Surma desk, London Nov 9; The U.S. Department of Labor’s Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Thea Lee condemns the violent crackdown against trade unionists in Bangladesh.
In a statement, Ms Lee said that the U.S. Department of Labor is deeply concerned over the escalation of violence and crackdown on workers and trade unionists in connection with Bangladesh’s minimum wage review. The department condemns the alleged police shootings of Rasel Howlader on Oct. 30, 2023, and Anjuara Khatun today(Nov 8, 2023).
“A 26-year-old maintenance operator at Design Express Factory and member of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, Howlader was killed during a protest. Khatun, a 23-year-old sewing machine operator and mother of two, was also killed during a protest, she added.
She called on the government of Bangladesh to respect workers’ freedom of assembly, end the violent crackdown on workers, and conduct a full investigation of alleged police involvement in Howlader and Kahtun’s killings.
The US Department of Labour also called for the immediate release of Jewel Miya, a labor organizer from the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation arrested in connection with the minimum wage protests.
The US also urged the government of Bangladesh to revisit the recent minimum wage decision to ensure that it provides equitable compensation that meets the needs of workers and their families. To prevent future unrest, we also urge the amendment of existing labor laws to guarantee that all workers can fully exercise their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, as called for by the International Labor Organization.
The garment workers are protesting for days to increase their wages. On Tuesday, a government-appointed panel raised the new minimum monthly wage to Tk12,500. However, the workers are demanding Tk 20,393. But conditions are dire for many of the sector’s four million workers, the vast majority of whom are women whose monthly pay starts at 8,300 taka ($75).