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5 April, 2020 01:08:22 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 5 April, 2020 11:13:03 AM

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Workers stream towards Dhaka as factories set to reopen today

BGMEA urges members to extend closure till Apr 11
STAFF REPORTER, Dhaka
Workers stream towards Dhaka as factories set to reopen today

Thousands of readymade garment (RMG) factory workers started heading back to Dhaka and Gazipur from northern and southern districts yesterday to save their jobs, ignoring risks to their lives and a potential coronavirus outbreak.

Workers were seen coming towards Dhaka from different districts, some on foot, as the readymade garments (RMG) factories are set to reopen today amid the nationwide shutdown put into effect to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) yesterday urged the RMG factory owners to keep their factories shut till April 11. The apex body of the RMG sector also said all workers will receive their salaried for March.

In a statement, BGMEA President Rubana Huq urged all factory owners to keep their production units shut till April 11 considering the overall situation of the country.

Earlier, the BGMEA had announced that all garments factories will open from 4 April (today).

Mostly low-income people, a large chunk of whom are workers from the RMG industry, swarmed the Dhaka-Aricha and Nabinagar-Chandra highways since yesterday morning.

On March 23, the Bangladesh government declared a public holiday from March 26 to April 4 in public-private offices and educational institutions. Later, the holiday period was extended till April 11.

This is the government’s move to keep everyone at home and ensure social distancing for at least two weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. During this time, public gatherings and other activities have been banned and for this reason, the Army was taken down in the field. The police force and the administration are working together to generate awareness among the people.

Since Saturday was the last day of the holidays for the garments sector in Bangladesh following the partial lockdown imposed by the government, an eight-kilometre-long crowd of people, mostly garment workers, gathered from Mymensingh’s Shombhuganj to the highway’s bypass intersection.

Workers hailing from Sherpur, Jamalpur, Netrokona and different upazilas of Mymensingh gathered at the Patgudam Bus Terminal. From there, they were seen riding on Dhaka-bound trucks, pick-ups and the other modes of transport available to reach the capital.

RMG worker Johora Begum from Mymensingh’s Tarakanda upazila said, “I am worried because it is important for me to return to my workplace in Gazipur today. But in this situation, it is not possible to follow the coronavirus protection measures.”

Another worker, Jahid, said, “Despite the transportation crisis, we will face uncertainties in our jobs if we fail to join work on time.”

On the Barishal-Dhaka highway, thousands were seen travelling by trucks and small pick-ups. They could not maintain adequate distance from each other because of the high number of passengers and the dearth of vehicles.

One of the passengers, Alamgir, 35, said he works at a factory in Dhaka, which is scheduled to open tomorrow.

In Gazipur, at Maona intersection on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway, hundreds were seen waiting for vehicles.

On not being able to avail any mode of transport, many started their journey to Dhaka on foot.

The local administration has failed to keep the workers at home and get them to maintain distance, said Md Manjur Hosen, executive magistrate at the Manikganj deputy commissioner’s office.

Abu Abdullah, the manager of the Bangladesh Inland Transportation Corporation’s (BIWTC’s) Daulatdia office, said there are six ferries on the Daulatdia-Paturia highway, but there are currently two large, one medium and two small ferries operating. As the garments factories started to open this morning, many started to come back to Dhaka from their village homes.

Rubana Haq, the president of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told The Independent that the association is aware of the situation and is trying “everything they can” to avert an unwanted scenario of large numbers gathering in one particular place.

“We want to tell all the workers from the association that no one will lose their jobs because of the shutdown. We are trying to find a way to make sure that they have their jobs and we can start our factories as soon as possible.”

Bangladesh’s labour-intensive RMG sector is particularly vulnerable to coronavirus outbreak which could seriously hamstring operations and push down the country’s export earnings, most of which come from here.

 Health work experts have urged the government to pay attention to the sector, the second largest exporter of goods after China, to prevent a possible outbreak here since people work in close proximity to each other.

People who are returning are mostly RMG workers and they say they are faced with the difficult choice of either staying home and losing jobs or returning to work braving coronavirus.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) on Thursday said buyers have so far cancelled orders worth $3 billion following the coronavirus outbreak, affecting 1,092 factories and approximately 2.16 million workers.

 


IK

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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