Employers at Bangladesh-based Azim Group's Orchid and Savar garment factories in Chittagong have filed criminal charges against 61 workers that were reportedly attacked last month on-site for attempting to form a union.

According to IndustriAll Global Union, workers were reportedly subjected to violence, threats and coercion for wanting to form a union in the workplace. On 27 May, workers and leaders of the proposed union were said to have been threatened and physically attacked in front of the factory gate. The violence continued the following day as workers and union leaders were again beaten and warned they would be killed if they continued to organise unions.

Bangladesh violence over union formation attempts

Now, it seems, criminal charges have been filed by factory managers against the 61 workers and union leaders involved. Around 38 of the workers have been released on bail, but 22 people are in jail, IndustriAll says.

"The Bangladesh government, as well as all responsible employers need to understand the impact that the actions of rogue employers like the Azim Group have on the reputation of the industry internationally," says IndustriAll assistant general secretary Jenny Holdcroft. "They must step in to stop the violence and imprisonment of workers and bring an end to the political culture of trade union repression."

Bangladesh has ratified the International Labour Organizations' Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, and Convention 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining. However, IndustriAll says the government and factory owners have recently been cracking down on the labour movement.