The third largest importer of Bangladesh-made apparels is pushing to resolve a dispute between RMG owners and workers
Primark – an Irish fashion retailer headquartered in Dublin – has suspended placing new orders at a number of garment factories in Bangladesh over allegations of labour code violations.
The third largest importer of Bangladesh-made apparels, Primark, is pushing to resolve the dispute between owners and workers that arose during the wage hike movement in December last year.
Sources from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) confirmed the matter on Tuesday, and added that the Irish retailer also seeks evidence that the dispute between RMG owners and workers has been resolved, before placing new orders.
According to the UK-based organization Labour Behind the Label (LBL), the jobs of more than 400 workers from Primark suppliers in Bangladesh were terminated following their involvement in the wage hike movement last year, which led the retailer brand to suspend new orders.
“As far as we know, very few factories are having such issues. The Primark team has been actively trying to resolve the crisis,” BGMEA President Rubana Huq said while admitting the fact.
She further said the Primark team is committed to guiding and providing support in resolving all disputes, and they have already concluded their investigation.
A RMG factory owner, on condition of anonymity, told The Business Standard that the Irish retailer has emphasized the resolution of some key issues such as withdrawing cases against the RMG workers who participated in the wage hike movement.
Primark also seeks cancellation of the employment termination order against the RMG workers.
Meanwhile, LBL had launched a campaign ‘Made in Bangladesh, Made in fear’ to protect terminated workers, which garnered more than 1,000 signatures before concluding at the end of May.
“Factories have to provide evidence on eight points before they can start getting new orders, including withdrawal of all charges and payment of compensation to affected workers,” said sources from LBL.
Lauding Primark’s decision to suspend new orders, LBL said Primark teams are also making weekly visits to RMG factories to check if positive changes are being made.
The rights body also requested Primark to call on suppliers to rehire all workers who lost their jobs for peacefully exercising their rights.
Replying to the call for action, sources from Primark said the retailer has secured compensation for every worker dismissed, and in a few cases, has got them reinstated. LBL is presently waiting for the complete figures.
In December, Primark suppliers dismissed 427 workers after RMG workers carried out a countrywide movement declaring that the monthly minimum wage of Tk 8,000 ($95) is too low.
Workers of dozens of factories took to the streets in the largely peaceful strikes.
“The government of Bangladesh’s security forces responded violently. They shot one worker dead on the street while he was on his way home during his lunch break, and many others were injured at the hands of the police,” said a recent LBL statement published on their website.
“It was the largest crackdown on workers’ rights in the last two decades of garment production in Bangladesh,” said the LBL statement, adding: “A total of 65 workers were arrested with hundreds more facing unsubstantiated charges at the behest of factory owners.
“As many as 11,600 workers were dismissed without legal justification, most of whom have been unable to find other jobs due to systematic blacklisting.”
Primark workers weren’t the only ones affected in the crackdown as supplier factories for C&A, H&M, Inditex, Mango and Marks & Spencer have also been implicated in labour code violation by Primark.