The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) yesterday vehemently denied it has announced any job cut in the apparel sector amid a slump in work orders because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The clarification comes as many had thought that BGMEA President Rubana Huq on Thursday had announced job cuts in the sector while addressing a virtual event for the inauguration of a coronavirus testing laboratory for garment workers.
It prompted the Garment Sramik Odhikar Andolan, a workers' rights platform, along with a few other labour rights bodies and left-wing political parties to call a press conference on Friday to protest the job cuts.
"The news was not presented correctly. The BGMEA, as an organisation, has no scope to make such an announcement," it said in a statement.
What the BGMEA president had articulated was her deep concern and apprehension of possible job losses because of the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
The global pandemic has badly impacted Bangladesh's apparel shipments and inflow of work orders. For instance, apparel shipments fetched just $378.40 million in April, down from $2.26 billion in March.
Industrial output in the garment sector saw the biggest decline, by 55.7 per cent between May 1 and May 20.
Work orders worth more than $3 billion were either cancelled or put on hold by international retailers and brands from March, the statement said.
Many renowned Western retailers have been filing for bankruptcy and factories are running at 55 per cent production capacity because of the dearth of work orders, the BGMEA also said.
Apparel sales revenue worldwide would decline 30 per cent in 2020 from last year because of the pandemic, said the association citing a study of the McKinsey and Company.
That means, the export of garment items from Bangladesh would be $10 billion less this year.
Management would have to run factories at below capacity if the work order does not accelerate. As a result, job creation would become difficult in all sectors and not just the garment, the statement said.
The employment of workers might reduce a bit in such a situation.
The association suggested factory owners follow labour laws strictly in cases of job losses.
Some 348 factories faced closure over the last two months and 1,926 factories are now operational.