Media Release: Can hungry people go on hunger strike

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Posted 7 August 2014 by Courtney Sloane (NTEU National Office)

Members of the NTEU and other Victorian unions will be holding a solidarity rally with striking Bangladeshi garment workers on Friday 8 August at 12:30pm outside SBS TV in Federation Square.

1,600 Bangladeshi garment workers employed by the Tuba Group have not been paid by their employer since May. In response they have gone on strike, occupied two factories and hundreds have gone on a hunger strike.

The hunger strike has been going on for nearly two weeks, and many workers have already collapsed or been hospitalised. Many were already weak through lack of food because they had no money to properly feed themselves. Workers have also been attacked by police.

The factory owner, Delwar Hossein, had been in prison over the deaths of 130 workers in a fire at his Tazreen factory in November 2012. He has used the strike to get bail, and has now disappeared.

The Tuba Group factories had been making FIFA World Cup clothing for OWIM/Lidl, as well as clothing for Walmart and other western labels. They have manufactured – and may still be manufacturing – clothing for Target Australia.

NTEU officials had previously visited the area as part of efforts to raise awareness in Australia of working conditions for workers in Bangladesh.

The protest is taking place outside SBS due its sharing of a major contract with FIFA to broadcast the World Cup.

“We call on SBS to pressure FIFA to ensure that FIFA’s licensed products are not made at the expense of Bangladeshi garment workers,” said Dr Colin Long, NTEU Victorian Division Secretary and one of the officials to have visited affected workers in Bangladesh itself.

“SBS and all worldwide FIFA partners benefit from their association with the biggest sport in the world. FIFA and its partners have a responsibility to ensure that they don’t benefit at the expense of exploited workers in Bangladesh,” he said.

In solidarity with the Tuba Group Garments Worker Movement Coalition, the protest will call for:

  1. Payment of 1,600 worker's salaries and overtime in full with no further delay;
  2. Ensuring of regular employment for the workers in all Tuba group factories;
  3. Cancelling the bail of factory owner, Delwar, and ensuring full justice for his workers;
  4. Providing compensation for the dead and injured workers of the Tazreen garments fire; and
  5. Compensating the workers who have been participating in the strike movement for their physical, psychological and financial losses.
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