5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Bangladesh

The ITUC affiliates in Bangladesh are the Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress (BFTUC), the Bangladesh Jatyatabadi Sramik Dal (BJSD), the Bangladesh Labour Federation (BLF), the Bangladesh Mukto Sramik Federation (BMSF), the Bangladesh Sanjukta Sramik Federation (BSSF) and the Jatio Sramik League (JSL).

On 24 April 2013, at least 1,129 workers were killed when the eight-story Rana Plaza building complex in the Dhaka suburb of Savar collapsed. The complex housed five garment factories employing as many as 5,000 workers. This includes the New Wave factory, which supplies clothes to major global retailers such as Mango, Primark and Canadian supermarket chain Loblaws. Ether Tex Ltd, which supplies garments for buyers such as Walmart and C&A, was also housed in the complex, as was Phantom TAC, a joint venture knit factory with a Spanish textile company which boasted on its website of its “unique Social Transparency Tag” assuring the “high standards of working conditions in the factory”. The building also housed a bank and several shops. At the time of the collapse, 2,000 people were said to have been on the upper floors of the building.

On 24 November 2012, a fire erupted at the Tazreen Fashions Ltd factory, which claimed the lives of over 100 workers. This fire follows the recent garment factory fires in Lahore and Karachi, Pakistan, in September which claimed over 300 lives. The cause of the recent fires is suspected to be faulty wiring, often caused by using cheap and un-insulated wiring which overheats and causes these catastrophes. To keep costs as low as possible (and profits as high), Bangladeshi garment factories often cut major corners on health and safety.

The anti-union stance of the industry as a whole has also foreclosed any opportunity to resolve critical industrial relations industrial relations The individual and collective relations and dealings between workers and employers at the workplace, as well as the institutional interaction between unions, employers and also the government.

See social dialogue
issues such as health and safety through dialogue and collective negotiation. Instead, the industry, with the support of the government, is fighting to keep the industry union free – promoting participation committees, which have no power to bargain over the terms and conditions of their employment, and which are frequently dominated by management’s hand-picked representatives from among the workers, in place of unions.

Currently, there is an ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
-led process under way to reform the Labour Act of 2006 in relation to a handful of priority issues. The proposals include amendments on the minimum membership requirement of 30 per cent, the disclosure of names of union founders to the employer, and setting the number of union officers who may not be employed in the enterprise. Comments have been submitted by employers and workers to the Ministry of Labour, following numerous tripartite dialogue sessions facilitated by the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
. Furthermore, as the Parliament is dominated by garment factory owners, there is further concern that even if the proposals were acceptable, the Parliament could nevertheless amend them to suit the interests of the garment industry.

In practice

Browse by:
Employer interference with trade union elections09-06-2015

Berger Paints, a paint manufacturing company with over 65 per cent of the market share in Bangladesh, sacked the general secretary of the Berger Paints Employees’ Union just before he was due to be re-elected for a third consecutive term. The company then pressured the remaining workers into holding a union election shortly afterwards. IndustriALL reported that the result of the election was “heavily influenced by the clearly illustrated risk of being sacked for raising a strong voice in defence of workers”.

Employer refusal to bargain with representative unions31-12-2014

The Azim Group, one of the country’s largest and most influential employers, consistently refused to recognise trade unions at the Global Garments factory throughout 2014. The company only agreed to recognise the trade union in December 2014, after a US-based trade union put pressure on US buyers to cease buying from the Azim Group until it recognised the trade union.

Strike broken up by tear gas and storming police31-08-2014

In August 2014, Bangladesh police fired tear gas and stormed a garment factory in Dhaka where workers had been staging a hunger strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
over pay, a union official says.
Bangladesh police fired tear gas and stormed a garment factory where workers were staging a hunger strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
over pay, a union official says.

The police, armed with batons, forced 400 workers to flee the factory in the capital Dhaka where they had been holding a 10-day strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
to demand back pay back pay Wages or benefits due an employee for past employment. Often awarded when the employee has been unfairly dismissed. Not to be confused with retroactive pay (delayed payment for work previously done at a lower wage rate). and a holiday bonus, the official said.

“Police fired tear gas and baton charged us, they forced us out of the factory, where we were staging the hunger strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
,” said Moshrefa Mishu, head of Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee, which represents 15 garment unions.

Workers were seen running out of the factory crying due to the tear gas, while others were bleeding from head injuries.

Discrimination of trade union members28-02-2014

The dismissal, harassment and intimidation of workers who have sought to establish or join a trade union is widespread, and has been particularly widely reported in the ready-made garment industry (RMG) and the shrimp processing industry.

In February 2014, the Labour Ministry completed an investigation into 16 garment factories accused of firing trade union leaders in the preceding few weeks. One example was Chunji Knit Ltd, a garment manufacturing company, which sacked 18 workers after they established a trade union at Chunji Knit’s Dhaka factory in February 2014.

In some other cases, the factory management paid money to union leaders and members to convince them to quit their jobs and cease their efforts to form trade unions. In other cases, employees have reported being coerced into resigning by force.

The US embassy in Dhaka reported that the management of Weltex Garments threatened the workers in an effort to persuade them not to establish a trade union. Company management forced workers to sign blank papers after they submitted their application for registration of the trade union and issued termination letters to the union leaders.

The US embassy also reported harassment of workers in Rumana Fashion and Fashion Unit, Masco Industries, Eagle Eyes Design, Sadia Garments, Global Trousers Management, Fashion Island, Tunghai Sweaters, Dorin Washing Plant, Norwest Industries, Shoab Knit Composite, Redical Design, Vobs Apparels Ltd, Samia Garments, Diamond Fashion Wear, Fashion Gears Ltd, Vision Apparels, and Eve Garment Ltd. The President of the Masco Cotton Ltd Workers Union reported that he and three other workers were suspended from work for two and half months for trade union activity.

A worker at Jalalabad Seafood Limited shrimp-processing factory reported that a while after a union was established at her workplace, the owners fired the union leader and sent thugs to beat him. The union leader had to leave his area and his home, and the union was dismantled.

Government refuses to register trade unions30-11-2014

There have been many reports of unions in the ready-made garment industry having had their applications for registration frustrated by the state and/or factory owners. In these cases, the trade unions seeking registration are refused or delayed.

For example, Basic Apparels in Uttara terminated 72 workers and union members, including three executive committee members, after they submitted an application for registration in September 2013. The union registration application was still pending in February 2014.

A report released in August 2014 stated that there are trade unions at only two per cent of factories the management of which are members of employer associations Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

However, 73 per cent of the BGMEA and the BKMEA factories and 89 per cent of non-member factories have participation committees. Participation committee is a body manned by representatives from both factory owners and workers. Trade union leaders term this committee as “pocket committee” of factory owners which actually works to favour owners.

In late November 2014, the State Minister for Labour Mujibul Haque Chunnu expressed the view that multiple trade unions would be bad for the RMG sector. When speaking to the council of Bangladesh Trade Unions, Minister Chunnu is reported to have said: “I don’t understand what good so many trade unions will do. Cambodia’s garment sector suffered a huge blow for approving too many trade unions.”

Transport union leader hacked to death05-05-2014

On 5 May 2014, the body of General Secretary of Jhenaidah Bus Minibus Transport Workers’ Union Abdul Gaffar Biswas was found in the Arappur Baro-bridge area. He had been hacked to death the day before by a group described in the press as “unidentified miscreants”.

The leaders of Jhenaidah Bus Minibus Transport Workers’ Union called a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in response to his murder.

Unionists attacked and threatened18-09-2014

Physical force, sexual intimidation and threats of physical assault and dismissal are often used to stop workers from organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. . This has been particularly widely reported in the ready-made garment (RMG) industry. Workers involved in establishing unions in RMG factories in Gazipur, Ashulia and Tongi in Dhaka, and in Potanga and Nasirabad in Chittagong have been beaten, intimidated, threatened (including threats of death), sacked and forced to resign by factory managers and floor supervisors. Some factory owners have also used local gangsters to threaten or attack workers, including in their own homes, and many female workers have reported receiving threats and insults of a sexual nature.

One worker reported that when workers in her factory presented their union registration forms to the company owner, he threw it in the rubbish bin and then threatened them, saying that he would never allow union membership. Unidentified assailants (including one with cutting shears) later attacked two of her fellow organisers. Two weeks later, a group of men, including a known gangster and the factory owner’s brother, visited her home and threatened her. She agreed to resign.

At another factory, a supervisor said any woman joining the union would be stripped of her clothes and thrown onto the street. Elsewhere, a manager said a female union organiser had been “polluting” his factory and that she should go and work in a brothel. A union organiser at a different factory said he had received a phone call asking him not to come to work again and also threatening to kill him if he did so. When he went there the next day, he was surrounded by a group of men who beat him and slashed him with blades.

On 22 February 2014, one garment worker leader and four organisers of the Bangladesh Federation for Workers Solidarity, two of whom were women, were attacked by a group of approximately two dozen men while speaking to employees of Chunji Knit Ltd, a garment manufacturing company. All five of the union representatives were beaten, kicked and thrown to the ground. One organiser was taken from the scene, beaten severely and dumped, unconscious, nearby. A female organiser was beaten, had her clothes torn off her and threatened with rape. The garment worker leader went missing.

On 26 August 2014, a female union president was beaten in the head with an iron rod just outside a factory owned by the Azim Group, requiring her to get more than 20 stitches. On 10 November 2014, at another of the Azim Group’s factories, a female union organiser was swarmed by people, pushed to the ground and assaulted, and a male union organiser was chased away and punched. Another female union organiser entered the factory before being pushed out the door and then shoved out of camera range.

On 18 September 2014, workers of Lifestyle Fashions Maker Ltd reported being clobbered with iron rods and bamboo sticks by 20-25 officials following a feud over the formation of a trade union. The attack left at least 30 people injured.

Trade unions and human rights groups have reported that the police response to attacks on trade unionists, including the abduction, torture and murder of labour activist Aminul Islam in April 2012, has been very poor. As at April 2014, no one had been arrested or tried for his murder.

Workers beaten09-02-2015

On 22 February 2014, a garment worker leader and four union organisers were badly injured when about two dozen people beat, kicked and threw them to the ground as the five were speaking to workers in the dormitory where they live. One of the organisers was taken from the scene, beaten severely and dumped, unconscious, nearby. He and a female organiser remain in the hospital. The whereabouts of the garment worker are unknown. The organisers, all working with the Bangladesh Federation of Workers Solidarity, were supporting workers who had earlier approached the union for assistance and who had been fighting to be paid the minimum wage at their factory. The factory, which manufactures for Western brands, employs approximately 4,500 workers – many of whom had staged a wage protest on 18 February 2014, which was ultimately put down by police.

Anti-union discrimination against union leader09-02-2015

Golgar Hussein, General Secretary of the Berger Paint Bangladesh Employees’ Union, was dismissed on 4 December 2013 for his trade union activities. The union in Kalurghat, Chittagong, has survived years of management interference and intimidation in regular breach of the labour law and the collective agreement. Between 2000 and 2011, eleven union members and officers were dismissed for their trade union activities. Following Golgar’s dismissal the local management pressured workers into a union election on 27 January 2014.

Police attacks protesters07-08-2014

On 7 August 2014, police hindered Tuba Group workers from getting to the factory where they had been on an indefinite hunger strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
for 11 days demanding their overdue wages and Eid bonus. Police used rubber bullets, teargas canisters and water canon to disperse the agitating workers on the factory premises in the capital. Moshrefa Mishu, President of the Garments Sramik Oikya Forum, and Bangladesh Trade Union Centre trade union centre A central organisation at the national, regional or district level consisting of affiliated trade unions. Often denotes a national federation or confederation. ’s Assistant General Secretary Jolly Talukder were arrested.

Police brutality26-11-2013

In November 2013, the Minimum Wage Board announced a 77 per cent increase in minimum wages. This would result in a monthly salary of 5,300 taka (USD 68) for workers. However, employers argued they would not be able to implement this decision. On 11 November 2013, workers protested against employers’ refusal to pay higher minimum wages and the rate announced by Minimum Wage Board, still the lowest in the world for textile workers. Police fired water cannon and rubber bullets to break protests injuring more than 50 people. About 250 factories were shut down in the Ashulia industrial zone on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka.

Violence and interference in demonstrations13-05-2013

On 13 May 2012, workers employed at the Ha-Meem Group protested about management violence against workers. Police intervened in the demonstrations which led to the injury of at least 100 workers.

At least 100 garment, knitting and packaging factories in Ashulia were shut for a day on 11 June 2012 after hundreds of workers of Artistic Design, a packaging factory in the Ha-Meem Group located in Narasinghapur, staged a demonstration demanding a pay rise. Thousands of workers from garment factories along the highway stretching from Narasinghapur to Banglabazar joined the demonstration. The police attacked the workers with batons to free the road leaving 10 people injured.

In July 2012, three workers who had participated in demonstrations demanding pay rises were shot by the security forces.

On 16 September 2012, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at tens of thousands of garment workers who were demonstrating in a key industrial area outside Dhaka, demanding a reduction in working hours. Two policemen and about 50 workers were injured during the clashes.

Violence and interference in collective bargaining12-02-2013

On 12 February 2012, the President and the General Secretary of the Coats Bangladesh Ltd. Employees Union (CBLEU) attempted to enter negotiations regarding an industrial dispute industrial dispute A conflict between workers and employers concerning conditions of work or terms of employment. May result in industrial action. at the Tejgaon Industrial Area in Dhaka. Management confiscated their mobile phones and forcibly detained them over night.

Violence and interference in strike action30-01-2012

On 30 January 2012, at least 40 workers were attacked and injured by company security guards from Rashida Knitting and Ware Limited and Megha Textile Ltd in the Ishwardi Export Processing Zone export processing zone A special industrial area in a country where imported materials are processed before being re-exported. Designed to attract mostly foreign investors by offering incentives such as exemptions from certain trade barriers, taxes, business regulations, and/or labour laws. when they protested against dismissals without prior notice and non-payment of annual leave.

Police violence at Rana Plaza factory05-06-2013

Police opened fire on workers who protested near the former Rana Plaza factory for fairer wages and outstanding salary payments which had been promised previously by the government and the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). Local media reported that 50 people were injured by police. The death toll from the Rana Plaza disaster reportedly now stands at 1,130.

Anti-union discrimination30-01-2012

Workers at Rosita Knitwears (Pvt.) Ltd. and M/S Megatex Knitters (Pvt.) Ltd. Companies in Ishwardi EPZ export processing zone A special industrial area in a country where imported materials are processed before being re-exported. Designed to attract mostly foreign investors by offering incentives such as exemptions from certain trade barriers, taxes, business regulations, and/or labour laws. began demonstrations on January 30, 2012 regarding serious violations of workers’ rights, including sexual harassment of a female worker and several discrepancies over annual raises and leave. As a result of the unrest, 291 workers, including the presidents of WWAs of Rosita and Megatex, were dismissed. In negotiation with the international buyers and the South Ocean Group (the owner), Rosita and Megatex agreed to reinstate WWA leaders Helal (Rosita) and Belal (Megatex) and the other 289 workers and sought BEPZ export processing zone A special industrial area in a country where imported materials are processed before being re-exported. Designed to attract mostly foreign investors by offering incentives such as exemptions from certain trade barriers, taxes, business regulations, and/or labour laws. A’s approval to remove them from an EPZ export processing zone A special industrial area in a country where imported materials are processed before being re-exported. Designed to attract mostly foreign investors by offering incentives such as exemptions from certain trade barriers, taxes, business regulations, and/or labour laws. “blacklist”. However, BEPZ export processing zone A special industrial area in a country where imported materials are processed before being re-exported. Designed to attract mostly foreign investors by offering incentives such as exemptions from certain trade barriers, taxes, business regulations, and/or labour laws. A refused to give permission to reinstate the workers on the grounds that there is no prior practice, nor are there provisions in BEPZ export processing zone A special industrial area in a country where imported materials are processed before being re-exported. Designed to attract mostly foreign investors by offering incentives such as exemptions from certain trade barriers, taxes, business regulations, and/or labour laws. A rules and regulations to allow for the reinstatement of a dismissed worker in his former jobs. Of course, there are no provisions (nor should there be) prohibiting the reinstatement of workers in law or regulation. Furthermore, there is precedent for reinstatement.

Murder of trade unionists01-07-2012

In July 2012, two workers, Mintu Hossain and Rokibul Islam (the latter a union leader) were murdered and 35 wounded by government-provided security guards at the Akij Bidi Factory in Daulatpur Upazila. From available information, the guards opened fire on a crowd of over 3.000 workers had who staged a demonstration at the factory gates in an attempt to recover unpaid wages and to seek a pay rise. The plant manager, Khurshid Alam, gave the order to open fire on the workers. While he has already been arrested, the status of his case remains unknown.

Aminul Islam, an organiser at the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, was found dead in April 2012. In 2010, he had been arrested and tortured by police and intelligence services. From the information available, it appears that Mr Islam was not the victim of random violence but rather targeted for his trade union work. His murder was no doubt meant to send a clear message to trade unions and NGOs not to protest against the low wages, gruelling hours and poor working conditions that characterise the RMG industry. Some suspects have been interrogated, but as yet no one has been arrested, much less prosecuted. It is believed that members of the intelligence service are involved in his murder. Most troubling, Bangladesh PM Sheik Hassina, appearing on the BBC, cast doubt on the fact that Aminul Islam was ever a labour activist and further claimed that no one had ever heard of him before his murder.

© ITUC-CSI-IGB 2013 | www.ituc-csi.org | Contact Design by Pixeleyes.be - maps: jVectorMap