Global Union Key to Securing Jobs, Workers’ Rights
Contacts: Connie Mabin, U SW, 412-562-2616, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Gallagher, USW Canada, 416-544-5966
Saba Mozakka, Unite, 020 7420 8916
Workers Uniting, the world’s first global union that is a partnership between Unite from the UK and the United Steelworkers from the United States, Canada and the Caribbean today is celebrating the major victory of workers at the R.L. Denim factory in Bangladesh.
“The victory for R.L. Denim workers in Bangladesh - hundreds of young women – is perhaps the biggest victory for workers in the developing world to date,” said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW.)
“The workers will no longer be beaten at work. They will be paid for overtime and maternity leave. They now have toilet paper and other basic needs,” Gerard said. “This is a big win in the fight against the global race to the bottom - not only for the workers in Bangladesh, but for Workers Uniting as we take on battles from a global perspective.”
For years young women at the R.L. Denim factory were trapped under prison-like conditions, forced to work seven days a week, beaten, denied maternity leave and paid as little as 11 cents an hour.
“Our solidarity sent a clear message that our unions are not only dedicated to protecting and growing the rights of our own members, but that we will fight to protect the rights of workers across the developing world,” said Derek Simpson, Unite Joint General Secretary.
“Our efforts helped hold a corporate exploiter accountable, and showed what’s possible when workers around the world stand together,” said Tony Woodley, Unite Joint General Secretary.
When the factory workers – more than 650 mostly young women workers who sew clothing for Metro Group and their Macro Cash & Carry stores - asked for their most basic legal rights, they were attacked, fired and thrown out on the street with nothing. For too many workers in the developing world, this is the only choice they have - either be exploited or starve.
In May, Metro Group, the world’s third-largest retailer, announced that after years of profiting from exploitation at the Bangladesh factory, the company was pulling out its work just when the workers were on the verge of winning their legal right to a democratic voice in the workplace.
At that time, Workers Uniting was joined by the German union Verdi in signing an unprecedented Joint International Solidarity Statement, in support of the workers. The unions represent some 5.5 million workers.
According to the National Labor Committee (NLC), whose work uncovered the abuses at the R.L. Denim factory, Metro Group has admitted to its failure to monitor and protect its workers. The company said in a statement released late last week that it will:
• Immediately return all of its orders to the R.L. Denim factory in Bangladesh.
• Institute significant changes throughout its worldwide supply chain to guarantee that human, women's and worker rights standards are finally respected.
• Open its factory to the respected Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity and National Garment Workers
Federation to push for continued improvements.
The National Labor Committee said in a statement to supporters that abusive supervisors were fired and pay was corrected. The factory also now has child and health care centers, purified drinking water, a dining area, toilet paper and soap.
“This campaign is so significant in that it has broken through the isolation to reach out to some of the poorest and most abused workers in the global sweatshop economy, proving that with the help of international solidarity, workers can now ask for their rights and win,” the NLC said.
Workers Uniting is the international union created by Unite, the biggest union in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, and the United Steelworkers, North America’s largest industrial union.
The unions have more than three million active and retired workers from the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland who work in virtually every sector of the global economy, including manufacturing, service, mining and transportation.