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Vol. 78/No. 31      September 1, 2014

On the Picket Line

China: Textile workers protest job cuts
More than 300 workers, all of them women, at the Yinhe Jiutian Textiles Factory in Xiangfan, Hubei, in central China rallied at municipal government offices Aug. 11 over elimination of their jobs, reported Radio Free Asia, a U.S. government-funded news agency. Management reportedly told them to “take a three-month holiday” and shortly afterwards demolished the factory.

Police armed with batons attacked the protesters. “They injured some of us, and they are still in the hospital, protester Shi Junfang told RFA Aug. 12. “We were standing there, not even saying anything. Then they came over and dragged a few of us away.”

After closing the plant the company gave each worker 10 yuan ($1.60) a day for three months, but no severance pay. “We want them to pay us according to the Labor Law [of the People’s Republic of China], because 300 yuan a month isn’t enough to live on; you can’t feed a family on that,” said Shi.

The Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin recorded 202 labor protests during the first quarter of 2014, mostly in the manufac-turing sector, an increase of more than 30 percent compared to the same period last year.

— Brian Williams

Bangladesh garment workers occupy factory,
win back pay

Demanding three months back pay and their holiday bonus, some 1,500 garment workers, the big majority women, occupied the Tuba company’s 12-story factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 28. They were forcibly driven out Aug. 7, but their fight continues.

The action started on the eve of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim monthlong Ramadan fast, and included workers from five different Tuba factories. Some 300 workers initiated a hunger strike.

Tuba group is owned by Delwar Hossain, who also owned the Tazreen Fashions factory where more than 110 workers were killed after being trapped behind locked exits and barred windows when a fire broke out in November 2012.

Hossain was arrested in February on charges of homicide and negligence leading to death. He was released on bail Aug. 5.

“Withholding workers’ wages was dirty politics from the owners to have Delwar bailed out. The government and the bosses took advantage of the situation saying he had to be bailed out so he could pay the wages,” Moshrefa Mishu, who participated in the hunger strike and is president the Garment Workers’ Unity Forum, told the Militant Aug. 18 by phone from Dhaka.

On the morning of Aug. 7 cops locked the door to the factory building, located in the North Badda area of Dhaka, stopping anybody from going in. A couple of hours later they blocked water and food from getting inside. Cops cut ropes that workers hung to collect water from relatives and supporters outside. At about 1 p.m. police stormed the factory, driving the workers out with tear gas and pepper spray.

“We were on protests due to our hardships,” Bijli Begum, a worker, told the Daily Star Aug. 8. “What is our fault?”

Just before the police assault, hundreds of workers from nearby factories gathered outside the plant in solidarity. Traffic came to a halt amid clashes between workers and cops, who fired rubber bullets and used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters. Some 30 workers were injured during the clashes, which lasted for an hour and a half.

Workers were paid back wages by Aug. 10, after a meeting that included workers’ representatives, Tuba owners, representatives of the Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and government officials. The meeting resolved that the Eid bonus would be “paid later.” The five factories are all closed down.

At an Aug. 13 press conference Mishu presented six demands, among them the payment of the Eid bonus, cancelation of the bail of Hossain, an end to police harassment and resumption of production at all Tuba factories.

— Emma Johnson

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