Thousands of garment workers have been heading to Dhaka since yesterday despite the ongoing restrictions as all the export-oriented industries and factories in the country are reopening today.
Considering the overall situation the cabinet division issued a circular on Friday allowing all export-oriented industries and factories to resume operations despite the sharp spike in coronavirus cases.
Although Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) officials wanted to resume operations with workers who had not left Dhaka during Eid holidays, and those that live near the factories, many workers were communicated over phone to return to their workplaces.
BKMEA First Vice President Mohammad Hatem told the Bangladesh Post “We instructed the workers not to leave the vicinity during Eid holidays as the factories might reopen any time, and it would also increase the risk of transmission. However, some workers left Dhaka. We have told the factory owners to resume work from tomorrow (today) with the local workers who didn’t leave.”
When asked about lay-offs and salary of workers, he said workers won’t be laid off, but their salaries might be affected due to 10 to 12 days of closure.
“Even if we resume operations, we won’t be able to recover soon the losses we incurred during this period. It will take time. However, the salaries of workers have to be paid despite these difficulties,” he added.
Despite the serious risk of coronavirus infection, the workers were desperate to reach the capital to save their jobs.
Shahnaz Sultana, worker of a local factory in Savar told the Bangladesh Post she had to come back from her village due to the decision of reopening factories at such short notice.
“I had to reach my home with great difficulty as public transports are suspended. Rickshaws and pickup vans are overcharging. I had to pay three times the usual fare to reach Dhaka,” she added.
Nazma Akter, president of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, told the Bangladesh Post that the workers are suffering much due to the decision of reopening factories suddenly.
Referring to their decision as inconsiderate she said, “The owners didn’t make any arrangements for the workers to return to Dhaka, but sent them messages to join their workplaces immediately. The same thing happened last year. They don’t care about the safety of workers; they are only concerned about the delay in export.”
The influx of workers is also concerning the experts, and increasing fears of a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases.
Professor Dr Mohammad Shahidullah, President of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 told the Bangladesh Post that the way workers are returning to the city in a large number is increasing the risks of spreading the virus.
“The ongoing lockdown that will continue till August 5 was imposed to curb the surging cases of Covid-19. All the garments and industries were supposed to remain closed during this time to prevent the infection rate from increasing. This massive influx of workers will definitely increase the risks,” he added.