Though the government had imposed restrictions in April this year to tackle the second wave of coronavirus, the export oriented readymade garment factories and other industries were allowed to run. Even during the partial restrictions from 28 June and then the strict restrictions from 1 July, the garment and other factories were open. However, the cabinet division issued a fresh circular on Tuesday, saying that in consideration of business and commerce and the country’s economic condition, as well as to keep economic activities running, all restrictions would be relaxed from 14 July midnight till 23 July morning. Strict restrictions would be then enforced again up till 5 August midnight. All factories would also be shut in this period.

This decision of the government was a cause of concern for the garment factory owners. An emergency meeting in this regard was held Wednesday at the BGMEA office in Gulshan. In accordance to the decision taken at the meeting, a team of garment and textile businesspersons met with cabinet secretary Khandakar Anwarul Islam on Thursday. They explained the need to keep the factories open and handed over a letter for the prime minister.

We hope to open our factories on 1 August if the coronavirus situation improves, even though the government did not issue any directives. So, in accordance to the last circular, we have asked the members to keep the factories closed.
Shahidullah Azim, vice president, BGMEA

After the meeting, the BGMEA and BKMEA leaders told the media that the government may take a decision on Saturday. However, the government didn’t any decision on Saturday. The leaders then said that the decision will come on the last working day ( today, Monday) before Eid. The cabinet division has not issued any new directives so far.

The factory owners are repeatedly approaching BGMEA over whether to open up after Eid or not. With the government not coming up with any new directive, the BGMEA president sent SMS’s to the members, asking them to be prepared to open the factories on 1 August if the coronavirus situation improves.

The BGMEA president’s SMS stated, there has been an alarming increase in coronavirus infections in the country. According to the government’s latest circular, from 23 July to 5 August, all-out restrictions will be enforced. We will all observe Eid in this period, following the health guidelines and try to avoid going out. Depending on an improvement in the coronavirus situation, we hope we can remain prepared to operate the factories from 1 August. You will be duly informed of the next course of action based on the circumstances.

Confirming this, BGMEA vice president Shahidullah Azim told Prothom Alo, “We hope to open our factories on 1 August if the coronavirus situation improves, even though the government did not issue any directives. So, in accordance to the last circular, we have asked the members to keep the factories closed.”

Speaking about how the workers are being given Eid holidays, a factory owner in Chattogram said his factory will remain closed from 20 to 26 July. This includes three government holidays and a one-day weekend. The remaining three days of holiday will be adjusted with the workers’ earned and casual leave. But with restrictions on 27 July, the factory will remain closed till further notice. The factory will reopen when the government issues directives.

The owner of a garment factory in Narayanganj said, there is a general holiday till 23 July. The holiday will be extended due to the restrictions. However, the factories will reopen if the government gives permission. The workers have been instructed accordingly.

BKMEA vice president Mohammad Hatem said, “After the meeting with the cabinet secretary and handing over a letter for the prime minister, we had hoped that the government would issue directives. As this did not happen, we could not give our members any directives. We have been going through a hard time over the last few days.” He said they hoped that they would be able to open the factories before 5 August.

Mohammad Hatem went on to say, even if there is no production in the factories, exports will continue. If products are ready in any factory, these can be sent to the port for shipment.

The readymade garment factory owners, over the past few days, have been putting forward their reasoning for keeping their factories open. They said that despite the challenge of coronavirus, Bangladesh garment sector was managing to turn around again and plenty of work orders were coming in. The coronavirus situation in Europe and America was improving. If the buyers hear of restrictions at this juncture, they will send their orders to other countries. And if there is a long closure after Eid, it will not be possible to export the present work orders in time. The orders will then have to be sent by air freight, creating higher losses for the garment industry.

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