Workers United – SEIU joins the global labor movement in strongly condemning the murder of Shahidul Islam, an organizer who was killed for standing up for the rights of garment workers in Bangladesh. Shahidul was a senior organizer with the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF) and President of BGIWF’s Gazipur district committee.
Shahidul was beaten to death in retaliation for supporting workers at the Prince Jacquard Sweater Ltd. factory, where BGIWF had been organizing for the last few months. On the day of the attack, Shahidul was supporting workers to demand payment of their unpaid wages and the Eid bonus. Factory-hired thugs brutally kicked and punched him, leaving him fatally wounded. He was declared dead at a nearby hospital. The attack also left three other labor leaders, Mustafa Kamal, Ahmed Sharif and Akkas Ali seriously injured.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has stated publicly that Shahidul’s murder was the result of a conflict between two unions. There is no evidence of this. By spreading this lie, the BGMEA is attempting to deflect responsibility for Shahidul’s death away from the employer.
Shahidul’s murder will have a deep chilling effect on the organizing environment in Bangladesh, which is already severely restricted. Both the Bangladesh government and buyers sourcing from Bangladesh must take steps to ensure there is zero tolerance for violence against workers and trade union leaders and to ensure the right to organize is respected.
This is the second murder of a Bangladesh labor leader in recent years. In 2012, Aminul Islam, an organizer with the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, was found tortured and murdered. His killer was never brought to justice for this crime. There have also been numerous instances of violence against workers and trade union activists by both company-hired thugs and police.
Workers United – SEIU calls on all brands sourcing from Prince Jacquard Sweater Ltd. to ensure that any factory staff who were involved in or helped instigate the attack are terminated immediately and to pay significant compensation to Shahidul’s family and to the three injured organizers. Shahidul leaves behind two sons and a wife who is battling cancer.
There must be also an independent and through investigation of this attack, and all those involved, including the attackers, factory management and any Government officials involved must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Workers United – SEIU expresses its deepest sympathies to the family of Shahidul Islam and to our sisters and brothers at BGIWF. We stand in solidarity with these courageous leaders fighting for respect and dignity at work.