A team representing the sector negotiated and pleaded the case in favour of keeping factories open to all key policy and decision-makers of the government, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President-Elect Faruque Hasan said in a statement on Sunday
The government has decided to permit apparel factories to remain operational during the strict lockdown that will be enforced from Wednesday.
A team representing the sector negotiated and pleaded the case in favour of keeping factories open to all key policy and decision-makers of the government, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President-Elect Faruque Hasan said in a statement on Sunday.
To avoid the impending crisis facing RMG and export-oriented factories due to closures during the lockdown, the team held a special meeting with Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi on Friday, he added.
Former BGMEA presidents Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin and Abdus Salam Murshedy, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) President Salim Osman, Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) President Mohammad Ali Khokon, and Faruque Hasan attended the meeting.
“I urge all the respected members of BGMEA to follow all the health and safety protocols very strictly without failure,” Hassan said in the statement.
Hassan also said that factory owners could face troubles paying salaries and festival allowances to the workers if they cannot run and ship the goods on time.
Earlier in the day, apparel exporters also demanded the government to keep the factories open during the upcoming lockdown at a press conference in Pan Pacific Sonargaon, Dhaka.
The apparel sector has reported continuous price drops of 4.5% to 5% since September last year, according to a press release issued after the conference.
The sector also reported export order losses worth $6 billion in the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Mohammad Abdus Salam, acting president of BGMEA, said the local garment suppliers have been struggling to recoup losses that they incurred during the first phase of Covid-19.
“In the fiscal year 2018-19, Bangladesh exported garment items worth $34.12 billion, but the amount fell to $27.94 billion in the fiscal year 2019-20,” Salam said.
“Moreover, work orders worth $3.18 billion were either cancelled or held up by the international retailers and brands due to the fallout of the pandemic,” he added.
AM Chowdhury Selim, vice president of BGMEA, said: “We will take the same kind of security measures which we did during the lockdown last year. Workers' safety is our highest concern.”
The number of coronavirus infections in the RMG sector is less than 1%, he said, adding that this has been possible only by ensuring effective safety measures.
“Sometimes Eid bonuses and salaries also become an issue. We are taking initiatives to keep the factory open so that the workers' salary and Eid bonuses can be paid on time,” he added.
Amirul Haque Amin, president of National Garments Workers Federation, said if RMG factories are kept open, the owners have to take initiatives to ensure the safety of the workers.
They also have to arrange transportation for the workers, he added.
Regarding Eid bonuses, he said: "It does not matter whether the factories are closed or not — workers' Eid bonuses have to be paid on time."
On Friday, the government decided to enforce a week-long strict lockdown starting Wednesday following a previous lockdown with very few restrictions.
As the previous lockdown failed to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, the government has opted for a stricter lockdown this time.
Except for emergency service providers, all government, semi-government and private organizations, shops, and markets are supposed to remain shut during this week-long lockdown.