Many apparel workers walk to work
Many garment workers faced trouble yesterday as they walked to their workplaces in absence of public transport and for not having any transport arranged by the factories on the first day of a week-long strict countrywide lockdown.
The government recently imposed a lockdown across the country to contain the spread of Covid-19, including restrictions on public transport and movement.
However, industries and factories have been kept open with their managements instructed to follow health guidelines.
Garment workers at Savar and Ashulia industrial area have faced immense sufferings on their way to and back from factories due to the transport crisis, said our Savar correspondent.
Some of them also alleged that they had to face police harassment on their way to work in the morning.
Nizam Uddin a sewing operator of a garment factory at Dhour area in Savar, said they started coming to their factory from Ashulia at around 7:30am with some 90 workers. But the police stopped their rented car at Beribandh area in Dhaka and did not allow them to go forward in the car.
So the workers went to their factory from Beriband area on foot. It took 20 minutes to go to the factory on foot from Beribandh area where the police stopped their car. Nizam Uddin said his factory did not arrange its own transportation for the workers.
However, police assured them that they will allow cars from the next days, Nizam Uddin told The Daily Star over the phone.
Rupali Aktar, another worker at Jamgora area, said she waited nearly one hour at the area but did not get any vehicle. "Finally I reached my factory on foot as the factory authority did not arrange transport for us," Rupali Aktar said.
"The factories have been kept open but many owners did not arrange transports for the workers," said Nazma Akter, president of the Sammilito Garment Sramik Federation, a workers' platform.
As a result, many workers had to start walking from very early in the morning to go to their workplaces as there is a fear of the loss of jobs and attendance allowance for being absent for the day, Akter told The Daily Star over the phone.
Akter, who also sent a letter to the secretary of the labour ministry on Wednesday, demanded factories arrange their own transports for ferrying workers between their homes and workplaces.
She also demanded Tk 3,000 per month as risk allowance for the workers as they were working during such a severe period of the pandemic. Akter reiterated for strong compliance to health guidelines in running factories.
She also demanded vaccination for garment workers and not laying off any worker during this time of the pandemic.
Sirajul Islam Rony, a union leader and former workers' representative in the minimum wage board for garment workers, echoed Akter.
The garment workers should be allowed to avail transport showing their identity cards as the government kept industries and factories out of the purview of the lockdown, he said.
Many workers had to go to workplaces amid a lack of public transport on the roads, he said.
Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said more than 90 per cent of garment workers live near their respective factories.
So they do not need any transport to go to their workplaces, he said.
Of the remaining 10 per cent who live a bit far away from their workplaces, they use public transports and in many cases the factories arrange their own vehicles for the purpose, he claimed.
However, a few factories have not arranged transport for their workers because they cannot afford the costs, he said.
In this case, the BGMEA instructed running the factories a bit under capacity as transport movement has been stopped for the lockdown.
Workers will not lose their jobs if they cannot come to their workplaces due to a lack of public transport during the lockdown, Hassan also told The Daily Star over the phone.
However, the BGMEA has strongly instructed factory owners to follow health guidelines in running factories during the pandemic.
Also, the BGMEA has been monitoring the factories to ensure compliance with health guidelines, he added.
Mahamud Naser Jony, additional superintendent of Dhaka Industrial Police-1, said a majority of factories did not arrange workers' transportation although the government earlier had instructed to do so.
"Some staff and workers brought up allegations that their staff vehicles were barred by law enforcers from plying the roads on way to the factories in the morning. We are working on that so no staff or worker-carrying vehicles are stopped," he added.
Thousands of garment workers in Chattogram suffered immensely due to the transport shortage during the ongoing countrywide lockdown, adds our Chattogram correspondent.
Workers said the factory owners did not provide an adequate number of vehicles as public transport was closed for the lockdown from Thursday.
However, even in cases where workers rented vehicles on their own initiative, maintaining social distancing inside was not possible.
Most of the workers had to reach their workplaces by rickshaws or rent vehicles but some of them were not able to manage any transport after waiting for hours. Many were also seen going to their destinations on foot.
The movement of all forms of public transport, except rickshaws, was banned for seven days from Thursday as the government went into a lockdown to tame the raging coronavirus.