Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bangladesh 's Anti-Labor Crackdown

The government of Bangladesh, never friendly to worker organizations and their supporters, on January 24 arrested Mehedi Hasan, a field investigator of the Worker Rights Consortium, and kept him in shackles when a lawyer and family members were allowed brief visits.

Hasan, a Bangladeshi national, was in the midst of checking worker rights violations in the garment industry in Dhaka. His organization monitors labor rights compliance on behalf of 178 universities and colleges that market apparel and other products made in Bangladesh and other countries.

Security forces seized Hasan's computer, which contained information from interviews held with workers away from factories. This leads to concerns for the workers' safety.

Hasan's arrest is part of wave of government harassment of unions and their advocates. A Bangladeshi staff person of the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center's Dhaka office was also recently arrested while participating in a worker rights clinic.

In June last year the AFL-CIO filed a petition with the U.S. Trade Representative to withdraw some of Bangladesh's trade benefits unless it ends its most glaring abuses of labor rights. (Scroll down to "Bangladesh's Workers on a 17-Year Treadmill" at http://www.senser.com/008-01.htm.)

For at least 17 years now, the AFL-CIO and other organizations have been pressing USTR to invoke U.S. trade law sanctions because of Bangladesh's non-compliance with that law. USTR has rejected each petition. The current AFL-CIO petition is still pending.

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