There are dangers and opportunities for garment workers at this time. The police violence and the factory burnings and closures have brought the workers’ issues straight to the front of agenda. But how will it pan out? Unionisation is patchy. The unions that do exist are many. There is no one union, one industry scenario here - a reflection of the malaise that afflicts mass organisations in Bangladesh. They fall in line behind party politics and their own independent voices become muted or stifled and even excluded. Take a look at the list of garment worker organisations below.
What hope unity? Well they have come together before earlier this year in protest at garment worker deaths. They need to hammer home their rights at the negotiation table, if there is one, and insist that the garment owners and the government stop paying only lip service to issues of “social and environmental compliance,” in other words, to stop playing profitable games with their lives and livelihoods.