The study found that 90% of the respondent workers did not receive any support during the lockdown
A recent survey has shown Covid-19 took a heavy toll on the health, economic condition and mental health of readymade garments (RMG) workers.
According to the study, 43% of workers reported to deal with severe struggles -- like economic hardship, illness and mental strains during the early stage of the pandemic.
Plan International Bangladesh conducted three studies on the RMG workers in May, September and October and the findings were revealed in a webinar hosted by Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday.
The study titled “Impact of Covid-19 pandemic on youth female RMG workers: experience and mitigation strategies during lockdown in the Dhaka city, Bangladesh,” which was conducted during the lockdown situation in May, found that 10 out of 12 respondents suffered mental distress during the lockdown period as they had a fear of losing their jobs.
The study also found that 90% of the respondent workers did not receive any support during the lockdown.
The respondents said that they do not have any idea on how to claim financial or any other support from Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). Meanwhile, BGMEA health centres remain closed and there were no initiatives from other related officialdoms in the study area.
As a response to the study, BGMEA President Rubana Huq said: “The report says that the BGMEA health centers remain closed, however, we opened a 24-hour call center with a hotline, one PCR lab, three sample collection booths and one isolation center.”
She also said the study was done on 12 respondents from three factories located in Mirpur and Malibagh, which does not represent the whole industry.
Role of trade unions
Rubana said the trade unions should be more vocal so that international buyers would increase the price of the products they import from Bangladesh.
RMG workers’ rights activists Nazma Akter, founder and executive director of Awaj Foundation, said there are plenty of trade unions but those are not really powerful enough or led by women.
“Why does the trade union have to take initiative to push the buyers to raise prices,” she questioned.
Nazma said that the owners of the garments should push the buyers.
While presenting the survey results, Abdullah Al Mamun from Plan International recommended increasing Covid-19 testing facilities for the workers, introducing and strengthening social security mechanisms such as insurance and standard human resource related supports as per laws -- like providing gratuity, provident fund, leave, maternity benefit and career development.
He also recommended raising awareness to prevent gender based violence in the factories and establish an active anti-harassment committee.