Amsterdam witnessed a powerful protest by Clean Clothes Campaign activists, who took a stand against the Bangladesh garment industry following the recent tragic murder of trade unionist Shahidul Islam.
The demonstrators gathered at a promotional exposition of the industry, sending a resounding message to the government of Bangladesh, employers' associations, and brands that source from Bangladesh.
They demanded immediate justice for Islam's grieving family, protection for the right to organize, and the establishment of a new minimum wage in alignment with workers' needs. Shahidul Islam's life was brutally cut short on June 25, 2023, as he was attacked and killed after advocating for workers' bonuses and wages in Tongi, Bangladesh.
His 25-year dedication to the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF) as an organizer speaks volumes about his commitment to workers' rights. His murder underscores the grave risks faced by unionists and workers standing up for their rights in Bangladesh, highlighting the urgent need for an environment where workers can freely organize and voice their concerns.
Clean Clothes Campaign activists voiced their concerns both outside and inside the Best of Bangladesh event in Amsterdam. They emphasized the importance of dialogue that includes independent trade union representatives and worker voices, stressing that such discussions are meaningless without the very people they affect. The protesters outlined crucial steps for progress: Justice for Shahidul Islam:
They called for a thorough and transparent investigation by the Bangladeshi government into the murder, including identifying all perpetrators and their connections to factory management. Compensation for Shahidul Islam's family, in line with ILO Convention 121, was also requested, along with additional compensation for emotional suffering.
Ensure Safeguards for Freedom of Association:
Brands sourcing from Bangladesh were urged to protect freedom of association and remain neutral during any independent organizing efforts. Those part of the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry were urged to strengthen freedom of association provisions. The government of Bangladesh was encouraged to create an enabling environment for workers' right to organize through labor law reform.
Establish a Monthly Minimum Wage:
The demand for a monthly minimum wage of at least 23,000 BDT (ca. 195 EUR) was issued, along with a call for brands and the government of Bangladesh to support this wage and reflect it in product pricing. Without these measures, justice for Shahidul Islam's murder, which has far-reaching implications for Bangladeshi society and garment workers' rights, will remain elusive.
The organizers and participants of the exposition have the opportunity to take a stand by advocating for a 23,000 BDT minimum wage, showing their commitment to positive change in the industry. Upholding workers' rights and promoting decent jobs are essential for solidifying Bangladesh's position as a global sourcing destination.