kalurghat, Chittagong has survived years of management interference and intimidation in regular breach of the labour law and collective bargaining agreement.

Golgar served 11 years in his job at Berger, repeatedly blocked from promotions, as is part of the standard anti-union practice of this factory’s management. Eleven past active union members and officers were sacked between 2000 and 2011, some after working over 20 years at Berger. Under Bangladeshi labour law a dismissal removes the right to all financial indemnity.

Following Golgar’s sacking the local management pressured workers into holding a union election, on 27 January, with the result heavily influenced by the clearly illustrated risk of the sack for raising a strong voice in defence of workers. The sacking was maliciously timed just before Golgar was due to be reelected for a third consecutive mandate as general secretary. The rushed election means that the extra legal protection of being the current union general secretary is lost.

Symbolic disrespect of the social bargaining partner at Berger was another standard practice of refusing union reps the right to sit during meetings.

Berger Paints is India-based, with operations in Eastern Europe, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Berger has over 65% of the market share in Bangladesh. While the company reports an annual turnover of almost half a billion US dollars, at the Kalurghat plant workers earn a base of US$7 per month, much less than the minimum wage.

BCEF has conducted a number of actions in response to the unfair dismissal, including calling on the Bangladeshi labour authorities to overrule the management’s decision, and conducting a joint press conference with the rest of the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council.

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