Bangladesh: Brands respond to mass dismissals of garment workers following minimum wage protests

A widespread crackdown in Bangladesh has seen over 12,000 garment workers dismissed from factories following protests in December 2018 and January 2019 over minimum wage changes. The workers were dismissed despite assurances from the government and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association that they would not face reprisal for their participation in the protests.

Several of the dismissed workers have had charges brought against them linked to allegations - described by rights groups as "broad and vague" - of vandalism and looting. Fearing arrest, many more workers have gone into hiding while others are reportedly being pressured to sign documents stating they accept responsibility for the protests and damage to the factories in return for receiving one month's notice and pay owed to them in back wages. 

Human rights groups and trade unions have called for the sacked workers to be reinstated and for the charges against those arrested to be dropped. A report by Workers Rights Consoritum found the mass dismissals, violence and arrests to be 'unlawful' and called on brands sourcing from Bangladesh to: withdraw criminal complaints filed in relation to the protests; reinstate and provide back wages to all workers terminated or forced to resign; and commit to a nondiscriminatory hiring process to end the blacklisting of workers based on their involvement in the protests.

In March 2019, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reached out to companies listed as buyers on the websites of factories that have been named publicly as having dismissed workers and asked them to outline what concrete steps they are taking to remedy the situation. El Corte Ingles, Groupe Casino, H&M, ÏDGROUP, LPP S.A, Mango, New Look, Next, Peter Christian, Tesco, Tom Tailor and Zeeman responded. Their responses are included below. 

Aditya Birla, Adler, Blackberrys, Chums, Galeria Kaufhof, Groupe Beaumanoir, NewYorker, Piazza Italspirits, Raymond, Saks Fifth Avenue, Semir, Shoeby, US Polo Assn. and Zalando did not respond. 

In April 2019, we invited Primark to respond after a campaign by Labour Behind the Label called on Primark to protect workers dismissed by its suppliers and those facing charges. Primark responded and its response is included below. 

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Company non-response
25 March 2019

Groupe Beaumanoir did not respond

Author: Groupe Beaumanoir

Company non-response
25 March 2019

Italspirits did not respond

Author: Italspirits

Company non-response
25 March 2019

NewYorker did not respond

Author: NewYorker

Company non-response
25 March 2019

Raymond did not respond

Author: Raymond

Company non-response
25 March 2019

Saks Fifth Avenue did not respond

Author: Saks Fifth Avenue

Company non-response
25 March 2019

Semir did not respond

Author: Semir

Company non-response
25 March 2019

Shoeby did not respond

Author: Shoeby

Company non-response
25 March 2019

US Polo Assn. did not respond

Author: US Polo Assn.

Company non-response
25 March 2019

Zalando did not respond

Author: Zalando

Zalando informed Business & Human Rights Resource Centre that it is currently unable to comment as they are in the process of reorganising their product range strategy to pursue a complementary strategy for their own labels and partner brands. More information can be found here.

Article
14 March 2019

Bangladesh: Unions call to release detainees & reinstate over 12,000 garment workers dismissed after wage protests

Author: IndustriALL

"Bangladesh unions call to reinstate over 12,000 retrenched garment workers", 8 March 2019

In a letter to the Minister of labour and employment... the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) demanded immediate intervention of the government to withdraw false cases, free the imprisoned and reinstate all dismissed workers in the backdrop of mass protests for wage hike across readymade garment manufacturing units.

Over a hundred workers were imprisoned, over 12,000 were retrenched and cases were filed against over 5,000 workers in the aftermath of workers’ protests against a meager wage hike in December 2018 to January 2019...

Employers of 107 readymade garment units used this opportunity to punish innocent workers for participating in union activities, as most of the dismissed workers are plant level trade union activists and union members. About 2, 500 workers were dismissed at the East West Group and Abonti Color Tex factories. On 26 February, a total of 300 workers at Garib&Garib Company Limited were fired without receiving two month’s wages.

Employers are using a database of over 3.5 million garment workers, collected and maintained by the BGMEA to blacklist dismissed workers and union activists from getting jobs in a new company. After the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, it was difficult identify workers as no credible record was maintained and a database was created for a record of workers - This is now also being used for blacklisting workers.

Many companies have published photos and names of retrenched workers on their website, making it difficult for them workers to find alternative employment...

Read the full post here