Beyond factory safety: Labor unions, militant protest, and the accelerated ambitions of Bangladesh’s export garment industry

Ashraf, Hasan and Prentice, Rebecca (2019) Beyond factory safety: Labor unions, militant protest, and the accelerated ambitions of Bangladesh’s export garment industry. Dialectical Anthropology, 43 (1). pp. 93-107. ISSN 0304-4092

[img] PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (497kB)
[img] PDF (In Press) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (501kB)
[img] PDF - Accepted Version
Restricted to SRO admin only

Download (212kB)

Abstract

This article explores the relationship between labor unions and labor precarity in Bangladesh’s garment industry. After a string of high-profile factory disasters—including the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory building—Bangladeshi labor unions have played a central role in new global initiatives to improve factory safety. These initiatives have provided an opportunity for unions to influence the governance of labor standards in a context of low levels of factory unionization. We argue that such global initiatives have deepened an existing divide between the conciliatory stance of mainstream, politically connected Bangladeshi unions and workers’ more radical responses to precarity. Militant protests have advanced workers’ interests historically, but are increasingly delegitimized and subject to violent crackdowns. This article contributes to our understanding of the fraught relationship between precarious workers and traditional labor unions by showing that when unions devote themselves to the technocratic improvement of labor standards without confronting the structural conditions of precarity itself, workers can be made more vulnerable—a situation that becomes heightened in a context of fast industrial expansion.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Bangladesh, garment industry, labor rights, labor unions, militancy, safety
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
School of Global Studies > International Development
Depositing User: Rebecca Prentice
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2019 14:21
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2019 14:30
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/81097

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update