International solidarity gains victory in workers struggle in Bangladesh
After months of protests and international solidarity actions the owners of two big garment factories finally pay owed wages and severance payments.
The workers of Dragon Sweater factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh were laid off illegally during the Pandemic (Starting March, 2020) without paying them their outstanding wages and benefits. The
workers started a movement to realize their demands and force the owners to pay their dues. International organizations and initiatives like Global May Day also started holding solidarity demonstrations.
All reports related to the International Day of Action in Solidarity with former Textile Workers at Dragon Sweater (Dhaka) and against Excessive Consumerism on Black Friday (Nov. 27th, 2020) are listed below.Continue reading
To get straight to the point: The textile workers were not paid!
Since March/April hundreds of them have been struggling for overdue wages, bonus payments and severance pay. Following many rallies in Dhaka and an extensive Global Month of Solidarity, the factory owners signed an agreement with the workers on October 12th, 2020. According to that agreement workers and owners maintain an amiable relationship and refrain from conflict and renounced about half of all the money owed to them. In return the owners agreed to finally pay the remaining amount in four instalments. In addition an open letter – signed by 19 federations, labor unions/syndicates and collectives – was initiated after the agreement was signed. The first payment was suppose to take place on November 7th. Workers went to the factory – but no cash was seen.
In reaction to the non-payment hundreds of textile workers took to the streets of Dhaka the following day as well as on November 10th. For next Friday workers announced to hold a ‘hunger rally’ and lay siege to the Labor Ministry indefinately!
Local media like ekota.live report about those latest developments.
How will things continue now?
To discuss this further a local solidarity alliance consisting of the Free Workers’ Union (FAU) Hamburg and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Hamburg together with a local group from Braunschweig held a meeting today. They agreed to initiate an International Day of Action in Solidarity with the Dragon Sweater Textile Workers in collaboration with the Garment Workers’ Trade Union Center (GWTUC) for November 27th – the so called “Black Friday”. Furthermore a fundraising campaign initiated by the International Confederation of Labor (ICL) and with support of FAU Hamburg will be launched next week.
More details on the day of action as well as the fundraising campaign to be announced soon – Stay tuned!
The Global Month of Solidarity is over, but the fight for full wages and severance pay continues for the garment workers at Dragon Sweater in Dhaka. On September 17th hundreds of them rallied once again in the city and managed to lay siege to the Labor Ministry after breaking through a police line. They shouted slogans such as “Action! Action! – Direct Action!; Workers’ Action! – Direct Action!” and “Workers of the World unite!”.
During the Global Month of Solidarity the (former) garment workers at Dragon Sweater in Dhaka organized with the Garment Workers’ Trade Union Center (GWTUC) held a press conference on August 29th, blocked the Labor Ministry on August 31st and attempetd to lay siege to the factory owner’s residency on September 7th. The fight continues.
After negotiations with the factory owners broke down, hundreds of workers took to the streets again on September 10th. They stopped at the National Press Club as well as the Labor Ministry.
Though the police came to the scene, there were no confrontations this time.
1994: Dragon Sweater and Spinning Limited incorporated as a private limited company in Bangladesh. This is the period when many of the current experienced workers entered the workforce.
2012: Dragon Sweater becomes a public limited company with shareholders.
February/ March 2020: Dragon Group management in contravention of Bangladesh Labor Law, illegally lays off majority of workers, citing ‘economic losses’ from the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason. Management terminated the workers’ without compensating years of back pay and benefits.
Sidenote: Vast majority of workers were organized in the Garment Workers’ Trade Union Center (GWTUC) by then. One might suppose that union busting was a driving force behind the owners decsion to lay-off almost everyone.
March 2020: The Dragon Sweater workers start demonstrating at the factory in Malibag and in front of National Press Club to press home their demands.
June 2020: The textile workers lay siege to the Labor Ministry in support of their demands. There is also a siege of the Prime Ministers office in conjunction with workers from other factories agitating for their wages and benefits.
Dragon Sweater management reaches out to ICL and Global May Day. ICL and GWTUC responded.
June/ July 2020: FAU Hamburg, FAU Freiburg as well as IWW Bristol, IWW Hamburg and other international comrades hold solidarity demonstrations in support of the Dragon workers. Also in Dhaka workers rallied again.
July 2020: New Yorker contacts FAU Hamburg and GWTUC saying that under these circumstances they will blacklist Dragon Sweater. BUT we are still waiting for a public statement!
No proper feedback from Walmart nor Lidl (yet).
Labor union FOB (Brazil) joins the movement.
ICL working group Asia together with GWTUC and IWW Ireland decide to call for a Global Month of Solidarity with workers at Dragon Sweater! The idea of #UnitedAgainstTheDragon is born.
August 2020: The ongoing movement pressures the factory owners to resume negotiations. Workers representatives, owners, and the government sit for ongoing tripartite negotiations. However, the owners still continue to stall proceedings and deny workers their legally-owed arrears.
Textile workers thank comrades on the international level for their solidarity efforts.
At the end of August workers rally and block the Labor Ministry.
August/September 2020: The Global Month of Solidarity ends with actions in over 30 cities worldwide.
September 2020: Media in Bangladesh starts to report about the solidarity movement on the international level.
In Dhaka workers attempt to lay siege to residency of factory owner.
In mid-September negotiations break down and workers take to the streets and lay siege to the Labor Ministry once again.
October 2020: Hired goons attack protesting workers; 12 workers had to be treated in hospital. In reaction a solidarity statement was published.
On October 12th an agreement was signed by the workers, factory owners and government representatives! In includes that the factory owners pay 50 percent of the total amount owed to the workers in four installments on four different days. The first installment is scheduled to be paid on November 7th. As part of the deal workers also agreed to not stage any more protests related to this conflict in Dhaka and around the world. To uphold the pressure an open letter was sent to Dragon Sweater/Dragon Group nonetheless.
November 2020: The factory owners break the agreement. They didn’t pay. Therefore the textile workers begin to rally again. A week later they blocked the Labor Ministry for several hours with the factory owner inside.
The GWTUC attempts to support hundreds of affected textile workers with a daily warm meal and basic medical supplies. For them to be able to continue those efforts a fundraising campaign was initiated aiming to collect 20 000€ by the end of the year.
So called Black Friday was used as a day of action in solidarity with the textile workers and against excessive consumerism. Most actions took place at New Yorker stores. Reports from 11 cities were submitted.
Dezember 2020: After months of protests and international solidarity actions the owners of two big garment factories finally pay owed wages and severance payments.
January 2021: A letter of acknowledgement was sent by the GWTUC.
More than 18 000€ were collected during the fundraising campaign (more than 9 000€ through the gofundme platform and another 9 000€ directly on the FAU Hamburg bank account). To reach the goal of 20 000€ the deadline was extended until the end of January.
A first distribution of basic necessities to more than 500 workers will take place January 24 – 27th, 2021.
A more extensive report on this will be published soon.
The struggle of workers at Dragon Sweater factory reached Freiburg (Germany). This report was submitted July 18th, 2020.
Solidarity Action with Dragon Sweater Workers in Freiburg (Germany)
Around 20 people gathered in Freiburg (Germany) for a solidarity action with the struggle of garment workers of dragon sweater factory in Dhaka. The protest took place in front of a „New Yorker” store, which sell the clothes produced by dragon sweater. Members of anarcho-syndicalist union FAU, feminist organisations and socialist party „Die Linke” demanded the management of New Yorker to force their buisnesspartner dragon sweater to pay & rehire the workers, and also to respect the right to unionize.
Long live international solidarity of the working class!
FOB in Brazil joins the movement in solidarity with the 6,000 garment workers of Dragon Sweater in Dhaka (Bangladesh). They keep fighting for their wages and bonuses after factory closure with the help of Garment Workers Trade Union Center (GWTUC).
This statement was published:
The Federation of Revolutionary Trade Union Organizations of Brazil (FOB) answers the call for solidarity from the GWTUC’s garment workers’ union and provides solidarity to the more than 6,000 workers at the Dragon Sweater Factory in Bangladesh who were fired illegally and did not have their wages paid in a pandemic context. The Dragon Sweater Factory works regularly for major brands such as H&M, Zara, New Yorker, Lidl, Primark and Woolworth.originally published in Portuguese on lutafob.wordpress.com
The context of the covid-19 Pandemic has been used as an excuse for several attacks on workers around the world and capitalism shows once again its true cruel and anti-humanitarian.
In this context it is important that the world’s grassroots unions strengthen internationalism and workers’ solidarity networks. FOB calls on all its unions, activists and workers in general to build denunciation campaigns against the brands that the Dragon Sweater Factory works on: H&M, Zara, New Yorker, Lidl, Primark and Woolworth.
We call on everyone to protest in front of Walmart stores in Brazil and to send us photos of these demonstrations so they can be forwarded to the fellow workers in Bangladesh.
We demand the immediate readmission of the 6,000 workers and payment of their respective wages!