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Chevron sacks Bangladeshi workers by text message as part of union-busting

16 March, 2016Multinational energy giant Chevron has sacked workers by text message in an ongoing case of intimidation aimed at discouraging union organizing.

President of the union formed by Chevron workers in Bangladesh, Saiful Islam, was sacked by the company in May 2015 for organizing his workplace. He reports that 50 workers have now been sacked by text message, including eight of the 12 elected worker representatives. Instead of being issued with formal termination letters, workers received messages telling them that they had been fired. 

IndustriALL affiliate the Bangladesh Chemical, Energy and Allied Workers’ Federation (BCEF), which is supporting the formation of a union at Chevron, demands that the company reinstates the workers, makes their job permanent and allows them to form a trade union, in line with Bangladeshi labour law.

Chevron has operated in Bangladesh for 10 years, after taking over operations from Unocal. The company is the largest natural gas producer in the country, as well as the largest foreign investor, and its activities set an important precedent.

Chevron has kept its staff on precarious contracts, sometimes for as long as 20 years. Of 463 directly employed staff, only 37 have been given permanent contracts.

Keeping workers on temporary contracts for more than three months is against Bangladeshi labour law. Last year, Chevron workers stood up for themselves, called a general assembly at work and formed a union.

The union filed for registration, and about half the workforce joined.

A group of workers took their case to the Labour Court to demand permanent status. The union is also petitioning the court for legal recognition.

The company reacted aggressively, sacking 17 worker representatives and calling the police and security forces, who blockaded the union offices.

IndustriALL wrote to Chevron in September last year, protesting against this grave violation of workers’ rights.

The company ignored the letter, and continues its campaign of bullying, intimidation and harassment against workers. IndustriALL wrote to the company again today, 16 March 2016, expressing its growing anger at Chevron’s continued violation of workers’ rights and labour law.

IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina said:

“The way Chevron has behaved is shameful, and betrays a grave disrespect of its workers and their right to trade union representation. We stand with the BCEF and demand that Chevron reinstate the workers, make their jobs permanent and allow them to form a trade union, in line with Bangladeshi labour law.