For the past few months garment workers in various parts of Bangladesh took to the streets in their struggle for a proper increase in basic minimum wage. Currently workers are still paid at least 8 000 BDT (73 USD) per month. Labour unions demand an increase to at least 23 000 BDT, the Garment Workers’ Trade Union Center (GWTUC) fights for a minimum wage of 25 000 BDT. Following a week of intense strikes, blockades and street protests the wage board announced an increase of 56% (12 500 BDT) on November 7th, effective from December 2023. Unions reject this decision and announced to continue the fight for a proper increase.
Not only factory owners but also the brands sourcing from those factories are major profiteers of the workers’ sweat and labour. The products end up in stores worldwide. Therefore: Let’s globalise this fight, take it to the streets and confront the brands!
Note: Some brands released a statement directed at the president of Bangladesh asking for the conflict to be resolved as soon as possible.
Let’s turn Black Friday Week (Nov. 20 – 26th, 2023) into a Global Week of Action in Solidarity with the factory workers. Together we can pressure brands to express support for a 25 000 BDT minimum wage and condemn the ongoing state repression targetting workers and their labour unions. The brands must ensure that the factories they source from pay this minimum wage!
This NEWS section provides updates on the movement continuously.
The GWTUC released the below call, asking for comrades and fellow workers worldwide to do what they can in support of the fighting garment workers. You can also download the call as a pdf here.
To announce or share reports on your actions, drop a line at: email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org (mailing list)
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.
[UPDATE: June 23rd, 2020: The occupation is currently into the third day. The union affiliated with the GWTUC leading the protests is called Paradise Cables Limited Workers Union. There are currently around 300 workers occupying the Labor Ministry building located in Bijoynagar, Dhaka. They are living on the premises and holding demonstrations and giving speeches all day, and into the night. The GWTUC has set up a makeshift kitchen for food for the workers.
Members of other students and workers unions are coming by to offer their
solidarity as well. The workers have been negotiating with Labor Ministry
officials, but so far the owners have been unresponsive.]
The workers of Paradise Cable Limited factories in Naraynganj, Bangladesh, organized by the Garment Workers’ Trade Union Center (GWTUC) are leading an ongoing indefinite occupation of the Labor Ministry building in Dhaka. They are protesting for the immediate payment of their wages, which have gone unpaid by the owners of the factory for 13 months now. Their other demands include the payment of 3 years accrued overtime pay, vacation pay and bonus pay. The protesting workers are determined not to withdraw from their occupation until their demands are met. The workers had initially attempted to bring out a rally heading to the Prime Minister’s Office but were met with a heavy-handed response from police and security forces, who tried to intimidate the workers and disband the demonstration.