Neil Kearney, tireless campaigner for labour rights in the textile industry, died in Dhaka of a massive heart attack on 19 November.
I first contacted him in 2006 to take part in our documentary “Bostrobalikara.” He flew out from Brussels to meet with us in London. He gave a superb interview. And in it he outlined why child labour is so pernicious - a fact some Bangladeshi progressives still cannot grasp to this day.
The textile industry remains a battleground but Neil’s tireless work has highlighted and established important principles for the defence and rights of workers in many countries.
Go well, comrade.
Read more Here.
With this being the London Fashion Week, I thought I would bring myself up to date with developments in the sweatshop trade. Last week I spoke to Mr Ruhul Amin, General Secretary, Garment Sramik Trade
Union Kendro ( Garment Worker Trade Union Centre). Those of you who have seen Bostrobalikara might recall his name. He told me what appears below. Roughly verbatim:
The minimum wage thing is a little complex. There is supposed to be a
tripartite review of wages by the government, factory owners and trade
unions every two years. Just before the departure of the last BNP
government, this period was extended to three years. That expires this
That tripartite body set wages for helpers at 1600 -1700 taka per month. ( £1 is roughly 116 takas).
For helpers, depending on grade, it varies between 1800 to 2400 takas
per month. Most factories have dragged their heels even about this but
given the stridency of the worker’s movement most do provide this
level of salary. This is not however commensurate with current demands
by the trade unions who want a living wage. That would require a
helper to get 5000 takas per month. The Unions have arrived at that figure
through the ILO formula for deriving a living wage. No companies
provide that. Some companies which boast high rates of pay shroud the
actual activity - these payments are for piece rate activity and the
piece rate varies over time given market demand etc. The work is also
very arduous and the longevity of these machine operators is about 10
years ( they might start at 25 and they will finish by age 35).
So the agreement on wages - which is a pittance - is
generally being adhered to. The living wage is of course nowhere near it.
The other demands of workers are far from being addressed: medical
facilities, casual leave, service leave, restriction of overtime to
two hours is not adhered to, timely wages are not given, the full
numbers of hours worked are often not noted and therefore not paid for
etc. Only 1 percent of companies FULFILL ALL OF THE 2006 AGREEMENT. The agreement contained 10 points. ( weekly holidays, timely payments, 2 hour max overtime etc etc). Over 90
percent however fulfill the WAGES agreement which is a pittance and
not a living wage.
The seventh edition of Film South Asia ‘09, the festival of South Asian documentaries, held in Kathmandu Nepal awarded Swapnabumi the 2nd best award. Here is the jury’s decision:
The Promised Land by Tanvir Mokammel is very well crafted and deftly captures the festering sore of ‘stateless citizens’ or ‘stranded citizens’ in so many regions of our extended sub-continent. It powerfully draws our attention to the issue of identities that have become a bane of post-colonial South Asia – the question ‘Who Am I’ becomes one of the trickiest questions of our times, as many segments of our population become playthings of current history. The film tells this story with grace.
We are all very happy of course and we are particularly grateful to Mohammad Hasan, a leading activist from the Urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh, for presenting the film at the Festival. The top prize went to Yasmine Kabir “The Last Rites” a beautiful film about shipbreaking in Bangladesh.
Stefania Ragusa, an Italian journalist, has reviewed Bostrobalikara for Il Manifesto.
by gutter newspaper News of the World. I am no supporter of gangmasters or labour exploitation but this action is disgusting. Read the story HERE.
Delwar Hussain writes about ” the frenetic urban growth of Bangladesh’s capital..”
What is not just irksome but downright unethical is to give an article a big headline like “The Modern Face of Slavery” and then follow it up with some initial text bristling with buzz words like bonded labour AND THEN fizzle out into nothing. No information. No references. Just a couple of interviews on this most incredible of issues.
So, with all that in mind, this is HOW NOT TO WRITE an article about modern slavery.
Professor Chowdhury reminds us of a key aspect of the garment industry: outside forces.
The garment industry is the only area where Bangladesh could claim considerable success. Today garment export is the main source of foreign exchange earnings for the country after remittances. Its success was not necessarily influenced by government policy but essentially by outside forces. This industry had its origin in the 1970s when the investors of other South East Asian nations ventured to set up garment factories in Bangladesh to work around the export quotas imposed on their native countries by the United States. Later, Bangladeshi entrepreneurs rushed to establish their own companies, some with little or no experience. After a period of adjustments, the industry began to stabilize and started to grow, and has eventually earned the world’s respect.
Thus, the stabilization and growth of the garment industry in Bangladesh was achieved largely with the help and intervention of foreign investors who supplied expert technical support for its quality control and had an effective marketing plan. Additionally, the country enjoyed a favorable quota system from the United States for quite a while. But this situation is now changing as other least developing countries gain trade advantage for their manufactured garments from the United States.
Migrant workers have countless tales to tell and no doubt there are a countless tales worthy of the big screen treatment. Bandhobi is a Korean Film and it deals with migrant worker issues . Don’t ask me what I think of it. I have not seen it. Here is the synopsis below. If anyone has a copy…
Summary below is from the film web site.
Min-suh, a 17-year old rebellious high school Korean girl, lives in a small apartment with her mother and her mother’s penniless lover. She hates mother’s lover and doesn’t understand both of them. Karim, a 29-year old Muslim migrant worker from Bangladesh has to leave Korea in a month. Before departing, he is desperately searching for his ex-boss to get his unpaid salary. One day, as Min-suh’s summer vacation begins, he encounters Min-suh in a bus, and together they set out on an emotional journey. Bandhobi is Bengali, meaning ‘Friend’ in English.
More from Rezwan HERE.
When the shutters go down, the street artists get to work. Below is a snap I took this morning in Brick Lane with my Sony-Ericsson c905. Click the image to see some more.
A 42-year old male traveler, who had returned from Indonesia, was diagnosed positive for swine flu at Zia International Airport in Dhaka on Saturday morning.
And this is the tragic case of the Bangladeshi woman in England who died of swine flu.
Awesome images from all over Asia.
This one from Bangladesh.
Some striking and disconcerting images by G M B Akash.