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Bangladesh: dismissed workers reinstated with ACT interim dispute resolution mechanism

19 December, 2023The right to freedom of association is upheld as IndustriALL affiliate, the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers' Federation (BGIWF), reaches an agreement on a complaint brought against Dekko Designs Ltd. under the ACT interim dispute resolution mechanism.

In December 2021, workers at Dekko Designs Ltd, who supply major brands like ASOS, H&M, Inditex, Tchibo, Bestseller and Next, tried to form a union in the workplace with the support from BGIWF. However, in January 2022, the union registration application was rejected by the Department of Labour and the proposed office bearers of the union, including the general secretary and president, were dismissed by the factory management.

With the assistance of IndustriALL, BGIWF filed a complaint under the ACT Interim DRM regarding the dismissals for exercising their right to freedom of association and organizing.

After almost two years and multiple rounds of negotiations which included participation from IndustriALL and international brands sourcing from  Dekko Designs Ltd. a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the factory and the union on 26 November 2023. According to the MoU, three workers, including the general secretary and president of the proposed union, will be reinstated, starting in February and March 2024 respectively, with full payment of back wages, while two other workers will be given severance benefits.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL south Asia regional secretary, says:

“This is a significant victory for the union and the workers at Dekko Design. IndustriALL salutes the struggle of BGIWF; the resolution of the complaint will go a long way in strengthening the faith of unions in the interim dispute resolution mechanism.”

ACT is an agreement between global brands and IndustriALL Global Union that aims to transform the way wages and working conditions are currently set in the global textile, garment and footwear sector. ACT has been actively engaged in Bangladesh since 2020, and the Interim Dispute Resolution Mechanism established under ACT, has played an important role in addressing grievances related to workers’ rights, including Freedom of Association, retrenchment and due payment of wages and benefits.

Several cases pertaining to violations of the workers’ right to freedom of association have been filed by IndustriALL’s affiliates under ACT interim DRM. In November 2020, The Akota Garment Workers Federation (AGWF) filed a complaint regarding the dismissal of fourteen workers in Sung Kwang Apparels for taking part in union activities. Factory management not only illegally terminated the workers but also pressed criminal charges against them in order to undermine the union. The complaint was resolved when an agreement was signed between the union and management that included withdrawal of criminal charges.

In March 2023, Sommilito Garment Sramik Federation (SGSF) submitted a dispute regarding the harassment of union leaders in Mondol Intimate. After a series of negotiations, the dispute was resolved in June 2023. In July 2023, Bangladesh Federation of Workers Solidarity filed a complaint regarding the dismissal of union organisers in Ananta Casual Ltd. The complaint was resolved when an agreement was reached that the terminated workers would be given full severance benefits.