After the 10-day shutdown and public holidays were declared on March 26, thousands of garment workers left the city for their home villages
Ill-considered directives from two ministries are largely being blamed for Saturday’s sudden entries of thousands of garment workers from different districts to the capital for rejoining their workplaces flouting the social distancing norm amid the coronavirus emergency and shutdown.
Besides, two major associations in the apparel sector representing nearly four million workers failed to act timely to stop their workers from arriving Dhaka, it was alleged.
After the 10-day shutdown and public holidays were declared on March 26, thousands of garment workers left the city for their home villages.
On Thursday, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi at an inter-ministerial meeting in his secretariat office said there was no restriction on running apparel factories if sufficient protective gears were ensured to safeguard the workers from COVID-19.
On Wednesday, a notice from the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) under the Ministry of Labour and Employment also said the government did not issue any directive on closures of export-oriented industries. The factories having export orders could run their production with personal protective equipment (PPE) of their workers, it added.
Tipu could not be contacted for his comments, despite repeated attempts.
But, Md Abdul Latif Bakshi, Senior Public Relations Officer of the commerce ministry, said, “I cannot say anything on the remarks made by the honourable minister on the particular issue.”
Earlier, the government declared a 10-day shut down effective from March 26 to April 4 to halt any spread of coronavirus.
With the shut down order of public and private offices, garment owners’ associations—BGMEA and BKMEA-- declared factory closure till April 4 but there was no direction from the associations concerned whether factories would resume production from April 5 or not, a number of workers alleged.
As a result, huge number of perplexed garment workers returned to Dhaka on Saturday.
“We had asked our workers not to join the factories but they ignored and returned to Dhaka to join,’” Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) President AKM Salim Osman told Dhaka Tribune.
On the other hand, there was an issue of workers’ wages for the month of March which drove many to rush to the capital ignoring the risks associated with the pandemic, he added.
Another BKMEA leader said there was no restriction from the government on keeping factories open.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Rubana Huq said she had no authority to ask for factory shutdown.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, a number of garment workers said they returned out of the fear of job loss, reports our Gazipur correspondent.
Dispute among owners
Meanwhile, some factory owners seeking anonymity told Dhaka Tribune there was a disagreement among factory owners and associations that led the chaotic situation and took time for taking decision.
Some factory owners had work orders, while other were makers of personal protective equipment (PPE) and they were against factory closures, a factory owner, seeking anonymity told Dhaka Tribune.
On Saturday at 10 pm, BGMEA president requested the owners to close factories until April 11.
On the other hand, the BKMEA informed media about their factory closure decision at about 12 noon on Sunday.