Tofail, Atiqul engage in intimidation of labour activities, say US congressman

Staff Correspondent

Six US congressmen have protested that the commerce minister, Tofail Ahmed, and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president, Atiqul Islam, have engaged in intimidation of labour activities instead of persuasion of investigation into abuse of the workers’ rights.
In a letter to the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on June 30, they cited media reports that said that Atiqul on June 23 demanded action against some trade union leaders for accusing them of sending letters to the US congressmen ‘with false information’ about labour standard.
Atiqul made the accusation against a federation affiliated with the IndustriALL Bangladesh at a programme in presence of commerce minister Tofail Ahmed, who made the same accusation a day before against IndustriALL, an international labour rights group.
The US congressmen demanded proper investigation into the serious allegations brought by the National Garment Workers Federation following attacks on workers at Valuka and other violence against workers.
‘This is of serious concern to the United States Government, including the US Congress,’ said the letter signed by US congressmen George Miller, Eliot L Engel, Sander M Levin, Joseph Crowley (co-chairman of the congressional caucus on Bangladesh in the House of Representatives), Grace Meng and Janice D Schakowsky.
They noted that reinstatement of the suspended generalised system preference for the export of Bangladeshi products in the US market was largely depending on the protection of unions and their member from anti-union discrimination and reprisal.
They said that Tofail recently visited the US as leader of a Bangladesh delegation and sought their support to prevail upon the Obama administration to withdraw the suspension of the GSP.
During the meeting, the congressmen informed the Bangladesh delegation that a serious violation of labour rights and right to association was taken place at Valuka in Mymensingh as a trade union leader was seriously tortured and his house and union office were vandalised and robbed by hired goons of the factory management, the letter mentioned.
The congressmen had requested the commerce minister to take legal action against the violators and resolve the issue.

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