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Published:
2020-03-24 00:47:11 BdST

Apparel makers assure timely pay to workers


FT ONLINE 

Garments factories have assured their workers that they will get their monthly pay on time, even though the garment sector has been reeling from the coronavirus fallout.

"Workers will get their monthly pay, please keep that in mind," said BGMEA president Rubana Huq, in a video message to the media yesterday.

"Do not listen to rumours. Have faith on us. We have been assured by the government's highest authorities that they will stand by our side," she said.

The BGMEA president also expressed concern over the cancellation of orders one after another.

Rubana said, "So far it has been a loss of $1.98 billion, impacting the lives of 1.2 million workers. While the Covid-19 wreaks havoc globally, the fate of our industry and our workers has ended up being uncertain. With Brands handing out cancellations and deferments, we have no idea what tomorrow holds."

Rubana Huq said the actual figures regarding cancellation of orders might be higher than the reported amount. They have records of companies who have put entries on the BGMEA portal.

The BGMEA president also mentioned that they are waiting for the prime minister's address to the nation on March 25.

BKEMEA holds emergency meeting

The Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) held an emergency board meeting yesterday afternoon at its Dhaka office.

After the meeting, its first Vice-President Mohammad Hatem said that they are also looking forward to the prime minister's address to the nation on March 25.

The BKMEA board also hoped the speech will give them a directive.

He also gave an assurance that knitwear industry workers will be given their monthly pay on time.

Hatem said the factories that have enough orders will continue operation while those with no order will shut naturally.

The factories are operating after having taken all precautionary measures to ensure workers' safety, he added.

Industry owners should avail thermal scanners (for measuring temperature), masks, hand wash and sanitisers for workers to curb the spread of the virus in factories.

Suppliers urgently need brand support

In a separate video message, BGMEA President Rubana Huq has issued a rallying call to global apparel brands to support the Bangladeshi readymade garment industry for the next three months.

She said, "Our industry has a responsibility to 4.1 million garment workers, and that now is the time for brands and their suppliers in Bangladesh to "join hands and work together".

Rubana requested brands to take current orders of goods which are now under production under normal payment terms.

She also said suppliers need the support of brands urgently over the next three months. Otherwise, factories could be forced to lay off millions of workers.

"This is a disaster which neither commerce nor humanity can afford," said Rubana.

She added: "Three months of support for the sector is not that much. Our workers' lives are at stake. Kindly do not let go our hands.

"We can come out of this jointly much stronger."

BGMEA seeks German minister's cooperation

BGMEA President Rubana Huq wrote to German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller about the grim figure of cancelled garments orders and urged him to tell all those brands not to cancel or hold any shipment from Bangladesh.

In her letter, Rubana asked for the support of the German minister to help prevent a "disastrous impact" on the labour force and the apparel industry of Bangladesh.

She assured the minister that the German brands can pay them after three months given the current pandemic situation.

The minister was requested to seek the brands' approval for shipment and production from Bangladesh to continue till July at the least.

The BGMEA president also explained the manufacturing reality of Bangladesh where the country will see "social unrest" if owners fail to pay the workers, as a large number of low-income employees and their families live on a single income source.

Stating an existential threat in the face of the current situation she wrote, "This unfortunate occurrence is a disaster that neither humanity nor commerce can afford."

According to the email of Rubana Huq, nine factories have reported a cancellation figure of $49,238,840 against eighteen million-plus pieces.

However, a list of German brands which have cancelled orders with Bangladesh was also emailed to Minister Muller separately. 

"Brands who were partners last month have all turned into strangers, unable to fathom our exposure to an existential crisis of handling the wages of 4.1 million workers," Rubana said.

Without orders and with empty production spaces, all the workers run a risk of being totally unemployed for a long time to come.

"For us, it comes down to a level of bare minimum survival mode, while the western world still has the privilege of having bailouts from their privileged governments."

On that consideration, "We call upon the international community to surface with a renewed pledge to support the workers of Bangladesh, if not just the businesses."

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