Bangladesh: Brands respond to mass dismissals of garment workers following minimum wage protests
In December 2018 – January 2019, tens of thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh went on strike and staged mass protests over changes to the legal minimum wage (increased to half the amount the workers and trade unions had been calling for to cover living costs). The largely peaceful protests were met with a widespread and violent crackdown - one worker was shot dead by state security forces and many others were injured, while approximately 12,000 garment workers were dismissed from factories. Many of those dismissed remain unable to find alternative employment due to systematic blacklisting, while thousands of workers had trumped-up criminal charges of vandalism and looting filed against them by factories producing for major international brands.
Labour groups have called on brands 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 early 2019 we invited 28 brands listed as buyers on the websites of factories that had been named publicly as having dismissed workers and asked them to outline what concrete steps they were taking to remedy the situation. El Corte Ingles, Groupe Casino, H&M, ÏDGROUP, LPP S.A, Mango, New Look, Next, Peter Christian, Primark, 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.
As a result of international pressure, 14 criminal cases against workers have been dismissed (the factories filed petitions to withdraw their charges, which were then dismissed in court). However, at least 19 cases are still underway with no sign yet of the buyers (where known) taking sufficient action to press for the dismissal of the charges.