The layoff of workers in the garment industry which has begun after the Eid holidays is an unfortunate reality, said Rubana Huq, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
She said that if the factories run at only 55 per cent capacity, there is no alternative but to lay off the workers. This is an unwarranted reality, but there is nothing to be done. If the situation suddenly improves, these workers will be given priority. She said, with purchase orders from March to May being cancelled or suspended due to coronavirus, the garment sector is facing $5 billion in losses.
The BGMEA president said, the factory owners received a large stimulus package from the government to pay the workers’ wages and that will end in June. It is not possible for the industrialists to run the factories at 55 per cent capacity and retain all the workers at the same time.
In the meantime, BGMEA has set up a modern PCR lab at the Dr Farida Huq Memorial Ibrahim General Hospital in Chandra, Gazipur, to test garment industry workers for coronavirus. The lab was inaugurated on Thursday by means of a video conference.
Rubana Huq was replying to questions of the media at the press conference arranged at the same time.
She said that BGMEA will take action against the factories that laid off workers in April and May, but not outside of that. Hiring and firing workers was up to the owners.
Also joining the video conference and online press briefing were the prime minister’s private sector industry and investment advisor Salman F Rahman, commerce minister Tipu Munshi, health minister Zahid Maleque, Dhaka North city corporation mayor Atiqul Islam, former president of FBCCI and BGMEA Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, former BGMEA president, member of parliament and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) former president Matin Chowdhury, president of the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh, AK Azad Khan and others.
According to BGMEA, every day 400 samples were tested at the lab in Chandra, Gazipur. PCR labs were also underway at Tongi and Narayanganj.
Salman F Rahman said, isolation facilities must also be arranged along with the labs. There is plenty of space in the factories of the BGMEA members where isolation units can be established for the workers, he said.
Addressing the garment factory owners, health minister Zahid Maleque said, “Unless coronavirus testing is carried out, many will be infected. This will make it difficult to run the factories. So establish more labs if necessary. Arrange quarantine and isolation facilities for the workers who will contract the virus.”