Yesterday over 130,000 people marched through London against the austerity programme forced on the people by government. Other demonstrations took place in Belfast and Glasgow and were similarly well attended. When I got home I checked my emails and found I had one from Amin, the President of the National Garment Workers Federation in Bangladesh. The members of the NGWF had marched in solidarity with us through the streets of Dhaka. I’d met Amin earlier in the year when he led a delegation to the UK to highlight the wages of people making clothing for the Olympics.
The picture shows yesterdays demonstration. Below is the full press release by the union. Before we get to that though it’s worth bearing in mind the industrial situation for the members of the NGWF. Most garment workers in Bangladesh are female. They are often made to have a pregnancy test before they are allowed to work in a factory. If they subsequently dare to get pregnant they may be sacked without legal protection. Many work for less than £30 a month and are bullied into working exceedingly long hours, often leaving factories late at night without adequate or safe transport home.
Many of the factory owners happen to also be Members of Parliament so the battle to change legal safeguards on health and safety in factories or family policies is remote. That is the context of their solidarity – brave, tangible and utterly brilliant. I know from previous correspondence that this union also marched with us while we striked on November 30th 2011. In return we must seek to support them in their struggle.
Press release from the NGWF:
Garment workers solidarity rally in Dhaka
for fighting workers & people of England
Expressing support to the today’s, October 20, All England day-long protest demonstration of workers, trade unions and general masses
Workers, trade unions and general masses of the UK are holding day-long protest demonstration today, October 20, all over the England to protest against austerity measures of the Government. Workers & general people of the UK are being seriously affecting austerity policy of the Government since it has drastically cut peoples’ welfare funds, education & health expenditure. The British Government also withdrawing subsidy and public responsibility from these sector. Thousands of workers are losing job from Government establishment and service sector as a result of lending these to private sector under so-called formula of reducing public responsibility. Today’s demonstrations is being held to protest against this policy.
A garment workers solidarity rally & procession held in Dhaka city today expressing solidarity with the demonstrations of British workers & general people. The program was held in front of the National Press Club at 12:00noons. Several hundred Garment workers, holding red & green Bangladeshi national flag, took at the rally & procession that concluded at Paltan Crossing after parading through Supreme Court, Foreign Ministry and Topkhana Road.
Presided over by NGWF President Amirul Haque Amin the rally was addressed by its General Secretary Ms Safia Parvin, Md Faruk Khan, Ms Sultana Akter, Md Kabir Hossain and Mohammad Rafik.
Those spoke extending solidarity with the rally included Polit Bureau member of the Workers Party of Bangladesh trade union leader Shafiuddin Ahmed, former student & trade union leader and Executive Director of BILS Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, General Secretary of Bangladesh Youth Alliance youth leader Sabbah Ali Colins, Bangladesh Garment Workers Unity Council leader M Delowar Hossain and Students Alliance’s General Secretary Tanvir Rusmat.
Expressing solidarity with the fighting workers and people of England, the speakers said,” Millions of workers are being thrown out of job throughout the world through privatization. State is withdrawing its responsibilities and subsidy from fundamental areas like food, education, health and housing in the name of austerity. On the other hand, Government are giving different incentives, including tax exemption to the multinationals. “
In this situation, the speakers said, “ Workers, working people, trade unions and general masses of the world should have to build united protest and resistance.”
Amirul Haque Amin