Date: Sat, 2 Dec 1995 01:17:00 -0800
Sender: Activists Mailing List <>
From: Sabina Astete <>
Subject: Bangladesh: attack on garment union
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L <>

Date: 7:56 PM Dec 1, 1995
APC Conference: igc:women.labr

Worldwide condemnatino of attack on Bangladesh garment workers

International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation, 30 November 1995

Trade unions around the world have come out in support of the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union (BIGU) following a vicious attack on the union's Dhaka headquarters.

The Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the world's largest labour organisation, today called on the government of Bangladesh to conduct an urgent investigation into the attack and to bring the culprits to justice. In a Resolution (attached) adopted by its Executive Board, the ICFTU invited the government to pledge its support for efforts by garment workers to organise and bargain collectively in order to secure a better return for their labour in what is now the country's strongest industry. The Resolution also demanded immediate protection for the BIGU.

Speaking at the meeting, Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF), drew attention to the brutality of the attack. “The union offices were humming with activity on the night of November 21 when a gang of well-heeled and heavily armed thugs burst in. They fired shots wildly in the air, smashed furniture and threatened to kill anyone who resisted. Activists and members—mostly women—were clubbed with rifle butts. The union's lawyer was singled out in the attack. They ripped her sari, doused her in petrol and tried to set her ablaze. The warning they delivered was explicit: the union should cease its activities”.

The attack occurred as the union prepares to celebrate its first anniversary as a politically independent trade union, the only union in the country founded and run by women workers. Said Kearney: “In its one-year history, BIGU has campaigned vigorously on behalf of the thousands of workers in the garment industry, mainly young women and girls - some as young as eight—who desperately need someone to speak out for them. These workers are often forced to work seven days a week in slave-like conditions for below-minimum wages that are frequently withheld for months.

“In recent months, the union has been involved in court action against a number of member companies belonging to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. These cases include situations where workers who stood up for their rights have been forced to resign, and then have been blacklisted. Some have been illegally detained and beaten. Falsified documents have been used to discredit them, and their families have been threatened.

“The international labour movement will expose these violations worldwide, in particular among retailers and consumers in Bangladesh's main overseas markets, asking them to bear this rampant exploitation in mind when sourcing or purchasing garment originating in Bangladesh”, he concluded.