Though much has changed for the better in Bangladesh’s garment industry - the first ever factory map was published in February, for example, leading the way to more transparency in the supply chain - 2019 was also the year of crackdowns on workers and their rights - as many as 11,600 workers were dismissed without legal justification, most of whom have been unable to find other jobs due to systematic blacklisting according to the International Labor Rights Forum (IFLR) who calls it “the largest crackdown on workers’ rights in the last two decades of garment production in Bangladesh”. A report by the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) published in April noted that “freedom of expression and association have become increasingly stifled by Bangladesh’s government in recent years”.
The Washington, DC-based advocacy organisation IFLR has put together a list of major apparel brands linked to factories that filed unsubstantiated cases against workers who demonstrated for higher wages. As a result of campaign efforts, some charges against workers have been dropped, while others are still pending. “At least 25 other cases are still underway, however, with no sign yet of the buyers taking sufficient action to press for the dismissal of the charges,” says the IFLR.
While some brands like the Canadian athletic wear label Lululemon have taken matters into their own hands and investigated worker abuses at a supplier factory, there are factories associated with major brands like C&A, H&M, Mango, Marks & Spencer, Next, Primark and Zara according to IFLR where about 650 named and up to 4,500 unnamed workers are still facing charges. FashionUnited has contacted the brands mentioned for a commentary on the situation. The IFLR is asking consumers to take action by contacting the brands on social media to do the same.
Foto: Clean Clothes Campaign