Trade and International Affairs

Statement from Canadian and Québec labour unions in solidarity with the family and colleagues of Shahidul Islam

June 30, 2023

The Canadian and Québec Labour movement, joining workers around the globe, condemn the brutal murder of Shahidul Islam, a 45-year-old father of two and President of the Gazipur unit of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF).

The attack took place on June 25, 2023, in the context of his work as a union leader seeking to address a wage dispute at the request of workers. Shahidul Islam was with three other BGIWF colleagues at the Prince Jacquard Sweaters factory in Gazipur, where the factory workers are owed over two months’ wages, when they were violently attacked by a group of men. Islam’s injuries were fatal, while 3 other union leaders, Mustafa Kamal, Ahmed Sharif, and Akkas Ali, were severely injured.

Shahidul leaves behind his wife and two children. We express our sincere condolences to Shahidul’s family, as well as to all the members and colleagues of the BGIWF. The Canadian unions and workers’ organizations signing this statement have long-standing relationships with the labour movement in Bangladesh, and we vehemently condemn this attack on the freedom of association and the right to life, showing again how textile workers in Bangladesh are not treated with dignity. This sends a clear message of fear and intimidation to workers who wish to exercise their rights in a context which was already dire for organizers.

This is not the first murder of a union organizer in Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi government must fulfill its duties under international law to protect the right to organize.

Echoing the demand of our BGIWF comrades, we want justice for Shahidul Islam’s brutal murder and call on the Bangladeshi government:

  • To carry out an immediate and thorough investigation of the crime and for the perpetrators to be arrested and prosecuted.
  • To ensure industry representatives stop promoting corrupted company unions. Bangladeshi workers should be free to join unions and bargain for their rights.
  • To ensure the safety and human rights of the BGIWF’s team and of labour rights defenders in Bangladesh.
  • To provide financial compensation to Shahidul Islam’s family, for which he was the sole breadwinner.

We also call on the Canadian government to put pressure on the Bangladeshi authorities to ensure the safety of other BGIWF organizers in this extremely difficult context.

Finally, we call on Canadian and global brands sourcing products from Bangladesh to carry out due diligence in their supply chains and use leverage to ensure respect for labour rights in law and practice. The Canadian government must implement mandatory human rights due diligence legislation in Canada and require global companies to ensure respect for human rights throughout their global supply chains.

Endorsed by:

Logos for: Canadian Labour Congress / Congrès du travail du Canada, Canadian Union of Public Employees / Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique, Centre international de solidarité ouvrière, Public Service Alliance of Canada / Alliance de la fonction publique du Canada, United Steelworkers / Syndicat des Métallos, Unifor the Union / Unifor le syndicat

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