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Dhaka Tribune

Garment workers rush to work as factories reopen

Meanwhile, workers in Gazipur have continued protests over back pay as at least 258 readymade garment factories have not yet cleared their wages amid the coronavirus crisis

Update : 29 Apr 2020, 05:54 PM

Thousands of textile workers continued to return to work in factories in and around Dhaka on Wednesday amid a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, raising fears of an increase in the spread of the contagion.

The workers, desperate for money and worried about losing their jobs, headed out for the capital, Narayanganj, Savar and Ashulia, Sreepur of Gazipur district as over 700 factories have been allowed to reopen.

However, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the apex trade body of the garment sector, said the factories started production with limited workers, especially with those living near their factories.

However, reports have emerged saying some factories have requested workers who had returned to their hometowns to resume work and job insecurity and concerns of wages have made it difficult for workers to refuse. 

Meanwhile, workers in Gazipur have continued protests over back pay as at least 258 readymade garment factories have not yet cleared their wages amid the coronavirus crisis.

In Rajbari, hundreds of people were seen on crowded ferries crossing the Padma River using the Daulatdia-Paturia river route.

Emergency transportation of goods and ambulance services were disrupted but the army personnel from the ferry terminal check-post quickly took actions and swiftly dissipated the crowds, said Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) officials. 

Workers disembarking the ferries told this correspondent that hunger beats the fear of coronavirus. It didn’t matter if their lives were at risk. They had to reach work in order to keep their jobs.

Md Munnaf, in-charge of Daulatdia River Police outpost, said: “We have been limiting the numbers of passengers crossing the river. But, the sudden onrush of passengers headed for Dhaka became difficult to control due to the inadequate manpower.”

Abu Abdullah Rony, BIWTC's Daulatdia station manager, said: “The workers are mostly from RMG factories and other small private organizations. We cannot stop all of them from crossing the river in such a number; they themselves need to be aware of the present dangers.”

In Rangpurtrucks were seen secretly transporting garment workers in the back of the vehicle by covering up the top with tarpaulin so that it would seem they were transporting goods.

Garment worker Amina Begun, of Kaunia upazila, said: “Factory authorities have called and told me to join work within the next two days as the factory has reopened. If I can’t make it, I’ll lose the job. That’s why I’m taking the risk to go to Dhaka.”

Truck driver Salah Uddin said: “We will get stopped by police if we are seen transporting people like this. So, we cover up our trucks with tarpaulin, so it seems like we are transporting goods. But still, we have to bribe policemen at the ferry terminals.”

Mithapukur police station OC Jakir Ali Biswas said: “Carrying people under tarpaulin covers in the back of trucks is inhumane. We will definitely look into the matter.”

In Munshiganj, thousands of people were seen crossing the Padma River by ferry and speed boats defying the risk of coronavirus spread.

The returnees were compelled to disregard social distancing laws as they embarked on pick-up vans, trucks and other small human hauliers to reach their destinations.

Mawa traffic police outpost in-charge Helal Uddin said: “Due to lack of public transports on roads, workers are crowding on small goods transporting vehicles to get to their destinations.”

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