The United Steelworkers, one of the largest unions in North America and Canada, has urged the Bangladesh government to release immediately all the garment workers and union representatives arrested on ‘trumped-up charges’ due to demonstration protesting against the inadequate minimum wage increase.
The USW, the largest private sector union in North America with more than 2,25,000 members in Canada and more than 8,00,000 members continent-wide, also demanded dropping charges against workers involved in demonstrations in December last year, as well as those charges that remained unsettled following the protests in 2016 demanding wage hike.
‘We are deeply concerned about the repressive measures taken in the last two months against workers protesting against the wholly inadequate minimum wage increase announced in November 2018, as well as the unequal treatment of workers in different pay grades,’ Ken Neumann, national director for Canada of the USW, said in a letter.
The letter was sent to Bangladesh high commissioner in Canada Mizanur Rahman on January 29 and New Age obtained a copy of the letter.
The labour rights group said that for the past two months, garment workers had been taking the streets in massive numbers to demand a decent living wage for their work and the protests had been met with violence and repression by Bangladeshi authorities.
The USW in its letter said that thousands of workers had been terminated by employers and dozens of charges had been filed against workers and leaders. Many workers had been arrested and remained in custody.
‘Recent developments in Bangladesh threaten progress that has been made in garment factory building safety since Rana Plaza, and undermine commitments to worker rights,’ it said.
The USW urged Bangladesh to respect the rights of workers working in the RMG sector to living wages and to stop repression against the workers.
‘Respect of workers’ rights is fundamental to building a sustainable Bangladesh garment sector into the future,’ Neumann said.
The USW also requested Bangladesh’s Supreme Court to lift the restraining order and ensure that the Accord on Building and Fire Safety in Bangladesh can continue its operations for the duration of the 3-year transition agreement or until the designated oversight committee determines that the Remediation and Coordination Cell is capable of taking over its tasks.
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