National Sections of the L5I:

Crackdown on labour rights advocates in Bangladesh

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The Bangladeshi government is cracking down on labour rights advocates, who need our help now.

This crackdown is taking place amidst massive public demonstrations by apparel workers who have been demanding increases in the country's minimum wage.

Arrest warrants have been issued against hundreds of workers and several labour rights leaders.

There is evidence that a specific company, Nassa Global Wear, has played a role in spurring the government's attacks against the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity in retaliation against worker organizing efforts at its factories.

Please write to the Bangladesh authorities to demand the release of the jailed activists, withdrawal of the criminal cases, and a guarantee of safety for all the worker leaders under attack.

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Source: LabourStart.Org

Text of solidarity letter

Your Excellency,

I write to express grave concern regarding the recent crackdown against the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and other labour rights leaders.

I am particularly alarmed to hear of the August 13 arrests of Ms. Kalpona Akter and Mr. Babul Akhter of the BCWS. I am shocked to hear that family members have been harassed and threatened with violence by police officers. Previous reports of the unjust detention and beating of Mr. Islam, who was held in NSI (National Security Intelligence) custody on June 16, 2010, and the de-registration of BCWS at the NGO Affairs Bureau on June 3rd 2010, make it clear to me that the safety and rights of these labour advocates are not guaranteed. Also it is reported that cases have been filed against other worker leaders including Montu Ghosh, Mahbub Islam, Bazlur Rashid Feruz, Moshrefa Mishu, Sultan Bahar, Nasim Nasrin, Ruhul Amin and Abul Hossain.

It is my understanding that BCWS leaders have been accused by your government of inciting worker unrest, and that Nassa Global Wear has instigated many of the complaints against the BCWS. BCWS is an internationally known and well respected advocate for workers' rights with a strong record in credible research and professionalism. It is unacceptable – both for your government and for Nassa Global Wear – to target trade unions and labour rights organisations for defending the legitimate demands of garment workers in Bangladesh.

Therefore I call upon your government to:

1. Stop the repression of workers and worker leaders who protest against the low wages in the garment industry.

2. Ensure the withdrawal of criminal charges of fomenting labour unrest filed against labour rights advocates and worker organisers, including Ms Kalpona Akter, Mr. Babul Akhter and Mr. Aminul Islam of the BCWS.

3. Release the arrested labour leaders and garment workers, and withdraw charges against anonymous workers.

4. Immediately withdraw the cancellation letter of June 3, 2010, and restore BCWS's NGO registration with the NGO Affairs Bureau (NAB), and put a halt to any action aiming at the termination of their organisation.

5. Provide BCWS staff members and their families with assurances of their safety.

And I call on Nassa Global Wear to immediately stop all harmful actions against the BCWS, including the withdrawal of any charges filed against BCWS leaders.

I hope that you will resolve this situation immediately and recommit yourself to allowing labour rights organizations to operate freely without fear of reprisal.

Yours sincerely,