Bangladesh Laundry Workers Strike, Win Wage Boost

  • June 15, 2016
  • Jennifer Kuhlman

Laundry workers affiliated with the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation (BIGUF) at the Jeans Express Ltd. Washing Division factory in Chittagong, Bangladesh, successfully negotiated a collective bargaining agreement following a two-day strike in May.

As a result of the strike, the 70 laundry workers won a 6 percent wage increase, improvements in leave, access to purified water, a union office, a prayer space and an area where workers can eat meals. The union and management also committed to a dispute resolution process.

Law Makes Legal Strikes Nearly Impossible

The strike action—which, as a legal strike, is extremely rare due to onerous legal requirements—prompted management to bargain a contract with the union.

The union had sought to begin the collective bargaining process in December 2015, but management refused to meet with the union. As per Bangladesh labor law, the union filed complaints with the government, which made several attempts at conciliation without success. On May 2, all but one union member who voted in a secret ballot election overseen by the government’s Joint Director of Labor (JDL) voted in favor of a strike.

“This has been a great success following a six-month-long struggle,” says BIGUF Organizing Secretary Chandon Kumar Dey. “Now we must now ensure implementation of the agreement and help the union build a constructive relationship with the management.”