Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bangladesh Workers Need Support

Some 3.5 million people are estimated to be working in Bangladesh's textile industry. Less than five percent of them are in organized unions. Every eighth Bangladeshi is directly or indirectly dependent upon the textile industry. 

Ashik and Rahinur were garment factory workers in Ashulia, a suburb of Dhaka in Bangladesh.  Clothing that would later be sold to European clothing chains like H&M and Zara. If they worked overtime, meaning they were in the factory for 14 hours a day, they earned about 180 euros ($193) between the two of them. National minimum wage in Bangladesh is 35 euros per month.

"It was very hard work," says Ashik. "When we got home we were very, very tired and exhausted." The money was just enough to cover food and rent, but they could not afford health insurance. Aslik and Rahinur hoped that if they saved a little they would one day be able to buy a television.

In December 2016, Ashik and Rahinur took to the street to protest for better wages. The strike shut down 55 factories for a week. That was when the police stepped in and ended it. A short time later there was a knock at Ashik and Rahinur's door. Three police officers arrested Ashik, a union member, and threw him in jail for two months. Another 1,500 workers lost their jobs as a result of the strike, and 35 union members were jailed. Now their names are on a blacklist and they cannot find work.

The unions are weak and employers are strong and influential. Factory owners say that if workers want more money foreign customers will simply move production to countries where labor is cheaper, such as Ethiopia.

After the strike, the President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Siddiqur Rahman, said that the government had already raised wages in 2013. Now about 61 euros per month, Rahman said that another increase would not be possible for at least five years, if ever.

To support and show solidarity with fellow-workers contact:
The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

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