Bangladeshi workers intimidated by bosses

This video, recorded in Bangladesh, says about itself:

The Full Story of the Rana Plaza Factory Disaster

16 June 2013

The Rana Plaza building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was one of the world’s deadliest industrial disasters. A foreseeable consequence of the West’s addiction to cheap clothes. 1,140 people died. 16 year-old Anna Akhter, who had her hand amputated before she could be pulled out, and 18 year-old Reshma Begum, who survived in the rubble for 17 days, tell their stories. Reporter Yalda Hakim for BBC ‘Our World’.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Monday, 10 February 2014 GARMENT WORKERS ARE BEING TERRORISED IN BANGLADESH – says Human Rights Watch

GARMENT factory workers in Bangladesh who try to start trade unions are being intimidated and threatened with murder to stop their efforts to organise, a human rights watchdog says.

Human Rights Watch said conditions remain bleak for many workers in Bangladesh’s 5,000 garment factories, nearly a year after the Rana Plaza collapse laid waste to a Bangladesh factory block, killing more than 1,100 workers.

Its press statement said: ‘The Bangladeshi government should stop garment factory owners from intimidating and threatening workers for organising trade unions, and prosecute those responsible for attacks on labour leaders.

‘Foreign buyers, including major US and European retailers, should ensure that their Bangladeshi suppliers respect labour rights.

‘Human Rights Watch interviewed 47 workers in 21 factories in and around Dhaka.

‘The workers claimed that some managers intimidate and mistreat employees involved in setting up unions, including threatening to kill them.

‘Some union organisers said they were beaten up, and others said they had lost their jobs or had been forced to resign.

‘Factory owners sometimes used local gangsters to threaten or attack workers outside the workplace, including at their homes, they said.

‘Bangladesh amended its labour law in July 2013 after widespread criticism following the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, which killed more than 1,100 garment workers.

‘The labour ministry had previously refused to register all but a handful of unions, but the amendments have made it easier for unions to be formed.

‘More than 50 factory-level unions have been established, but since the law still requires union organisers to get the support of 30 per cent of the factory’s workers before registering a union, employer threats and intimidation make it a difficult task, especially in factories employing thousands of people.’

Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch Asia director, said: ‘The best way to avoid future Rana Plaza-type disasters and end the exploitation of Bangladeshi workers is to encourage the establishment of independent trade unions to monitor and protect workers’ rights.

‘The government has belatedly begun to register unions, which is an important first step, but it now needs to ensure that factory owners stop persecuting their leaders and actually allow them to function.’

The rights group added: ‘There are more than 5,000 garment factories in Bangladesh. The US and European Union (EU) have both linked Bangladesh’s continued access to trade preferences to making urgent improvements in labour rights and workplace safety.

‘The government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) should ensure compliance with the labour law, and sanction companies which abuse worker rights.

‘In July 2013 Bangladesh ratified International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining, and is required to protect the rights contained in them.

‘Section 195 of the Bangladesh Labour Act (2006, amended 2013) outlaws numerous “unfair labour practices.”

‘For example, no employer shall, “dismiss, discharge, remove from employment, or threaten to dismiss, discharge, or remove from employment a worker, or injure or threaten to injure him in respect of his employment by reason that the worker is or proposes to become, or seeks to persuade any other person to become, a member or officer of a trade union.”

‘In Human Rights Watch interviews conducted in Dhaka from October 2013 onwards, many of the interviewees described abusive practices.

‘One female worker said that when the workers in her factory presented their union registration form to the company owner, he threw it in the dustbin – then threatened the workers, saying he would never allow the union to start.

‘Two of her fellow organisers were later attacked by unknown perpetrators, one with cutting shears.

‘Two weeks later, a group of men, including a local gangster and the owner’s brother, visited her home and threatened her. She agreed to resign.

‘Many female workers said they received threats or insults of a sexual nature. For example, workers complained that in one factory a supervisor said that any woman joining the union would be stripped of her clothes and thrown into the street.

‘Elsewhere a manager said that a female union organiser was “polluting” his factory and should go and work in a brothel.

‘A union organiser in a different factory said he received a phone call telling him not to come to work again and 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.

‘Workers at one large factory told Human Rights Watch that they were trying to form their union without the managers finding out, because they were afraid of retaliation and losing their jobs.

‘Other union organisers described being harassed without the use of threats and violence. Some complained that they were given extra work so they did not have time to meet colleagues. Others said that factory managers refused to meet them.

‘Labour activists also complained that some of the unions in factories are not genuinely independent, but are so-called “yellow unions” that have been established by the factory owners themselves to control workers and prevent them from establishing or joining the union of their choice.

‘Many of the workers described how labour relations, and working conditions, in their Bangladeshi factories are poor. As a result there have been frequent strikes and protests, some of which turn violent.

‘Yet factory owners interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they do not believe that permitting the existence of independent trade unions will improve the situation.

‘One accused union organisers in his factory of fighting among themselves for control of the union; another was afraid that political parties might try to manipulate the unions.

‘Most of the workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch were employed by factories that manufacture garments for export and are supposed to comply with international retailers’ codes of conduct.

‘Typically these codes include provisions that protect the right of workers to form unions.

‘After the Rana Plaza disaster, coming on the heels of the fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in November 2012 in which at least 118 workers died, both the US and the EU called on the Bangladeshi government and garments industry to improve labour rights. The US and the EU compose Bangladesh’s two largest overseas markets for garments.

‘In June 2013, the US announced the suspension of Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

‘In order to regain these benefits, the US demanded that Bangladesh improve its monitoring and inspection of factories and increase “fines and other sanctions, including loss of import and export licenses” that fail to comply with labour, fire, or building standards.

‘In July 2013, the EU’s European trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, warned that Bangladesh might lose its duty-free and quota-free access to the EU if it did not improve its record on labour rights and workplace safety. The EU will conduct a review in the summer of 2014.

‘A legally binding safety accord signed by 125 mainly European retailers after Rana Plaza also called for trade unions, where they exist, to play an important role in ensuring factory safety.’

However, Adams, said that ‘unfortunately, some garment factory owners are continuing their narrow focus of renewed anti-union action based on seeing unions as a threat to their control’.

Bangladeshi workers suffer from lack of legal rights to organise: here.

One year after Rana Plaza collapse. Bangladesh garment workers still face dangerous conditions: here.

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6 thoughts on “Bangladeshi workers intimidated by bosses

  1. Dear friends,

    Benetton is deciding right now whether to pay its fair share to help the victims of the horrific factory collapse or hold on to every cent of its profits. Public pressure worked last year and it will again — if we make Benetton pay, we can change how clothing giants treat their workers forever. Click to sign and share with everyone:

    Right now, major fashion labels like Benetton are deciding if they’ll pay their fair share to help the victims of the horrific Bangladesh factory collapse one year ago — or just weather the media storm and keep squeezing enormous profits out of workers employed in slave-like conditions. Together we can tip the balance.

    More than 1,000 workers were crushed under the rubble, and a huge global outcry forced major brands to sign an agreement to stop future disasters and set up a victim’s relief fund. Shockingly, thousands of families are still waiting for the money they desperately need. But this week we can turn the first anniversary of the tragedy into a massive media storm that makes Benetton pay their fair share.

    What happens now could change how clothing giants treat their workers forever. If we make Benetton pay, others will follow. Click to sign and share with everyone — when we reach 1 million, Avaaz will biltz the media and deliver our voices straight to Benetton’s new CEO:

    The victims of the Rana Plaza sweatshop collapse were labourers making cheap clothes for major western retailers for a pittance — and now many of those retailers are refusing to pay into the Compensation Fund set up to help the families destroyed in the collapse. The $40 million fund is still short $25 million — almost two-thirds of the total it needs.

    Some companies have paid their share, but Benetton and others are still making excuses and refusing to hold up to their end of the agreement. Benetton is already feeling the heat after investigative reporters exposed it for failing to report the names of the factories where it makes its clothes for cheap. Now, let’s magnify that pressure a million-fold!

    Last year, public pressure convinced companies to sign on to a binding safety code to save future workers’ lives. Let’s show Benetton and other retail giants the world is still watching — and that their brand image will suffer if they don’t pay their share. Sign now to get justice for the Rana Plaza victims and share with everyone:

    After the building collapse last year, our community mobilised in massive numbers to force the world’s leading labels like H&M to sign up to a Fire and Safety Accord in order to prevent any more needless deaths in the pursuit of profit. Now, let’s come together once again to demand compensation for the families still waiting for help.

    With hope and determination,

    Allison, Oli, Aldine, Luis, Will, Sayeeda, Ricken and the whole Avaaz team

    More information:

    Primark to pay £6m more to victims of Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh (The Guardian)

    3 Retailers Give Aid to Bangladesh Workers (NYT)

    A Year Later, Bangladesh Factory-Collapse Victims Still Wait for Compensation (The Wall Street Journal)

    Battling for a Safer Bangladesh (NYT)

    US retailers’ donation to Bangladesh fund ‘paltry’ (The Guardian)


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