Who is involved in ExChains?

ExChains is a network of organisations from four different countries: Bangladesh, Germany, Sri Lanka and Mexico and is coordinated by tie.

In Sri Lanka the FTZ&GSEU was established in 2003, however its history goes back to 1982 when its forerunner the Industrial, Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU) was established. The other organization, the Free Trade Zones Workers Union, was formed as the first of its kind in the Sri Lankan Free Trade Zones in January 2000. The FTZ&GSEU has 14,000 members (25 percent are paying a membership fee) in 22 branches throughout the country, including two branches in the East of Sri Lanka. 60 percent of the unions’ membership is women and women make up 44 percent on the FTZ&GSEU Executive Committee. It is the biggest trade union in the garment industry in Sri Lanka and also the biggest trade union in the EPZ. The FTZ&GSEU has been affiliated to the International Textile Garment and Leatherworkers Federation (ITGLWF) since 2005.

Since 1985, the FTZ&GSEU (and its forerunner trade unions) has had a close association with the Women’s Centre. The Women’s Centre runs centre’s in the various FTZs providing support and assistance to women workers to obtain dignity in their lives. This includes listening to the problems women workers faced, organising workshops to help them become conscious of the issues involved, and ultimately fighting for their rights. The Centre’s provide a physical space for women to meet, and provides daily papers, television, videos, books and so on. It also involves a street drama group, comprising FTZ employees. Workers act out dramas about factory work and problems in boarding houses with the goal of raising awareness amongst workers and the communities where the workers live and in campaigning as a powerful tool to lobby and influence employers and authorities.

In Bangladesh the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) is partner. The NGWF was established in 1984. The NGWF was formed during a period of martial law (which ended in 1986) and it was not until 1995 that it was officially registered as a trade union and 1996 as a federation. To date the NGWF has recruited 21,655 members, of which 5,200 are paying members (it costs 10 BDT to join and membership dues are 10 BDT per month, but usually most members pay 5 BDT per month). They have 30 plant-level registered unions. The NGWF increases its number of plant-registered unions by approximately 4-5 each year. NGWF supports more than 1000 factory committees, which are the first step to form the factory union. The vast majority of members are women. The union, as required in its constitution, has more than 50% women in all elected positions – on the Executive (Central Committee) and at the branch/factory levels. The NGWF has been affiliated to the International Textile Garment and Leatherworkers Federation (ITGLWF) since 2005..

In Mexico ‘Servicio Desarollo y Paz’ (SEDEPAC) is involved in ExChains. SEDEPAC is a civil association founded in 1983 and was formed to help unite the projects for rural and community development that were emerging among social and popular movements in Mexico as a response to the economic and social crisis faced by that country. Due to the needs of the communities in Northern Mexico, they have focused on the rights of maquiladora workers, supporting for instance the struggle of Sara Lee garment workers in Monclova and Frontera, Coahuila.

In Germany Ver.di, the union that organizes workers in the services industry, is partner in ExChains. Ver.di was established in 2001 and is with its 2.4 million members the biggest union in the world. It is affiliated with the DGB, the Deutschen Gewerkschaftsbund. Ver.di is active in 13 different branches of the service industry.


Women in Senegal

Worker centres

Introduction to ExChains

What is ExChains about?

Who is involved in ExChains?

What have we done?

What can you do?

Do you want to read more?


Globalisation: cheap labour, cheap products
...and women workers

Mexico and the maquiladoras

...and unions

Sri Lanka and the Free Trade Zones

...and workers

Bangladesh and the Free Trade Zones
...and unions

Turkey and the garment industry


Workers in Bangladesh

Workers in Bangladesh