According to new information acquired by the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, the government of Bangladesh maintains a blacklist for targeting and firing garment workers who seek their legal rights. In July 2012, Institute director Charles Kernagahn stated: “The Bangladesh Government is in direct violation of many of the International Labour Organization’s core worker rights conventions, which the country ratified in June 1973, including Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (ILO Convention 87), and the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining (ILO Convention 98).” The scheme has gone a step further; one of the largest knitwear manufacturers in the world, the South Ocean Group, a primary producer in Bangladesh’s Exporting Zones, has confirmed that the government-run Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA) is involved in the illegal blacklisting of the workers who seek their rights.
This is the first solid evidence that Bangladesh’s government is operating an extensive system to terminate and blacklist workers asking for legal rights. The government’s illegal scheme covers hundreds of thousands of workers in the Exporting Processing Zones and also impacts thousands of privately owned apparel factories to deny the legal rights of over 3.5 million workers. These factories supply clothing exports to the U.S., Europe and Australia, for familiar brands including Wal-Mart, Hanes, GAP, J.C. Penney, Nike, Levi’s and Tommy Hilfiger.
Eighty percent of these 3.5 million workers in Bangladesh are young women. They are among the hardest working and the poorest in the world, earning about 16.3 cents an hour due to the 29% inflation rate of the last three years.
Bangladesh is the third largest garment exporter to the U.S. with exports valued at $4.5 billion in 2011. According to Barbara Briggs, “The American people have a powerful voice, if we choose to use it…we have the power to demand that Bangladesh’s local labor laws are respected and enforced, along with ILO’s internationally recognized worker rights standards, including the right to decent working conditions, the right to organize an independent union and to bargain collectively.”
Barbara Briggs, “Bangladesh Government Linked to Blacklist,” Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, July 26, 2012, http://www.globallabourrights.org/press?id=0441
Student Researcher: Rebecca Moskowitz (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)