15,000 Bangladeshi garment workers blockade a key highway in protest at unpaid wages. Meanwhile, bosses at the company – who supply Primark and New Look – are arrested on embezzlement charges in the country’s largest ever corruption case
The last week has seen a series of violent clashes between Bangladeshi garment workers and the police, resulting in over 250 workers being injured.
Workers at the Hallmark Group in Hemayetpur are demanding that arrears in their salaries are paid with immediate effect, and that they receive their annual ‘Eid’ bonus, which is due later this week.
Following three days of a large and noisy protest outside the factory and offices, the bosses continued to refuse to bow to the worker’s demands. Subsequently 15,000 workers blockaded a key highway route for many hours.
Violence erupted as heavily armed riot police and members of the armed forces attempted to regain control of the highway, using tear gas and rubber bullets.
In the days following the violence, the bosses have dismissed over 120 workers who they claim are militants, and who are responsible for troubles at the factory.
It must have slipped the bosses minds that it’s unpaid salaries that have sparked the dispute. A company director has been arrested within the last month on charges of embezzling $35 billion from the Sonali bank, in what is the country’s largest ever case of fraud. Charges against several other board members are pending.
The workers at the Hemayetpur factory work on average 84 hours a week for a monthly pay cheque of £19. A living wage in Bangladesh is said to be around £39 a month. Amongst other customers, they produce clothing for Primark, Zara, and New Look.
Solidarity with the Bangladeshi garment workers.
Very interesting report. Does
Very interesting report. Does this involve the National Garment Workers Federation of Bagladesh? The NGWF have obviously been keenly aware of other workers struggles around the world and pictures have appeared of them showing support for workers in the Aturias and lately WallMart workers in the US. Can you point to some primary sources of info from/on the NGWF and the general situation ref workers struggles in Bangladesh. Contacts or links would be good in order to return messages of solidarity or even develop channels that may result in tangible solidarity action outside of Bangladesh.
Quote: WallMart workers in
I'm not sure the photo of NGWF walking with Walmart workers banner is current. I believe it's from June 2012.
we have huge amounts of coverage of textile workers' struggles in Bangladesh, including information on the unions there in this archive:
the vast majority of the big strikes and disputes have been wildcat strikes, not union strikes
The plot thickens -
The plot thickens - http://www.newagebd.com/detail.php?date=2012-10-25&nid=28221#.UIlXtMXA-_g
Klaus wrote: Very interesting
The NGWF is the Bangladeshi 'union' most visible in the West due to its periodic contacts with syndicalists in UK & US and, perhaps more importantly, its partnership with the UK NGO War On Want. Like other garment unions, it's barred by employers from functioning as a workplace representative of labour, so doesn't function as Western unions do. It's role is more similar to an NGO, giving legal advice, providing social support to workers and lobbying employers, governments & media for improved conditions. I believe they and other unions have a degree of clandestine presence in the factories, but by its nature it's hard to tell how much or of what kind. But NGWF have admitted that at high points of struggle they 'have no control over workers'. So I think the struggles there remain largely self-organised and wildcat with the 'unions' one fairly marginal part of the ferment. At times of major unrest the bosses and state call the unions in to negotiate and to reestablish 'order', promising greater union recognition, but this never been formally granted.