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AAFA Urges Bangladesh to Act on Behalf of Apparel Workers

In a letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) addressed ongoing wage concerns, labor leader arrests and worker terminations.

The appeal addresses the fallout from minimum wage disputes in the Ashulia district of Dhaka last month, after which 1,600 workers lost their jobs, 600 faced legal charges and 11 garment union leaders were arrested. The unions also accused security forces with raiding private homes, shutting down union offices and burning membership documents.

AAFA President and CEO Rick Helfenbein used this opportunity to reaffirm the organization’s support for the “rights of workers to freely associate, including associated legal protections from harassment, intimidation, and termination for exercising their right to freely associate.” And it says it stands against any illegal actions, be they from workers, labor groups, or factory owners.

The AAFA is the latest group to address the ongoing situation, including IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union.

To quell this and further disputes, the AAFA suggests regular wage reviews.

“As we have in the past, we again urge the Bangladesh government to implement a regular and transparent wage review mechanism for the garment industry, with the participation of all relevant stakeholders,” Helfenbein said in the letter.

On behalf of its 1,000 members the organization called for the swift resolution of the wage issues and arrests in order for the sector to continue to enjoy a healthy relationship with the brands it supplies.

“A peaceful, fair, and timely resolution for those arrested, as well as the implementation of a regular and transparent wage review mechanism, would promote both the short- and long-term health and stability of the Bangladeshi garment and footwear industry.”

The Bangladesh apparel industry employs 4.5 million people and accounts for 83 percent of the country’s overall exports.