COVID-19 becomes an excuse to dismiss workers?

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2020-07-17 11:50:10 – Bangladesh

Across the world's various manufacturing nations, the factory bosses are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to underpay workers and this has led to the break up in the worker's unions.

According to the native trade unions in countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, India and Cambodia cases have been reported suggesting that trade unions are being unfairly targeted in an attempt to strip power from the workers who are already on the poverty line due to factory closures and retail orders.

Scott Nova, a member of the Workers Rights Consortium, has reaffirmed that it is illegal to dismiss workers due to their union affiliation or to close a factory because it is unionized. Such anti-retaliation laws exist in most countries despite their lack of enforcement.

In the South Indian state of Karnataka the government was forced to dismiss the plans of increasing union workers working hours to 10 hours a day and until 60 a week. The industry Gokaldas which owns about 20 sites has been accused of attempting to break a union after closing its Euro Clothing Company and it was believed to have been the only site last which many workers were union members.

Padma, a union member worker is now protesting her dismissal and states that the company ATP had plans of getting rid of the union long before the pandemic however now they are using the COVID-19 as an excuse. On hearing various allegations Gokaldas has remained silent whereas the customer brand H&M has confirmed the site’s closure.

H&M has told AFP that they have been in close contact with the local and global trade unions as well as the suppliers to help them resolve the conflict peacefully.

Similar cases of dismissal of unions were observed in Bangladesh. This was reported by Rafiqul Islam Sujon, the president of the Bangladesh Garments and Shilpo Sramik Federation. Even in this case, the sites have utilized COVID-19 as a pretext to unlawfully dismiss the workers or close factories that have unions.

Worker's rights groups have requested brands and retailers to intervene if they become aware of such incidents within their supply chain. It is believed that only in taking such action can factories be forced to responsibly keeping in mind the interests of the workers. 

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