BGMEA’s response to “Magical thinking in the time of Covid-19”
BGMEA brings it to your notice that on April 13, 2020, an objectionable article under the title "Magical thinking in the time of Covid-19'' was written by Nadine Shaanta Murshid, maligning the formidable reputation of BGMEA on a national and international level. The article misleadingly claims that BGMEA asked workers to return to work in direct violation of government shutdown protocol. This is nothing but a preposterous lie. The article insinuates that BGMEA has committed gender discrimination in the process. BGMEA never issued any directive asking workers to return to work so the question of withdrawing an imaginary and non-existent directive under the so-called compulsion of civil society does not arise. Accusing BGMEA of neoliberalism is capricious and ill- conceived. Her claim that BGMEA is promoting modern day slavery and the workers are not properly informed about the Covid-19 pandemic is baseless.
In reality, BGMEA not only represents the owners of RMG factories but is also the caretaker for labour health and safety issues. It is this sense of duty towards workers that prompted BGMEA to write to the Ministry of Labour on March 20, specifically raising concern about workers' safety in running factories amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Consequent to BGMEA's letter, on March 21, a stakeholders' meeting was conducted convened by the State Minister for Labour and Employment Monnujan Sufian in the presence of FBCCI, BEF, BGMEA and BKMEA whereby a joint decision was taken to keep factories open with supreme caution adopting preventive measures. Next day, on March 22, the Minister sat with all labour union representatives representing the total labour force of the RMG sector in an office, deciding to keep factories open. Subsequently, the Prime Minister addressed the nation and issued 31 directives and in directive 29 stated that industry owners with consultation with workers will continue production, ensuring health and safety. The government issued various circulars declaring a "general holiday'' and time to time extended the holiday up to April 25, and all these circulars unequivocally stated that export-oriented industries can be kept open if need be. More specific directions were given by the Department for Inspection of Factories and Establishments (DIFE) on March 27 and April 1, abundantly declaring that factories which have running purchase orders and factories which are making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can be kept open.
BGMEA never formally instructed to close any factory simply because BGMEA doesn't have the mandate under law to do so. However, when the workers who left for their homes upon declaration of general holiday on March 26 started to come back around April 4, mostly to collect their wages, BGMEA played a pivotal role, went out of its way and instructed all its members to keep their factories closed and pay wages through a digital system. BGMEA had no part in the confusion created which led to workers going back to their homes and then returning to join work. BGMEA neither endorses neoliberalism nor does it practice worker exploitation and oppression: the damaging assertions made in the said article is devoid of any justification.