Labour rebellions of the 1930s in the British Caribbean region colonies – Richard Hart


This was a really great read, on the labour rebellions that took place across the British Caribbean colonies. What strikes me the most is the fact that these strikes were not coordinated between workers of the islands, nor were they organised under revolutionary theory, but were spontaneous, and paved the way for trade unions to continue securing rights for workers. Link for the full post here

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The Deregulated Global Economy: Women Workers and Strategies of Resistance

Argues that women in the Global South are not only exposed the most to exploitation, but are at the forefront of local resistance. Despite this, their views aren’t heard in international debates regarding how to protect labour standards. Check out actual article here

Bangladeshi garment workers participate in a protest against the collapse of an eight-storey building that housed several garment factories and poor safety standards, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, April 26, 2013. The death toll reached hundreds of people as rescuers continued to search for injured and missing, after a huge section of the building splintered into a pile of concrete. (AP Photo)

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Workers Rights & Gender Based Violence in the RMG and TU capacity to Deal with These

Draft report from  the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies last year, about the current situation in Bangladesh regarding workers’ rights, violence against women workers in the garment industry, and the extent that trade unions can deal with these issues. Also generally a v good clear insight on how the garment industry is set up in BD. For the actual report click here.

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Local Worker Struggles in the Global South: Reconsidering Northern Impacts on International Labour Standards [A GAME CHANGER]

Guys I fully recommend this for anyone in the North involved in campaigning for garment workers’ rights, to understand where our campaigns often go wrong and what we need to do to rectify it. Click here. – or read the notes made in this post!

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Siddiqi (2009): Do Bangladeshi factory workers need saving? Sisterhood in the post-sweatshop era

LOVED this article. Evaluating the politics behind the female workforce behind Bangladesh’s garment industry. Click here.

Notes I done made (these were made when researching my dissertation topic so not everything in the paper will be included here, just bits that were relevant for me and points I found interesting):

  • Globalisation is the site for the recolonization of peoples (Mohanty, 2003)
    • global economic and political processes have become more brutal, exacerbating inequality


  • Genealogy of the sweatshop worker:
    • In the mid 80s documentation of workers’ conditions emerged, which reduced women workers to an emblem of exploitation rather than the subject of exploitation, this approach was adopted by activists
    • Women workers seen as homogenous, faceless and voiceless, more personality and action given to capitalists and patriarchy than workers (Ong, 1988)
  • Exploitation of women embedded in social relations, including patriarchal relations
  • In multinational production, women gain autonomy in some areas, but face increased surveillance in other areas- contradictory/inconsistent effects


  • The politics and perils of ‘saving’ Bangladeshi workers
    • Anti-sweatshop movements deploy language of horror, workers seen as helpless, are sexualised and victimised- fits into pre-existing rhetoric about conditions of workers and need to save them so may be effective, its easier for West to digest than complex discussions of reality
    • But these narratives work against interests of workers they are designed to ‘save’
    • Strategies to save workers problematic e.g. boycotts of goods because of chid labour have worsened conditions for children who got involved in more dangerous occupations and other means to make money for their family
    • Nazma Akter: the North want overnight solutions they can feel good about. They also think they can tackle all problems at the same time- unwilling to see complexity and interrelationship of matters
    • Current international interventions put pressure on factory owners to increase wages without increasing amount Northern brands pay for goods, real cost falls on workers, who must work harder and longer to make up for the loss to profits from increased wages


  • From aid to trade: Globalisation in Bangladesh
    • External factors that helped the garms industry- the Multi-Fibre Arrangement, global recession, relocation of manufacturing industries from Taiwan and South Korea, civil war in Sri Lanka
    • Bangladesh had the most liberal investment policy in South Asia
    • General acceptance of capitalist development (shaped by neoliberal policy) that led to rise in export-oriented garment work-> little criticism of impact of neoliberal policies on women’s lives
    • Empowerment under neoliberal framework presented as being a self-enterprising subject, and garms industry seen as a step towards this empowerment
    • International trade has led to job security and vulnerability to problems in the global market among workers in BD. For example, when the American market faced a downturn this affected workers in BD
    • Siobhan (2003): after trade liberalisation, aid dependency became trade dependency
    • Dismantling of Multi-Fibre Arrangement led to a fear of a phase out of the garment industry in Bangladesh, resulting in increased policies to liberalise trade, to encourage investment
    • Bangladesh is therefore captive to the operations of an unequal trade regime, Northern countries can test how much BD is willing to pay to gain access to their market
    • Garment workers have created change without the help of international pressure


  • Shifting discourse on the Golden Girls of Bengal
    • Women in garms industry show empowerment from traditional patriarchal structures through employment, becoming self-reliant
    • BD gov used presence of women working to present itself as a moderate Muslim country to the  USA to encourage continued investment in the garms industry during the War on Terror, also suggested lack of investment would threaten female empowerment (resonating with neoliberal, anti-terror agenda)
    • Workers seen as a sign of BD’s modernity through their bodies, not labour
    • Fear of lack of employment of female garment workers among middle-class -> corruption of moral order of society otherwise, as the undisciplined, immoral working class females would corrupt society if not in the industry e.g. resorting to prostitution, feeding bourgeois perceptions of working class


  • Bodies, sexualities and livelihoods
    • International corporations draw on existing gender ideologies to recruit, discipline and reproduce their workforces
    • Women policed through moral regime, where women are separated between good and immoral women
      • Sexualised regime of harassment to keep women in place- those who do not speak out (morally disciplined/’good’) are protected, those who challenge norms (immoral) vulnerable to managerial sexual harassment
      • Garment factories compared to electronic factories -> smaller garment factories have most sexual harassment, sexual coercion and intimidation. Explained by frenzied apce of production because of tight delivery schedules and shortened lead times, coercing of workers to meet targets
      • Smaller factories have smaller profit margins, increased time and financial pressures, as they are usually subcontracted factories
      • Export processing zones found to be large, financially stable and under watch by rights groups, so less likely to have sexual harassment, but are still highly regulated
      • Small factories have less surveillance so there is less accountability
      • Sexual coercion and discipline used to ‘discipline’ lazy ad morally lax workers
      • Electronic factories have regular deadlines, with no fluctuations in market demand, and need a quiet environment and focus, less likely to have a violent atmosphere


  • Need to be aware of differences between places and spaces
    • Take into consideration workers own experiences and desires, differences usually erased
    • Need to pay attention to discursive structures that inform global activism