Bangladesh Garment Workers Supplying Aldi Left Penniless - July 2015
On April 10, the Bangladeshi garment factories, Swan Garments and Swan Jeans, closed without notice and without providing termination payments to their more than 1300 workers as required by law. Since then, the workers have been without wages or work.
The factories made clothing for a number of retailers, including Aldi and Walmart.
The factories made products for signatories to the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety (The Accord) and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (The Alliance).
“While the Accord has led to some improvements in factory safety in Bangladesh”, Colin Long, spokesperson for Australia Bangladesh Solidarity Network (ABSN) and Victorian Secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union, said, “we are finding that worker livelihoods are increasingly under threat from illegal closures, under-payment of wages and increased working hours and production targets. The Swan closures are, unfortunately, symptomatic of a growing trend of intensified exploitation and rip-offs of worker entitlements in Bangladesh”.
In desperation, despite the deeply important Eid Festival commencing – a very important time for Bangladeshis – workers started a protest in central Dhaka. It has been continuing for over a week.
“As is typical when we try to stand up for workers”, Joly Talukder, Joint General Secretary of the Garment Workers Trade Union Centre in Bangladesh said, “we are met with repression by the police. Workers have been injured by the police during our protest”.
Colin Long said that while it is important to remain focused on factory safety in Bangladesh’s garment industry, it is also important to direct attention to the failure of so many companies to respect basic worker rights – even to pay wages – or to respect the rights of unions to organize.
“And we must continue to remind Australian and other western retailers, like Aldi, that they have a responsibility to the workers in their supply chains.
“We call on Aldi to make sure these factories are reopened or at least that the workers are paid their entitlements”.
ABSN will be protesting at the Aldi store at 501 Swanston Street, Melbourne on Tuesday 21 July at 12.30pm.
Colin Long, ABSN & NTEU, 0403 920 361
Joly Talukder, Joint General Secretary GWTUC (Bangladesh) +8801675021819
Joly Talukder can speak from the Dhaka sit in and translate for Swan Garments workers.