Strictly follow health safety rules
The government, trade bodies and garment union leaders strongly advised factory owners to strictly follow health safety rules in operations of production units so that workers are not infected with Covid-19 during lockdowns.
The labour ministry has already asked the factory owners to follow a staggered schedule for workers so that the spread of the virus can be contained.
Begum Monnujan Sufian, state minister for labour and employment, in a statement Monday also called for ensuring that masks were worn alongside social distancing in the factories.
She said 23 committees formed earlier would monitor factories in different zones to ensure that the health safety guidelines were being followed while the factories were in operation.
Sufian also urged the factory owners to ensure timely payment of salaries and allowances to workers during the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr.
Amirul Haque Amin, president of National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), said they would also stay vigilant at garment industries in densely populated areas.
"If we find any factory not following the health safety rules properly, we will lodge complaints with the BGMEA, BKMEA and DIFE for considering the factory concerned as a risky one," he told The Daily Star over the phone.
"If we see any factory requiring improvements in safety, we will offer advice," Amin also said.
Both the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) have already instructed member factories to strictly follow the health safety rules.
The BKMEA in a circular on April 11 suggested members ensure workers wear masks, frequently wash hands with soap, use hand sanitisers and get body temperatures measured.
It also suggested having an adequate number of bins to store garbage and ensuring transportation for workers as per the health guidelines.
Faruque Hassan, the newly elected president of BGMEA, said, "Protecting the health safety of our workers is our main priority now."
"I have already instructed my members to strictly follow the health guidelines prepared by the BGMEA earlier and the instructions given by the government in running the factories," he said.
Hassan also said he formed 10 teams under two vice-presidents of the BGMEA to monitor whether member factories were following the guidelines prepared by the BGMEA in consultation with International Labour Organization, the health and labour ministries and World Health Organization.
The government has decided to keep open garment factories where 4.2 million workers are employed, mainly to ensure timely shipment of goods, timely payment to workers and prevent work orders from being diverted to other countries during lockdowns.
Earnings from apparel export declined to $27.94 billion in fiscal 2019-20 from $34.12 billion in fiscal 2018-19, because of the fallouts of the Covid-19, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.
Moreover, the local garment suppliers have faced either work order cancellations, unusual deferral payments or hold ups of orders worth $3.18 billion last year from their international retailers and brands.
However, some 90 per cent of the work orders were reinstated so far by the international retailers and brands after intense negotiations with suppliers, the government, the BGMEA and BKMEA leaders.
Last year many workers also lost their jobs when factory owners tried to cut back on cost of operations when Covid-19 surfaced.