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United Steelworkers, UNITE and Verdi

May 18, 2009  |  Share

Joint Statement in support of R.L. Denim Workers in Bangladesh 

E.U. and U.S. Unions Support Bangladeshi Workers

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As the Ver.di United Service union in Germany, UNITE in the United Kingdom, United Steelworkers union in North America and Workers Uniting, we are outraged at the illegal and brutal sweatshop conditions at the R.L. Denim factory in Bangladesh, where over 650 mostly young women workers are being exploited sewing clothing for Metro Group and their Makro Cash & Carry stores. 

We will not forget 18-year-old Fatema, who was sick, exhausted and overworked to death at the R.L. Denim sweatshop in December 2008.  When she begged to be allowed to go home, her supervisor slapped her face.  We will not forget 17-year-old Yasin, who collapsed on the shop floor and was kicked by the plant manager.

No human being, no worker, should be forced to work 13 to 15 yours a day, seven days a week, while being paid as little as 11 ½ cents (U.S.) an hour, leaving the workers and their families trapped in misery.  Pregnant women who begged for their legal right to maternity leave with pay were thrown out of the factory without a cent.  Workers who fell behind in their mandatory production goals were beaten and forced to work extra hours without pay.  Every single labor law in Bangladesh and the International Labour Organization's core labor rights standards were violated in broad daylight over the course of years.

We hold Metro Group accountable. 

Metro Group has sewn clothing at the R.L. Denim plant since 2003.  Moreover, Metro Group accounts for the majority of production at this sweatshop.  Metro Group must now make the workers whole again.   We call on Metro Group to honor its obligations and;

  1. Commit to pay the workers every cent of back wages and benefits legally due them.
  2. Publicly commit to not pull their work from the factory, which would only further punish the  workers, who have already suffered enough.  Instead work with us and colleagues in Bangladesh to improve working conditions and turn the R L Denim factory into a model facility. Specifically Metro Group must work with the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) and the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS)
  3. Agree to compensate Fatema's parents for the criminal neglect that led to their daughter's death. 

This should be a wake-up call to all of us who believe in and support respect for fundamental human, women's and worker rights.  As the Metro case clearly demonstrates, the race to the bottom in the global sweatshop economy is out of control, leaving corporations free to exploit some of the poorest, most vulnerable, but hardest working people across the developing world.

Metro Group's ability to monitor factory conditions at its supplier plants—along with that of other corporations—has been a miserable failure.  Multinationals can no longer walk away from the despair they have caused.  They must live up to the social responsibility commitments they are so proud to publicize.

The only way to guarantee respect for human and worker rights is to protect the workers' right to organize and bargain collectively.  Once workers have a democratic voice on the shop floor, factory management will no longer be free to beat and exploit with impunity.

As Ver.di, the United Service union, UNITE-the-Union and the United Steelworkers union, in the name of over 5.5million workers in our combined membership, we pledge to support our brothers and sisters in Bangladesh as they struggle for their legal rights so they can climb out of misery and raise their families in decency.

We will also be in contact with our governments, relevant agencies and our embassies in Bangladesh.

Whether we like it or not, as consumers, every one of us is involved in the global economy.  We can either choose to do nothing and allow the multinational corporations to pit workers in Europe and North America against desperately poor workers across the developing world who are stripped of their rights, or we can finally hold corporations legally accountable to respect local labor laws and the ILO's internationally recognized worker rights standards—no child labor, no forced labor, freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and decent working conditions.

It is time to make the global economy serve people and not the other way around.

If you want to be involved, please contact us at;
National Labor Committee
5 Gateway Center, 6th Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Office number: 412-562-2406
Fax: 412-562-2411
E-mail: [email protected]

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Click here to view the R.L. Denim/Bangladesh (Metro Group) campaign page


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