As many as 11,600 garment workers have been fired in Bangladesh for participation in protests demanding higher wages. This is in addition to thousands of workers who were fired towards the end of January for the same reason.
Employers and the police have filed cases against over 3,000 unidentified workers, about 70 of whom were arrested. IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), the national coordinating body of affiliates of IndustriALL Global Union, said the terminated employees used to work for outlets supplying international firms such as H&M, Mango, Next, Matalan, Puma, Espirit, Wal Mart and Stanley Stella.
According to local reports, the companies have forced many senior employees to resign, presumably to avoid paying higher wages and social security benefits. Thousands of workers had hit the streets of Dhaka and other cities for several days in mid-January, demanding that their monthly salary be doubled from 8,000 Tk to 16,000 Tk ($191 per month). The authorities, however, responded with the use of force that left over 50 workers injured and one dead.
“Cases have been filed against 3,000 unidentified workers, which has created panic. Many have opted to stop going to factories,” Salauddin Shapon, the general secretary of IndustriAll Bangladesh, said. “In one company alone, almost 1,200 workers were sacked,”, he added.
Many workers also said they were physically threatened by unidentified persons, who asked them to stop demanding higher wages. Workers say finding a new job is a challenge as the companies are tracking their antecedents using biometric data which is linked to employment records, with the aim of identifying whether they participated in protests or had any links to trade unions.
Earlier on January 29, over 5,000 garment sector employees were sacked for taking part in the protests and repression. “The arrests targeted union leaders and office bearers with the tacit support of employers in order to cripple union activities. The harassment needs to stop immediately. The employers and the government should withdraw all false cases against workers, and all unjust terminations and suspensions should be withdrawn. The employers should pay wages as announced by the government,” Shapon said.
Expressing shock over the alarming number of worker losing their jobs in the country, Valter Sanches, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, condemned the state repression. “Employers and brands need to end the climate of fear among workers and establish a work environment which respects workers’ right to freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining,” he said.