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DHAKA – A garment factory in Bangladesh which supplies brands including C&A, H&M and Benetton has fired 700 workers without any prior information following the country’s Eid holiday. As workers returned to the factory following the Eid vacation, SF Denim Apparels cited ‘work order shortages’ and announced one of the largest terminations by Bangladeshi garment factories in recent times.

It is claimed many of the workers fired wanted to form a trade union under the leadership of IndustriALL affiliate Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation (SGSF). According to unions, SF Denim Apparels has consistently been obstructing efforts to organise and form a union.

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However, sources close to a couple of leading RMG exporters from Bangladesh have told Apparel Insider the dismissals could be part of a broader picture in Bangladesh whereby garment factories are struggling financially in the wake of the new minimum wage which was announced at the turn of the year. The minimum wage of Taka 8,000 (US $95) per month was implemented in Bangladesh in December. It represented a 51 per cent increase on the previous minimum wage, which was set in 2013 as part of the government’s response to the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory that killed 1,130 people.

In response to efforts to form a union in 2018, Industriall claims SF Denim fired more than a hundred workers. 38 of the workers launched court cases against the employer, which are still ongoing.

The practice is continuing; in early August, days before the Eid vacation, five workers involved in union organising were laid off.

Nazma Akter, IndustriALL executive committee member and SGSF president said: “We are deeply concerned over the mass layoffs; the workers are obviously targeted over their involvement in union activities. To make matters worse, more than 30 of the terminated workers are pregnant and will now not receive any maternity benefits. We demand that SF Denim Apparels reinstate all the fired workers.”

SGSF has contacted brands that source from SF Denim seeking their intervention to reinstate the terminated workers, but the union has yet to receive a response from them.

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