14 May, 2021On 10 May, around 20 garment workers at the Ha-meem group, supplying garments for among others H&M, Gap and Zara, suffered injuries from rubber bullets during a demonstration demanding an extension of Eid holidays, from three to at least the usual ten days.
Extended holidays for garment workers have been a tradition in Bangladesh and workers spend the festival time with family and friends. The government had announced three days for Eid holidays this year, but IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, which brings together affiliates in the country, reached an agreement with the factory owners’ association BGMEA to jointly call on employers to announce a minimum of five to ten days.
When the Ha-meem group of factories announced just three days of holidays, a spontaneous protest at the Creative Collection factory in the Gazipur district erupted.
A large number of police met the protestors with tear gas and rubber bullets. At least 22 workers were injured by the pellets, some suffering over 50 projectile injuries.
Only after the violent response to the workers, did the company extend the Eid holidays.
Saluddin Shapon, Acting President of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) says:
“We strongly condemn the police shooting protesting workers. This issue should have been resolved through social dialogue with the workers. A trade union in the factory could have maintained the industrial peace and found a solution through discussions.”
Since the recently imposed lockdown measures in Bangladesh, workers have been facing major problems. Garment factories are allowed to stay open during the lockdown and workers risk Covid infections at the workplace and in transit from their homes to work. In the absence of the public transport, workers are spending a higher portion of their income on transportation and left with meagre wages for household expenses.
“We are shocked to see such violent and strong-arm tactics used by the police against workers. The violent response goes against internationally established standards of human rights and workers’ rights. Respecting workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining at the Hameem group of factories and in Bangladesh will go a long way in avoiding repetition of such incidents in future,”
says Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary.