Rights group asks govt to take lead on Swan Garments issue
The Clean Clothes Campaign, a global rights group, called on the Bangladesh government and German retailer Aldi to immediately take steps to clear the dues of Swan Garments workers.
Following the sudden death of its Chinese owner, Ming Yuen Hon (Toby), in April, the Swan management shut down two units, which employs more than 1,300 workers.
The workers have not been paid since, with many resorting to demonstrating in front of the National Press Club over the last two weeks for payment.
After almost three decades of operating in Bangladesh, it appears Swan Garments has started facing difficulties in 2014, when many of its long-term buyers pulled their orders and the factories began to rely on subcontracting to maintain their business, according to the statement. Swan Garments' website lists a number of European brands as its long-term buyers such as Lidl, Next, Bestseller, Dunnes and Walmart.
Workers claim they were producing for Aldi, Piazza Italia and Motivi in the months prior to closure.
In January, the factory suddenly stopped paying salaries. Hon attempted to flee the country on April 9, but was prevented from doing so by workers who confronted him at the airport and brought him back to the factory.
This action forced Hon to pay a month's salary to workers, but on April 10 the two factories were illegally declared closed.
Workers have been engaged in demonstrations since April 19 to demand their unpaid salaries and resumption of factory operations.
Concerned that their fate will be the same as Tuba Group workers, who last year went on hunger strike to demand the wages and bonuses they were owed, several hundred Swan workers have been participating in a permanent sit-down protest outside the National Press Club since July 12.
A number of workers have been injured by police using force to attempt to disperse protesters.
“As is typical when we try to stand up for workers we are met with repression by the police. Workers have been injured by the police during our protest,” said Joly Talukder, joint general secretary of the Garment Workers Trade Union Centre in Bangladesh.
The workers have been continuously sitting day and night, even amid heavy rain, she said, adding that the government is ignoring the protest and the state of workers and has not taken any step to meet the genuine legal demand to pay the arrears.
Swan is one of many factories that have closed illegally in Bangladesh over the last year.
As in the majority of cases it is workers who are left with nothing -- not even the wages and severance payments they are owed, said Samantha Maher of CCC.
“It is unacceptable that once again workers are being left to pay the price for bad factory management, impossible buyer demands and government inaction and we urge Aldi and the ministry of labour to ensure justice for the Swan workers.”
For settling the payment issue, the Swan Garments payment committee on Thursday urged the company's lender -- Islami Bank Bangladesh -- to extend further loans to the group to allow its management to resume production and clear workers' dues.