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42% garment workers yet to receive stimulus

  • Published at 10:04 pm December 17th, 2020
Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

About 1.4 million of the total workers working in the garment sector did not receive government incentives

As many as 42 per cent, or about 1.4 million apparel workers, did not receive or were deprived from government incentives given to the sector to combat the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB).

TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman unveiled the data while addressing the findings of its latest report titled "RMG Sector in Covid-19 Crisis: Governance Challenges and Way Forward" on Thursday.

As per the report findings, most incentives were given to the factory owners to deal with the business crisis and about 84 per cent of about Tk 52,800 crore of the incentives paid to address business interests of the owners.

Though as of April - July, the estimated salary and allowance of readymade garment workers was around Tk 12,692 crore, the incentive amount in this package paid by the government was Tk 9,188 crore, 27.6 per cent less than the requirement, it also said.

As a result, about 42 per cent or about 1.4 million of the total workers working in the garment sector did not receive or were deprived from government incentives, the report said.

There are allegations that 21,000 workers in 64 factories, which took incentives, did not receive their salaries and allowances due to announcement of factory layoffs and dismissed workers, it also said.

The TIB report also mentioned no guidelines for sub-contract factories, which create uncertainty on the salaries and allowances of about 1.5 million workers of 3,000 factories.

The large factories got priority in receiving incentive funds. In some cases, large factory owners have been accused of using political influence and lobbying for getting incentives, it added.

Talking on data during March -November 2020, Iftekharuzzaman said that the sector was given 50 per cent of the financial support, although it contributes about 10 per cent to the national GDP.

In order to ensure health protection, BGMEA in collaboration with the World Health Organization formulated a health protection guideline for garment factories. In many cases, BGMEA guidelines have not been fully followed by factory management.

According to the data, most factories ensure wearing masks but do not have adequate hand washing facilities and hygiene has not been ensured in the canteen and toilet.

Moreover, most of the factory owners did not follow the instructions to start the factory with 30-50 per cent workers within the shifting system.

In case of violation of supply materials of health care to the workers and compliance with hygiene rules in accordance with the guidelines framed by BGMEA, utilization declaration (UD) facility should be revoked and penalties should be imposed, the TIB suggested.

Buyer organisations need to be committed to conducting ethical business and the issue of ensuring the rights of workers in times of disaster should be linked with the existing conditions of the base price of garments and work orders, said the anti-corruption watchdog.

"To combat the second phase of infection, we need to provide adequate health care and transportation to various committees set up by the government and employers organizations, so that these committees can play an effective role in ensuring workers' rights and their safety in the factory," it adds.

TIB also called for making public all information on coronavirus infection, layoffs, cancellation and reinstatement of work orders, use and distribution of incentive funds.