Labor activists in Bangladesh arrested

Despite the recent wage increase of US$42 (3000 taka) per month, up from less than $1 per day, workers have been demanding at least US$72 (5000 taka) per month to simply meet the rising cost of living in these urban areas. Factories in Bangladesh supply garments for retailers such as Wal-Mart, Gap, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sears, some of the world’s most recognized brands, yet workers in Bangladesh make less than their counterparts around the world.

After a series of public demonstrations, demanding fair wages, the Bangladeshi government has invoked a campaign against trade union leaders, labor rights activists and garment industry workers. Since the protests began at the end of July, hundreds have been injured and many have been arrested. Instead of addressing the poverty wages and exploitative conditions that characterize the country’s garment industry, the government of Bangladesh is blaming peaceful human rights advocates for the country’s state of unrest.

On Friday, July 30th, the government of Bangladesh filed criminal charges against leaders of apparel workers’ organizations, claiming that they incited worker unrest. The government arrested a number of garment industry workers. Prior to these charges, the government revoked the operating license of BCWS, seized their property and froze their bank accounts. Until early this morning, Kalpona Akter and fellow organizer, Babul Akhter, had been working with counterparts in order to assist fellow activists who been unduly arrested.  Their whereabouts are currently unknown and we are deeply concerned that they will be beaten and tortured.

ILRF and others are calling for the release of Kalpona and Babul, and we need your help! Workers’ rights are human rights! Peaceful voices should not be silenced! Here are three things that you can do right now:

1) Donate to the Worker Solidarity Fund – all donations will go to post bail for Kalpona and Babul and for other immediate legal expenses.

2) Demand that the multi-national companies that are backing the government crackdown on workers’ rights leverage their economic might to free those that have been unjustifiably imprisoned!

3) Call on the Bangladeshi government to release Kalpona and Babul immediately, to reinstate BCWS’s NGO status, and to cease all harassment of BCWS.

Visit ILRF's campaign Sweatfree Communities for additional context and updates on the situation in Bangladesh.