Some 600 factory-level garment union leaders and workers from 35 factories met during the recent Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF) Convention in Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital.

Joining together under the convention theme, “Together we can bring change,” participants described the workplace improvements that followed after workers formed unions.

“Before forming the union, the workers were abused in different ways. For instance, if the production target was not fulfilled, management terminated them,” said Md. Khokhon Skikdar, general secretary of Lufa Garments Ltd. “But now, they (the managers) value us and hold mutual discussions.”

Tania Akhter, general secretary, Luman Fashion Workers Union, said before workers formed a union at Luman, “if any worker could not fulfill the production target, management forced them to work without any payment.” Now with union representation, “they receive earned leave pay, maternity leave and overtime wages due them as guaranteed by the labor law of Bangladesh. They are ensured of their rights after getting involved with union activities in the factory.”

Through their union, workers have achieved concrete workplace improvements “which were quite impossible earlier,” said Salma Akhter, joint general secretary of Winy Apparels Workers Union. “After forming a union, we increased our evening shift bill and got maternity leave.”

Participants also said the sixth annual BIGUF convention enabled them to expand their knowledge and skills and network with their peers.

“This type of convention gives us an opportunity to meet other union leaders and to get closer to each other,” said Skikdar. “Not only the leaders joined the program but also the members of the union were here.”

Mim Akhter, general secretary of the Dress and Domestic Workers Union, said she learned a lot speaking with other union leaders and now plans to “spread that knowledge among the general workers of the factory.”

Mim took part in training programs where she said she gained helpful knowledge, especially “how to deal with management” and “what is good and bad for the workers.”

Tania Akhter said the convention allowed factory leaders the meet and discuss mutual issues. “I feel very happy after seeing lots of workers together under one roof. As a leader, I am always trying to play a significant role in establishing worker rights,” she said.

Alonzo Suson, Solidarity Center Bangladesh country program director, IndustriALL’s Roy Ramesh and Rob Wayss, from the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, attended the convention as guests.

Unions participating included: Rokhsana Knit and Composite Workers Union; Miti Apparels Ltd. Workers Union; Fashion Island; Lucid Apparels Ltd. Workers Union; Lyric Industrial Workers Union; M F Apparels Workers Union; B Brothers Workers Union; Natural Apparels Ltd. Workers Union; Style Fashion Workers Union; BP Garments Workers Union; Essex Ltd. Workers Union; Four S Apparels Workers Union; Jisas Fashion Workers Union, Solar Garments; Super Shine Apparels Ltd. Workers Union; Workers Union; GNG Fashion and Fabrics Ltd. Workers Union; Overseas; Mega Star Apparels Ltd. Workers Union; Green Granite; Apollo Swing and Garments Ltd. Workers Union; New Morning Apparels Ltd. Workers Union; Global Knitwear Workers Union; Isabpur Workers Union; Aramic (Cement) Workers Union; Lokhipur Chingripona (Shrimp) Workers Union; Grameenphone union; and the Dockyard Union.

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