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Unifor joins call to free Bangladesh unionists

February 16, 2017

Ottawa - Unifor members lent their voices to the call to free imprisoned Bangladesh trade unionists at a rally held today outside the Bangladesh High Commission in Ottawa.

“We demand the immediate release of jailed unionists and an end to the targeting of labour activists and the intimidation of workers,” said Unifor Eastern Ontario Area Director Harry Ghadban, who was part of a labour delegation that met with High Commission officials.

At least 34 Bangladeshi labour organizers have been arrested for trade union activity since thousands of garment workers participated in wage strikes last December. In retaliation to the strike the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) closed down around 60 factories for several days, with most refusing to pay workers. At least 1,600 workers were suspended or dismissed and union offices and the homes of labour leaders were raided, forcing union organizers into hiding for fear of arrest.

“Bangladesh garment industry workers are among the lowest paid in the world and their government’s anti-union policies have kept them in poverty while denying their right to organize and protest for a living wage,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The international labour movement, trade partner governments, and the global clothing brands sourcing the work must all bring pressure to demand that Bangladesh stop the persecution, protect the worker’s rights and address their wage grievances.”

Unifor stands in solidarity with the imprisoned union leaders and fired workers and joins IndustriALL, UNI and ITUC in the campaign to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government to end the climate of fear. The union is asking the Bangladesh government to take immediate steps to release imprisoned union leaders, reinstate the fired workers, and respect fundamental labour rights.

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org or 416-896-3303 (cell).