In a victory to workers, the owners of Dragon Group begin payments. But it’s not enough…
International Solidarity gains victory in workers struggle in Bangladesh
After months of protests and international solidarity actions, the owner of two big garment factories finally pays owed wages and severance payments. As has been reported, the workers of Dragon Sweater factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, were laid off illegally during the pandemic (March 2020) without payment of outstanding wages and benefits. The workers campaigned tirelessly to demand payment from the owners and have been supported all along by international organizations and initiatives, like
Global May Day and the International Confederation of Labour, ICL.
In October, after a campaign of physical intimidation and attacks by the bosses’ thugs, the workers agreed to give up some of their demands in exchange for payment in instalments, starting as soon as November. However, the bosses failed to honour the agreement, made no payment at all, and the workers began their campaign again.
This time, considering the militancy and protracted nature of the workers’ struggle along with the unyielding attitude of the owners, the Labour Minister herself was forced to be
present at the meetings.
In early December, a new agreement was reached to pay due wages and benefits to workers who had been hired on a monthly salary. They have been paid since. However, the large majority of workers, who worked on a per-piece rate, and floor and quality control managers, were not included.
A panel was formed to work out the amounts owed to workers on a per-piece rate. However, it was heavily biased in favour of the owners and put forward a figure that is 50% lower than the real amount, therefore placing workers’ salaries below the minimum wage as stipulated by the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006. After protests from the workers and the union GWTUC, and the Minister’s intervention, a higher figure was proposed and payments were due to begin on December 22. GWTUC still plans to go to court to win Dragon workers their entire unpaid wages.
Regarding managers, the negotiations have stalled. The union estimates that millions of Tk are owed, going back decades. Only the amounts relevant to their Provident Fund have been paid this far, which is in itself a victory, since the owners had also refused to acknowledge these. Again, GWTUC will take the matter to the labour courts.
Workers for the Dragon Group always had to fight to receive their full wages and benefits. They have toiled in unsafe working conditions for years, culminating in their illegal termination by the owners, using the excuse of the Pandemic.
But the workers never gave up. GWTUC informs that their struggle can be considered a victory, with the overall situation of the garment workers struggle in Bangladesh. The unprecedented internationalism and solidarity displayed by trade unions, workers organizations and comrades around the world to stand beside the workers of Dragon Sweater is specially outstanding.
In the long history of the garment workers struggle in Bangladesh, this is the first time, when international actions have taken place with such unprecedented coordination and solidarity. The Global May Day initiative, Free Workers Union (FAU), Industrial Workers’ of the World, the International Confederation of Labour (ICL), CNT, FOB, FORA, FGWM, SAC and friends from all across the world played their part in achieving the just demands of the Dragon workers.
Likewise, holding international brands accountable, through constant actions and demonstrations, played a vital role in forcing the local garment owners into the negotiating table, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
Also, ICL’s fundraising efforts and comrades’ contributions from around the world especially helped Dragon workers keep their resolve strong and provided much needed food, medical supplies and legal aid during the struggle.
Overall, we must say that the international solidarity and comradeship displayed in the struggle will forever remain a milestone in the history of the workers movement in Bangladesh.
Mahmood Sadaat Ruhul_
International Affairs Department
Garments Workers Trade Union Center (GWTUC)
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