It urged brands, buyers and the government to work with suppliers and workers to defeat the impact of Covid-19 in the country's apparel sector
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) on Thursday expressed its frustration over the roles of apparel buyers and brands, as their order cancellations and uses of ‘force majeure clause’ put suppliers and millions of workers in deep trouble.
The think tank said their roles were questionable amid the global pandemic of new coronavirus.
It urged brands, buyers and the government to work with suppliers and workers to defeat the impact of Covid-19 in the country's apparel sector and protect workers' income, health and sustainable supply chain.
CPD made the call at a virtual media briefing titled "Covid-19 Workers and Employers of the RMG Sector Facing Crises: Government Initiatives and Way Forward," marking the seventh anniversary of the Rana Plaza Building collapse.
The local think tank also advised apparel manufacturers to keep their factories closed and comply with the government-enforced shutdown decision to halt the coronavirus pandemic.
CPD Executive Director Fahmida Khatun moderated the media briefing.
“Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, there are multi-pronged risks - health, financial and humanitarian - in the country's readymade garment (RMG) sector. Global brands and buyers are not out of it,” said Prof Mostafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at CPD.
The impact of the virus would depend on its duration and a plan should be devised to combat the impacts, he suggested.
“To fight impact of Covid-19 in the RMG sector, brands, buyers and the government should work closely with the owners and workers,” said the economist.
Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director at CPD in his keynote presentation said: “The spirit of shared responsibilities among the brands, retailers and buyers were questionable since the virus' outbreak.”
The cancellation or deferment of orders under the force majeure clause put the garment manufacturers and workers in the value chain in severe trouble, added Moazzem.
In this connection, buyers’ application of ‘force majeure’ clause needs to be cross-examined through the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), while its local body International Chamber of Commerce, Bangladesh (ICC,B) could facilitate that process, he proposed.
The partnership of the market players in the apparel value chain was under threat and there were strong indications of downgraded adjustments and risks, said Moazzem.
It was expected that brands and buyers would continue supporting the workers and suppliers, while BGMEA and BKMEA should further enhance their cooperation with other regional trade bodies in building cooperation for ensuring buyers' responsible business practices (RBP), said the think tank.
Meanwhile, BGMEA leaders and trade union leaders also echoed similar views and urged the buyers to come forward to save the employment and income of the workers, as well as to retain the business of the sector.
“Covid-19 is an unexpected, global crisis. Brands are our main purchasers, who are also equally affected. So it should be considered differently. Demand fall is a big challenge and we have to work together,” said BGMEA Vice-President Arshad Jamal Dipu.
Nazma Akter, president of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation urged the buyers and brands to be responsible and to work with workers and employers of the apparel sector to overcome the crisis.