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Police in Bangladesh obstruct union activities

30 September, 2021In a serious violation of workers’ rights, Bangladeshi police first banned a number of union meetings and then physically stopped participants from joining a meeting where a regional committee of the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) was to be formed.

The IBC is the coordinating body of IndustriALL affiliates in Bangladesh. On 24 September, a meeting was planned to take place in the office of IndustriALL affiliate BIGUF in Chittagong to form a regional committee, but a phone call from the police to IBC’s senior vice president Salauddin Shapon put a stop to that.

Another meeting was planned to be held in a different area the following day. But again, the police contacted the vice president to say the meeting could not take place there either.

In a third attempt, the IBC decided to hold the meeting at another affiliate’s office, the BTGWL. But in a serious violation of union rights and ILO conventions guaranteeing freedom of association, when IBC leaders arrived, police officers, including some in plainclothes, blocked the gate and did not allow anyone to enter.

In a letter to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheik Hasina, IndustriALL strongly condemns the police interference.

“What happened in Chittagong violates the most basic of workers’ rights. Police forces intervening and obstructing the activities of independent unions is unacceptable,”

says IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie.

“We call on the government of Bangladesh to conduct an immediate enquiry into the matter and ensure that the police, including the industrial police, will not interfere in the legitimate activities of trade unions across Bangladesh.”

The IBC had decided to form a regional committee in Chittagong as the area has many ready-made-garment factories and the workers working in some of these factories are members of unions affiliated to federations, which make up the IBC. Accordingly, several leaders had travelled to Chittagong to form the regional committee with representatives of the federations in Chittagong.

Photo: garment workers leaving factory at the end of the shift (ILO)