Target: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
Goal: Prevent retaliation against employees for organizing and joining labor unions
Since the devastating Rana Plaza and Tazreen Factory disasters, Bangladesh has taken crucial steps towards protecting workers’ rights. Focusing on protecting garment workers, who are typically poor and disadvantaged members of Bangladeshi society, the country’s reforms have given official recognition to more than 50 factory unions. However, because unions across the country are not united and an individual factory requires 30% of workers to receive official designation, many employers use threats of firing and even beatings to prevent the formation of unions.
Without unions, the power in wage negotiations and factory conditions is heavily on the side of the factory owners. As the factory disasters at Rana Plaza and Tazreen show, garment factory workers desperately need better working conditions. In addition, Bangladesh remains incredibly poor: almost half of the nation lives on less than one dollar a day. For these reasons, it is evident that workers need unions to balance the scale of power if there is ever to be improvement to quality of life.
While Bangladesh’s government has outlawed the use of intimidation by employers when employees attempt to unionize, enforcement is heavily lacking. Reports from Human Rights Watch say that while witnesses cite tactics of intimidation and beatings, investigation into the allegations is nonexistent.
Bangladesh’s business owners will begin suffering due to their refusal to recognize workers’ rights. The United States already announced the suspension of trade benefits for Bangladeshi products until proper reforms are enacted. In addition, the European Union has threatened to revoke the duty-free and quota-free privileges that Bangladeshi factories currently receive. Bangladesh’s economy will suffer if these privileges are revoked, so it is in the interest of all parties that workers’ rights be respected.
Sign this petition to tell the Prime Minister to enforce the law and prevent employee bullying.
Dear Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,
The establishment of effective trade unions is essential to improving the quality of life of the Bangladeshi people. When nearly half of the country lives on less than a dollar a day, it is obvious that employees need more power in wage negotiations. Moreover, the disasters at Rana Plaza and Tazreen factories make it clear that safer working conditions are necessary.
While your government has done much to make trade unions more widespread, there are still reports of employees being bullied by employers. Threats of firing and beatings are used to prevent the formation of trade unions and, while your government has made that intimidation illegal, investigation into these allegations is sorely lacking.
If the lives of the people of Bangladesh are to be improved, you must investigate any and all allegations of owner-worker intimidation. Increase factory inspections and ensure workers’ rights to form unions.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Derek Blackadder via Flickr