Garment workers - global struggle

Bangladesh

On 31 October several hundred workers turned up at the gates of the Nippon Garment Factory in Tongi, an industrial city 24 km north of Dhaka, expecting to work and to receive wages owed. Instead they found police blocking the entrance - and a note on the gate informing them that the factory was shut until November 29 because of "global recession". The notice also asked workers to collect their wages on November 10, though arrears were already 3 months late.

The mainly female workers tried to force their way into the factory but they were attacked with baton charges by the police. More workers and locals from the surrounding slum areas joined the protest and the crowd grew to several thousands and moved to block the main highway. Hundreds of police and para-military forces intervened. Police began shooting teargas and live rounds at the workers who erected barricades. Two workers were killed, and a thousand people are reported injured.

When they get paid, Bangladeshi workers on the minimum wage receive US$0.15 per hour. Following the clashes in Tongi the Bangladesh governemnt is considering supporting the establishment of unions in the the garment industry. Read more on the Tongi struggle

Thailand

Workers members of the Triumph Labour Union have occupied the Ministry of Labour in Bangkok, and set up their living quarter and garment production facilities inside the ministry buildings.

Almost 2000 union members were sacked by Triumph in June, and have been picketing the factory in Bang Phli, Samut Prakan since then. The factory owners dismissed the workers claiming a fall in profits, and they set up a new factory with casual workers.

The workers are producing garments under their own label, and continue their fight for reinstatement & compensation. Read more on the Triumph struggle at Committee for Asian Women

Sri Lanka

The Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union in Sri Lanka has demanded that employers ensure decent work by paying a living wage, Free Trade Zone workers earning the minimum wage live in poverty, often barely able to afford one meal a day.

As part of its on-going campaign for a living wage, on October 7 the ITGLWF affiliate organised a demonstration in front of the main gate of the Katunayake FTZ. The workers maintained the action for an hour in spite of attempts by police to break up the picket.

The union is campaigning to increase wages during the 2009 salary review which is now underway. The union’s approach is in organising at factory level as a key way of securing a living wage. The FTZGSEU is supported in its campaign by the ITGLWF, which selected the living wage issue as the theme for its World Day for Decent Work activities. Read more on the Sri Lanka wage campaign at ITGLWF