GPEU wins UNI Freedom from Fear Award
Grameen Phone Employees Union (GPEU), the Telenor subsidiary in Bangladesh, started its journey in 1996 and quickly rose to become the country’s largest corporate entity. Despite a stable profit curve, Grameen Phone’s Management undertook various cost cutting initiatives and neglected the rights of workers to have decent work. This was boldly carried out by the Management who infringed local laws when it failed to share 5% of company profits with its employees. In addition, yearly increment of the employees fell below the country’s inflation rate and long contractual periods deprived workers from receiving the same basic benefits as permanent employees.
Following GP’s unilateral announcement of 250 job cuts in May 2012 where retrenchment laws were infringed, GPEU launched a campaign, “Break the silence, get organised and form a union.”
The Management reacted by terminating 163 employees and spreading confusion among workers as to who were allowed to join the union. To further decrease and sabotage the required number of membership for union registration, the Management plans to outsource some departments and has introduced a policy to cut workers where a significance number of union activists who were identified as “poor performers” would be asked to leave the company if their performance were not found to have improved by December 2013.
In the face of numerous threats and challenges to protect the rights of jobs of workers and particularly those of GPEU leadership, the union succeeded in organising 1,600 employees and formed the GPEU, for which recognition is pending. GPEU has exploited the Management’s tool to disengage the union by winning all 17 posts at the Management’s employee participatory forum GPPC; GPEU now engages in dialogue with the Management on employees’ rights.
24 civil suits and 3 criminal suits have been filed against the GP Officials for unlawful acts against the union and the termination of GPEU officials and members.
The union is now free from fear in negotiating the workers’ agenda with Management and achieved a great breakthrough in reaching an agreement with Management on 5% profit sharing. GPEU hopes to speak to the Management regarding the violation of the Telenor Development Process (TDP) and Performance Improvement Process (PIP). To build a management-employee industrial relationship, GPEU will propose to be involved in policy making, employment and compliance issues of employees to ensure justice.