Losses should never be weighed against human life | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 08, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:39 AM, April 08, 2020


Losses should never be weighed against human life

Pay the workers, close the factories

At least 25 people were injured during clashes between police and garment workers on April 6 in Mymensingh's Bhaluka upazila after workers started demonstrating for their salaries for the month of March. According to some workers, outsiders loyal to the factory authorities and security men also attacked them using bamboo sticks. Despite the unsavoury nature of the incident, we must ask, why weren't the workers paid for the month of March when we are now well into the month of April? Clearly all this could have been avoided had they been paid.

We are now in a time of national, if not global, crisis. Economists, governments and others are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the immense fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, especially on low wage earners. When it is known that people are desperately struggling to make ends meet, why did the garment authorities not pay the workers their due wage? It is inhumane and condemnable.

Meanwhile, it is shocking that during this moment of crisis more than 100 garment units were open in Savar and Ashulia despite repeated calls for factories to remain closed. While it is most unfortunate that garment factories are losing orders and facing pressure from buyers for delivery of orders, it must also be understood that we are not in a normal situation right now. And these extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. If any worker gets infected, not only will they risk their own wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of their community and perhaps even beyond. Should something like that happen, it will inflict immense costs to the nation. It is due to such considerations that factories must remain closed.

And it is to that end that the government should give strict orders to all factories to pay their workers immediately and remain closed. Vague instructions and "advice" clearly won't suffice. It is useless for some to maintain social distancing, but not others. The nation cannot afford garment workers to get infected and risk the health of entire communities simply because of the greed of some factory owners.

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