Toronto – January 20, 2017 – Four years after the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, in which more than 1,100 textile workers were killed on the job when the garment factory they were working in collapsed, the government of Bangladesh is still ignoring agreements made after the tragedy to establish workplace safety, and has now allowed a brutal crackdown on garment union activists.
Bangladeshi security forces have raided the houses of trade union leaders and volunteers, and at least 11 garment union leaders and activists have been detained in an alarming step backwards for worker rights and democracy in the country.
Trade union offices in Ashulia, the garment-producing hub of the capital Dhaka, have been invaded, vandalized, and forcibly shut down, with membership documents burned and furniture removed. In addition, after garment workers demanded an increase in wages in December 2016, more than 1,600 workers have been fired and police have filed cases against 600 workers and trade union leaders.
A recent report, authored by Uni Global Union, IndustriALL Global Union, and the International Trade Union Confederation, has also concluded that the Bangladesh government has failed to comply with the Sustainability Compact – an agreement between Bangladesh and the European Union (EU), Canada, and the United States, as well as trade unions and other organizations. The agreement was signed in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, and called for improvements to workplace safety backed up by worker unions and collective agreements.
But ever since the compact was signed, there have been over 100 cases of anti-union reprisals in factories, and delays by the government to certify additional bargaining units.
It is time for the government of Bangladesh to honour its labour and safety promises by immediately releasing the detained union leaders and activists, and complying with the terms of the Sustainability Compact as quickly as possible.