Allegations that union leaders were held captive by factory managers at the Bangladesh head office of sewing thread and yarn supplier Coats Plc are "totally false," the company told just-style today (21 February).

The claims are made by the International Textile Garment & Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF), which says the president and general secretary of the Coats Bangladesh Ltd Employees Union were forcibly detained earlier this month after trying to meet with company management to resolve an industrial dispute.

"The union leaders were neither held captive nor was any kind of restriction imposed on them," Coats said in a statement. 

The thread firm also denies accusations by the ITGLWF that its workers are paid poverty wages of just BDT1625 (US$18.90) a month.

"Coats Bangladesh already pays by way of wages and allowances more than the BDT7000 acceptable minimum [living] wage mentioned [by the ITGLWF]. Coats Bangladesh employees are among the highest paid in the textile and garment industry both in terms of salary and retirement benefits. In the area of retirement benefits they are amongst the best across the industry."

The Federation says after management at the thread factory failed to reach agreement with trade union negotiators, the workers voted in favour of strike action - but a court order declared the strike illegal.

"We have communicated to the Union and the workers that we are willing to negotiate immediately on withdrawal of the illegal strike," Coats said.

The Coats Employees' Union is part of the Bangladesh Garments Textile & Leather Workers Federation (BGTLWF) which is an affiliate of the ITGLWF.

A government-backed pay deal agreed for the Bangladesh garment industry came into force in November 2010, with the minimum wage rising by over 70% to BDT3,000 (US$45) from around BDT1,600 previously.