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Chevron sacks union organizers in Bangladesh

24 September, 2015IndustriALL Global Union is condemning Chevron’s illegal union busting in Bangladesh, and calls for corrective action by the multinational energy company.

Chevron operates in exploration and extraction of oil and gas oil in Bangladesh. The US based multinational has been in the country for nine years since acquiring the operations from Unocal.

Some of the 463 Chevron workers have been employed there for the last 10 to 20 years. Of the 463 workers, only 37 have been employed on permanent contracts, with the rest remaining on rolling temporary contracts in some cases for 20 years. This is against the Bangladeshi labour law that limits temporary employment to three months.

The management ignored repeated verbal and written requests from the workers over many years, calling for changes to unacceptable conditions of employment.

After years of oppression and intimidation, workers organized themselves in a general assembly and decided to form a workplace union, following the legal process. The new Chevron workers’ union filed for official registration with the labour authorities on 14 April 2015. Out of the workforce of 463, 218 workers joined.

On 20 May 75 employees filed cases at the Labour Court claiming their right permanent employment status.

Management reacted to the workers’ union registration aggressively. On 26 May management mobilized police and security forces to blockade the union office. Workers defied the police and demonstrated in front of the office.

The following day, 27 May 2015, Chevron hung up a list of 17 sacked workers outside its office. The list included all the newly elected leaders of the new union, including president Saiful Islam, Kamaluddin, General Secretary and Hasanur Rahman Manik, Organizing Secretary.

The union responded to the mass sacking with demonstrations, a symbolic hunger strike, a human chain action and a press conference.

The workers then approached the IndustriALL affiliated national union, the Bangladesh Chemical, Energy and Allied Workers’ Federation (BCEF) for help.

BCEF President Kutubuddin Ahmed states:

Although Chevron’s website lists commitment to the United Nations Human Rights Charter, it is clear that their commitment is limited to website papers.

The BCEF lodged the following demands to Chevron: reinstate the workers, make their job permanent and allow workers to form a trade union, in line with the country’s labour law.

Chevron argued that they were not responsible for the workers’ mistreatment, pointing to a sham triangular employment relationship. Chevron denied that the workers were directly employed, saying a third party labour broker was their employer.

IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan stated:

We will not let Chevron sack these workers with impunity. It was already a crime to keep them on precarious contracts for so many years, sacking their elected leaders is shameful.