Latest Update August 2015: In Sri Lanka, after much campaigning, marching and activism (including blocking the president’s mobile with thousands of protest texts!), our local partner persuaded the government earlier this year to implement a 15% pay rise for any private sector worker on a low salary and the introduction of a minimum wage. In Bangladesh, our local partner is heavily involved in the Accord process (the organisation tasked with making all garment factories in Bangladesh safe work places) and the compensation of workers and their families affected by the Rana Plaza collapse.They have also secured gain financial compensation for over 1500 workers who were wrongfully dismissed and increased its garment worker membership to a staggering 57,000.

Millions of women garment workers in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are working in appalling working conditions making clothes for our high streets. Wages are so low that workers can’t buy enough food for their families. They are so poor that they are unable to create a better life for their children and are trapped in a cycle of exploitation and poverty.

Wages are driven down by brands, retailers and factory owners who want clothes to be produced as cheaply as possible leading to low wages, long hours, dangerous working conditions and little or no enforcement of labour rights.

TRAID is funding War on Want and local partners the National Garment Worker’s Federation (NGWF), and the Free Trade Zones & General Employees Union (FTZ&GSEU), to improve working conditions for 72,000 Bangladeshi, and 14,100 Sri Lankan garment workers, with a focus on women so they secure decent jobs and a better life.

The project aims to empower garment workers to claim their rights from their respective governments and factory owners by building their knowledge, skills and confidence. Workers will be provided with legal advice and trade union representation so they can file their grievances at factory level and in the labour courts.

The largest march for the rights of garment workers of its kind in Nov 2014. Ayesha (right), an NGWF women's leadership trainer led the march.
The largest march for the rights of garment workers of its kind in Nov 2014. Ayesha (right), an NGWF women’s leadership trainer led the march.

The project will build labour rights knowledge by training 1,560 Bangladeshi, and 600 Sri Lankan garment workers, about their rights and how to claim and defend them. This will include training on national and international labour legislation and leadership training for women to advocate for their rights.

At the same time, the project will strengthen local trade unions and expand their membership building the influence of the garment sector to influence government, enforce legislation,improve health and safety and secure a living wage.

Making NGWF flags in preparation for one of the biggest demonstrations to secure better rights for garment workers seen in Dhaka, Nov 2014
Making NGWF flags in preparation for one of the biggest demonstrations to secure better rights for garment workers seen in Dhaka, Nov 2014

2015 Project Funding: TRAID provided additional project funding of £34,453 to increase the administrative capacities of both trade unions (the NGWF in Bangladesh, and the FTZ&GSEU in Sri Lanka) which have grown substantially. Our funding is now paying for essential roles including a professional accountant and a database officer to keep computerised records of all the legal cases at NGWF, extending the hours of the current Finance Officer at FTZ&GSEU, and setting up a community laundry at FTZ&GSEU so women workers can more easily attend trade union meetings. Both unions will also receive extra funds to compensate garment workers who attend training sessions. This grant will also be used to fund a global audit of both trade unions which is a requirement of many donors, but few are willing to pay for them, which will make it easier to secure further grants.