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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 that it was working to conduct in-depth investigations into its supplier factories where there are allegations that workers' contracts had been terminated and had temporarily suspended orders during this time. Its full response is included below. Labour Behind the Label submitted a rejoinder, stating that Primark and other brands sourcing from Bangladesh were not doing enough to proactively assess and investigate all their suppliers.

In October 2019, charges filed by Hameem Group and Sin Shin Apparels against workers were dropped and several other factories reportedly filed a petition to withdraw their charges. At least 25 other cases are still underway.

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Company non-response
25 March 2019

Adler Modemärkte AG did not respond

Author: Adler Modemärkte AG

Company non-response
25 March 2019

Blackberrys did not respond

Author: Blackberrys

Company non-response
25 March 2019

Chums did not respond

Author: Chums

Company non-response
25 March 2019

Galeria Kaufhof did not respond

Author: Galeria Kaufhof

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