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WELCOME TO THE ARCHIVE (1994-2014) OF THE MAQUILA SOLIDARITY NETWORK. For current information on our ongoing work on the living wage, women's labour rights, freedom of association, corporate accountability and Bangladesh fire and safety, please visit our new website, launched in October, 2015:

Neil Kearney: a passionate, tireless defender of workers’ rights, colleague, and friend

November 20, 2009

We received the sad news yesterday of the sudden, unexpected death of Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF). Neil died in his sleep of a massive heart attack early Thursday morning November 19 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Neil was 59.

In Bangladesh garment workers and union leaders are observing a three-day mourning programme to pay respect to Neil. The ITGLWF offices are being inundated with messages of shock and condolences. Neil touched so many.

Those of you who know Neil are well aware that he was a passionate and tireless defender of workers' rights and a fierce opponent of sweatshop abuses that are endemic to the global garment industry.

Neil was a good friend and colleague of MSN, working closely with us on numerous international campaigns in defence of workers' rights, as well as in multi-stakeholder initiatives, including Social Accountability International (SAI) and the MFA Forum. He was also an active member of the Board of Directors of the UK's Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) since its inception in 1998. According to ETI Director Dan Rees, "Neil brought the reality of the lives of garment workers to every discussion. ... It's largely because of Neil that labour rights is the priority it is for many companies in the sector."

Neil was in Canada various times over the last few years, often to speak at one of our Ethical Trading Forums, sponsored by MSN and our Ethical Trading Action Group (ETAG) partners. He could always be counted on to confront companies with the harsh reality of the lives of workers who made their products, and to defend their right to organize and bargain collectively in order to improve them. He didn't hold back from challenging any of us.

He will be greatly missed. It's hard for us to imagine the global labour rights movement without him.

Maquila Solidarity Network



Top and bottom: Bangladeshi garment industry, workers and unions mourn Neil Kearney, November 20, 2009.

Middle: Neil models a 'Made in China' 2004 Canadian Olympics uniform in a publicity photo for the Play Fair campaign in Canada


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