I am Rehana Begum. I got married at age 13. After marriage, my education stopped. Now I have two children. When my in-laws tried to arrange a second marriage for my husband, we left our village home in Paikgachha, Khulna district, where my husband was a day laborer, and moved to Khulna city with our children.
After a few different jobs, I started working at Modern (Seafood Industries) factory as an IQF (individually quick frozen) line operator and I worked there three years and a few months. Everything was going well. But suddenly one day we heard that management would soon terminate a large number of workers. Two days later, we saw a notice on the factory’s main gate listing the names of workers selected for layoff. Management told us this is only the first phase.
The second list was soon posted, in August 2015. We were worried, wondering when our names would appear on the list. On September 11, I heard from one of my colleagues that I was terminated, but I didn’t believe it as there was not any notice. Finally, I heard from the office that I was terminated along with 30 other workers—but management didn’t give us any written documents.
Standing Strong Together
The next day, all of us who had been terminated—about 50 workers from two factories (Bright and Modern)—met in the home of a worker. From this home meeting we decided to meet with our factory owner. We selected and assigned eight workers, four from each factory, on behalf of all workers. I was one of them and all of us got training from the Solidarity Center and learned about our rights. If we failed in the negotiations with owner, we knew we could go to the Solidarity Center for legal help.
As per our plan, we went to the factory office to meet the manager. At first, managers selected two workers out of eight and offered them all legal payments. But we were strongly united, and they could not break us. The two workers came out of the factory and shared everything with us and all the workers became angry and some of them became violent and started shouting. But we stopped them and requested that everyone stay peaceful.
Meanwhile, watching the situation, the owner suddenly changed his mind and asked all workers to come inside the factory. The owner called one worker from each factory to list demands. I said we came to you for justice, for our legal rights. We want our service benefit. We were terminated without any notice when Eid-Ul-Azha (a four-day Muslim religious holiday) is coming.
After the meeting, management assured us it will try to give all workers service benefits within one week. I received Tk. 18315 ($234). Soon, all terminated workers got their payments. It was really a great victory for us.
I have been working in Jalalabad Frozen Food Ltd. as an IQF line operator since October 2015. After working these couple of years as a shrimp processing plant worker, I now feel more confident and feel myself stronger than ever. I am also happy with my family. My husband works as a day laborer and helps me doing my job. My children are studying in school.