Chunji workers win right to organize at factory

Garment workers at Chunji Knit Ltd., in Dhaka, Bangladesh, can now freely organize a union, and workers fired for union activity will be reinstated, according to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Chunji management and the Bangladesh Federation of Workers Solidarity (BFWS) in August 2014. The agreement follows pressure from the Clean Clothes Campaign, Workers Rights Consortium and Solidarity Center, demanding Chunji Knit and its buyers remediate workers' rights violations earlier this year.

Unwanted visitors?

Four union organisers, one female and 3 males, of the Bangladesh Federation of Workers Solidarity union (BFWS) visited workers of the Chunji Knit factory in Dhaka in February 2014. The workers wanted to start a new union after a wage dispute in the factory. The visiting union organisers reported being attacked, beaten, kicked and badly injured by a group of approximately 13 men with sticks, accompanied by the factory's line supervisor and the assistant production manager of the factory.

Two of the organisers spent several days in hospital. The other two were released from hospital the same day, but continue to suffer from their injuries. They were also robbed of their mobile telephones, money, labour rights materials and forms to set up the new union, which were already signed by 300 workers of the factory. Subsequently, over 400 workers and trade unionists protested against the factory. The BFWS organisers filed charges with the police against the factory management, immediately followed by counter-filed cases against 37 leaders and organisers of BFWS and Chunji workers, accusing them of theft and causing loss and damage. Warrants of arrest had been issued against the BFWS organisers. Since March 2014, around 65 workers, mostly females, had been dismissed from their jobs.

Positive agreement

The Clean Clothes Campaign has been pressing the Dutch brand Zeeman, the European brand C&A and the German brand KiK to  urge for a meeting between the union and the factory management to solve the problems. Whilst C&A and KiK denied their responsibility, Zeeman engaged with their supplier on the issue.  In late August 2014 a positive agreement was reached between the factory management and the union, in which it has been agreed that all charges will be dropped, dismissed workers will be reinstated with back wages and that the factory will respect the right to organise.

"We look forward to Zeeman and other brands’ continued presence in the factory to assist in monitoring the implementation of this agreement, which will allow workers to organise a trade union free from intimidation."

Union representative, Bangladesh Federation of Workers Solidarity

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