The workers of the Ashiana Garment Industry of Dhaka, Bangladesh and leaders of the Garments Workers’ Trade Union Center (GWTUC), who were demanding trade union rights for workers, have been barbarically attacked. After the incident, false charges were filed against the injured leaders and workers by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association BGMEA), the organization of garments’ owners. 2 workers of the factory were arested by the police. They has been sent for remand. 30 workers also has been terminated today. The workers and leaders are continuously under threat of being arrested.
On 31st January, Workers and the GWTUC leaders went to the BGMEA building in Dhaka, as a tri party meeting was scheduled to take place with the workers of the Ashiana Garment and the government authorities regarding the labor and Owners. BGMEA officers and employees swooped down and attacked the workers and leaders. Over a hundred workers and senior-most leaders of the Garments Workers’ Trade Union Centre were injured in the attack. 37 people were seriously injured and later received treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
The fact is; in May, 2017 the workers of the factory formed a trade union. From after they filed for recognition at the office of the Register of the Trade Unions. The Register of the Trade Unions rejected the application with irrational ground but there has been a sustained attempt to dismiss the leading workers since then. Several complaints have been filed regarding this matter at two institutions operating under the Labor Ministry. In spite such efforts, on 29 January, this year, when a worker was illegally dismissed, factory workers rose up in protest. The next day, when the owners closed down the factory illegally, there was widespread labor unrest.
Even as the workers, attending the meeting, gathered in front of the BGMEA building peacefully, BGMEA employees were attempting to provoke the workers. At 11am, when the BGMEA employees informed the workers that the meeting would not take place, the workers continued to wait. At one point, when the workers decided to peacefully hold a protest, they were attacked by the employees, led by BGMEA Senior Additional Secretary Mansur Khaled. At this point, the workers’ microphone and banner were seized. After this point, over a hundred people, armed with iron rods and sticks came from inside the building to attack the workers. They also vandalized the rickshaw, carrying the workers’ flags and mics.
GWTUC strongly condemned and denounced the attack. A wage board has been formed for increasing workers’ wages and it is at such a time that the attack was planned as effort to derail negotiations over increasing the wage. It was outrageous how the workers were called for discussions and instead were attacked. They called for swift judgments against those responsible for the attack. At the same time, we demand for the opening of the illegally closed down factory, the withdrawal of the unjust dismissals of workers, and for building a democratic environment in the industry through the implementation of trade union rights.
But instead of accepting the demand for justice against those responsible for the attacks, the BGMEA instead filed false cases against the injured workers and leaders. That the cases filed by the BGMEA against GWTUC president Montu Ghosh, General Secretary Joly Talukder, Executive President Kazi Ruhul Amin, senior most leader Sadekur Rahman Shamim, International Affairs Secretary Monzur Moin, General Secretary of the Ashulia Reagion K.M. Minu, General Secretary of the Gazipur District Jalal Hawlader, Executive President of the Ashulia Reagion Lutfar Rahman Akash, Organizing Secretary of the Ashulia Reagion Mohammad Shahjahan and more than 150 workers were completely false and purposefully motivated. Even only three leaders was present that time when they mentioned 12 name in the filed cases. Even though police accepted the false charges from the owner, they did not document the allegations of workers.
Following these events, a meeting was called by Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment to negotiate this crisis on 5th February. But unwilling to sit and negotiate BGMEA and factory owner pursued the police to arrest workers leaders of the Ashiana factory. As a result two workers of the factory were taken into custody at 4th February midnight. We also demand the immediate withdrawal of the false charges and discussions for settlement.
Alongside the erosion of trade union rights, these incidents are gradually reducing the space for negotiated settlement in the industry. The ultimate example of which is the calling of workers for discussion but actually attacking them on arrival. Unless there was a democratic environment, it will not be possible to establish a durable and developed industrial sector.