• Tuesday, Jun 02, 2020
  • Last Update : 02:56 am

Go home or keep the job: Dilemma for garment workers during Eid vacation

  • Published at 08:26 pm May 23rd, 2020
rmg-garments
Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Workers to lose jobs permanently if they leave their work-place areas during the Eid vacation

Nowadays, even the job of a garment worker is not readily available, and the miseries of garment workers have only been compounded by the coronavirus outbreak.

The workers who are going or have already gone to their hometowns and villages may not be able to re-join their workplace when they return from there.

According to some garment factory owners, these workers have to look for work someplace else.

Mohammad Hatem, 1st vice president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said: “We instructed the workers not to go to their homes in villages during the Eid vacation; the government also issued a directive regarding this. This is why the workers who defy this instruction will lose their jobs and cannot re-join their current workplace.”

“Those who have already gone or are in the process of going will not get a job in this sector again,” he added.

“Most factories still running after Eid will lay off 5%-40% of their workers,” Hatem remarked.

He said the owners paid the workers salaries for April and May without them working, based on the government’s directive, however, no owner will pay them a year’s salary without any work to show for it.

Seeking anonymity, a Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) leader said: “A database of workers is being created. Only the workers staying in their respective work-place areas will retain their jobs.”

“Why can’t the workers re-join their workplace after they return from their homes?” Bangladesh Trade Union Kendra General Secretary Wazed-ul Islam questioned.

“Only one day remains before Eid but around 30% of the workers are yet to receive their salaries and bonuses. They are still on the streets protesting for their due payments,” he said.

Golam Moazzem, a researcher at the private research organization Centre for Policy Dialogue, said: “We have asked the factory owners to provide the minimum income security to the workers, and not to fire them. Nevertheless, the factories which are not getting any buying orders may be forced to lay-off workers.”

“Demand and supply—Bangladesh readymade garment industry is being challenged by both aspects. The major buying countries, especially the European countries and the United States, are facing a dreadful situation owing to the coronavirus pandemic, and this trend may continue until their economies are revived,” commented the scholar.

Hundreds of garment factories shut down

Due to various reasons, 348 export-oriented garment factories have shut down in the last two months. Of them, 268 factories have been closed down owing to the cancellation of orders, while 80 have been shut down permanently. 

Buying orders decreasing

So far, BGMEA member factories have had orders worth $3.8 billion (Tk350 crore) cancelled or suspended due to the coronavirus situation, while BKMEA factories saw the cancellation of orders worth $4 billion.

On top of that, export orders worth $1 billion have been returned.

Reason behind the fear

Reportedly, workers of several factories contracted the coronavirus. Besides, many factories are lacking in health-safety measures.

As a result, the brands and buyers might raise questions about the work environment and cancel orders considering the health risk of their consumers.

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