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A Bangladeshi garment union leader was killed after a pay dispute

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Garment workers in Bangladesch at Green Smart Shirts Ltd. in Gazipur Credits: Sumit Survawanshi for FashionUnited.

Bangladeshi garment workers face a distressing reality as a trade union leader was tragically beaten to death while attempting to resolve a pay dispute. Shahidul Islam Shahid, a prominent figure associated with the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF), fell victim to this heinous act following a meeting at the Prince Jacquard Sweaters Ltd factory in Gazipur, a major garment hub.

This incident, which took place last Sunday according to a police report, sheds light on the precarious position of garment workers, who continue to endure perilous working conditions and unjust treatment when it comes to issues related to their wages. Despite ongoing efforts to enhance labour standards and safety regulations within the industry, numerous workers still encounter wage theft, delayed payments, and exploitation. These persistent challenges underscore the pressing need for robust enforcement of labour laws and heightened transparency in the garment manufacturing sector to safeguard the rights and well-being of workers.

The specific pay dispute at the Prince Jacquard Sweater factory arose when workers sought the assistance of Islam Shahid to negotiate unpaid salaries, which they expected to receive before the festive occasion of Eid, an equivalent of Christmas in the Christian calendar. The US-based Solidarity Centre issued a statement disclosing that Shahidul and the workers had convened to discuss means of ensuring the payment of two and a half months' wages and the Eid-ul-Azha festival bonus. Tragically, after Shahidul and other union representatives departed from the factory premises, a group of individuals launched a vicious attack, shouting, "You are here for workers' pay!" The assailants mercilessly assaulted Shahidul, delivering severe blows and leaving him critically injured. He was rushed to a nearby hospital by onlookers but, tragically, was declared dead upon arrival.

This murder serves as a grim reminder of the absence of an environment where workers can freely exercise their rights without fear of intimidation. Regrettably, it is the second instance of a union leader's killing in the past decade, instilling a climate of fear among organizers who routinely face barriers erected by employers in their pursuit to represent the interests of workers.

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