Justice for Labor Rights Advocates in Bangladesh

Photo: Babul Akhter and Kalpona Akter.

Bangladesh employs 4 million garment workers in 5,000 garment factories that produce US$12.59 billion in export earnings, representing 78% of the country’s total. Contributing nine percent of the gross domestic product, the industry is directly or indirectly responsible for the employment of 24 million people. 

The minimum wage is $37/month or less than $10/week. This equals around 20 cents an hour, the lowest wage, by far, of any major garment producing country. Studies show that this wage fails to cover the cost of the minimum nutritional needs of even a single worker, let alone her family.

Read more in our report, Enemies of the Nation or Human Rights Defenders? Fighting Poverty Wages in Bangladesh, which reveals a severe and ongoing government crackdown on labor rights activists in Bangladesh. 

Recent events

Summer 2010

•    Labor leaders Kalpona Akter, Babul Akhter and Aminul Islam are arrested by on false charges for demanding their human and labor rights (more details here)

Fall 2010

•    Following a campaign by ILRF, the leaders are released on bail, but their labor rights organization is still banned (the latest is here)

Winter 2010-2011

•    Fire breaks out in a factory near Dhaka, killing 35 and injuring dozens
•    ILRF pressures the U.S. companies buying from the factory to fairly compensate the families and prevent future factory fires

Spring 2012

•    Union organizer Aminul Islam is brutally tortured and murdered, allegedly by Bangladesh government security forces. Lack of progress in the investigation spurs concerns of impunity and cover-up to protect security forces as workers and labor leaders fear for their safety.

Summer 2013

•   The US government suspends Bangladesh's GSP status.
•   The government of Bangladesh announces that the criminal charges targeting Kalpona Akter, Babul Akhter and several other labor rights advocates will be dropped.
•   Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity's registration status is restored by the government of Bangladesh.


Further Resources

8/6/2012 A Chronology of the Investigation of the Murder of Aminul Islam
3/8/2011 Statement on Congressional Letters in Defense of Labor Rights Leaders in Bangladesh

11/1/2010 Press Release
. Media inquiries: Bjorn Claeson, 207-262-7277. 
9/1/2010 Congressional letter to Walmart, Sears / Kmart, JC Penney, H&M, Cintas, and VF
9/1/2010 Congressional press release
8/19/2010 Rally at Embassy
8/16/2010 New York Times

8/13/2010 From members of Congress

8/10/2010 From Human Rights Watch
8/5/2010 Press Release