Dhaka, Bangladesh
RMG leaders opt for factory shutdown amid virus spread

BGMEA hails PM for Tk 5,000cr stimulus

RMG leaders opt for factory shutdown amid virus spread

News Report:

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and
Exporters Association (BGMEA) has
asked all its members to shut their
factories during the general holiday
announced for the coronavirus
outbreak and called on workers to
stay home during the shutdown.

The decision came after Prime
Minister Sheikh Hasian in a
nationwide address on Wednesday
announced Tk 5,000 crore stimulus
package for the export-oriented
industries to fight the impact of
the disease on the country’s
economy.

The Prime Minister has also rolled
out a Tk 50-billion package with
almost all of the bailout funds
going to the factory owners of the
RMG industry that earns 34 billion
US dollars annually.

The fund for workers employed in the
export industries can be used only
for paying wages and allowances to
the workers and other employees.

“I’m declaring a stimulus package of
Tk 5,000 crore for export-oriented
industries which could only be used
for paying salaries and allowances
of their workers and employees,”
Sheikh Hasian said in her address on
the eve of the Independence and
National Day 2020 on March 26.

Immediately after the premier’s
announcement, the BGMEA President in
a video message expressed her
heartfelt gratitude to the prime
minister for declaring the stimulus
package.

In the message, Dr Rubana said the
readymade garment (RMG) industries
are going through a critical time,
and lakhs of their workers are
facing risk (of losing job) due to
the outbreak of novel coronavirus
across the globe, including
Bangladesh.

“But honourable Prime Minister
Sheikh Hasina’s timely announcement
of Taka 5,000 crore package for
paying salaries and allowances of
the workers and employees of the
industries will save their lives,”
she said.

“For this, our entire industrial
sector, including export-oriented
industries, express heartfelt
gratitude to the prime minister,”
the BGMEA president added. In her
address, the premier also declared a
number of measures of her government
to combat the impact of novel
coronavirus or Covid-19 on the
country’s economy.

She said the Bangladesh Bank has
already taken some business-friendly
initiatives. “The central bank has
announced not to declare any client
loan defaulter by till June this
year,” the premier said.

Sheikh Hasina said the deadline of
collecting income from export has
been extended to six months from two
months. “Similarly, timeframe of
meeting up import expenditure has
also been extended to six months
from four months,” she said.

The prime minister said the limit of
monetary transaction through mobile
banking has also been increased.
“Time limit of paying electricity,
water and gas bills has been
extended till June without
surcharges or fines, while payment
of installments of NGO loans has
been suspended temporarily,” she
said.

After the first known COVID-19 case
was reported in the country on Mar
8, many worker groups called for
closure of the apparel factories
considering their health risk. But
Rubana had said, “Every factory
owner will decide themselves on
shutting the plants.

Or the government will provide a
guideline. BGMEA is not an authority
that can give a decision on this.
”After Hasina’s address to the
nation on Wednesday urging the
people to stay at home, Rubana said
in a statement on Thursday that the
prime minister gave specific
guidelines for protection from the
virus.

“As the largest industrial sector,
we must set an example by following
the prime minister’s guidelines. I
hope [the owners] will consider
closing factories in this
circumstance,” the BGMEA chief said.

If any factory remains open, it must
ensure protection of workers from
the virus and take the liabilities
for them, Rubana said.

Bangladesh, the second-largest
apparel producer in the world, is
feeling the effects of the global
coronaviurs pandemic, as
manufacturers are hit with order
cancellations.

However, on Sunday, Rubana said
western buyers and brands have
either suspended or cancelled
purchase orders worth more than 1.49
billion dollars.

“The buyers are inhumanly cancelling
the work orders forcing millions of
workers to be jobless,” she said,
adding that at least 1,089 factories
employing 1.2 million workers
received such notices as of Sunday
evening.

Orders placed for April were also
being cancelled, putting the factory
owners and the workers in a dire
situation, she said.

“The buyers cited closure of their
outlets because of the pandemic to
cancel the orders, but they did not
consider how the factory workers at
the source will survive,” Huq said
calling on retailers to play their
part in paying the workers’ wages.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers
and Exporters Association met
repeatedly with government ministers
to discuss solutions to the problems
in the sector, which is responsible
for nearly 82 per cent of the
country's total export earnings.

Rubana Huq, the president of
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and
Exporters Association, asked the
owners to follow Prime Minister
Sheikh Hasina’s instructions to stay
at home and let the workers do so by
keeping the factories shut during
the general holidays announced for
the outbreak.

Hasina has also rolled out a Tk 50
billion package with almost all of
the bailout funds going to the
factory owners of the RMG industry
that earns $34 billion annually.

The fund for workers employed in the
export industries can be used only
for paying wages and allowances to
the workers and other employees.

After the first known COVID-19 case
was reported in the country on Mar
8, many worker groups called for
closure of the apparel factories
considering their health risk. But
Rubana had said, “Every factory
owner will decide themselves on
shutting the plants.

Or the government will provide a
guideline. BGMEA is not an authority
that can give a decision on this.
”After Hasina’s address to the
nation on Wednesday urging the
people to stay at home, Rubana said
in a statement on Thursday that the
prime minister gave specific
guidelines for protection from the
virus.

“As the largest industrial sector,
we must set an example by following
the prime minister’s guidelines. I
hope [the owners] will consider
closing factories in this
circumstance,” the BGMEA chief said.

If any factory remains open, it must
ensure protection of workers from
the virus and take the liabilities
for them, Rubana said.

The factories that want to produce
personal protective equipment or PPE
for doctors to treat patients during
the pandemic can also remain open,
she added

MA Jalil Ananta, a movie star and
readymade garment sector
entrepreneur, however, said a
shutdown would lead to hundreds of
thousands of job losses.

He urged the Prime Minister not to
order closure of the garment
factories, promising steps to
protect the workers from the virus.
As many as 959 companies have seen
orders worth 2.67 billion dollars
cancelled or suspended by the
foreign buyers due to the pandemic,
putting the jobs of 2 million
workers at risk, according to the
BGMEA.

Its chief Rubana said Gerd Müller,
the German federal minister of
economic cooperation and
development, has assured her of
continuing cooperation and import of
readymade garments from Bangladesh
in reply to her letter seeking help.

She said Germany was considering
making PPE in Bangladesh as the
demand for the product has increased
sharply across the globe due to the
pandemic.

The first assurance has come from
Germany in this time of crisis,”
Rubana said.

The virus, first appeared in
December in China and is now
wrecking havoc in Europe and
America, killed nearly 14,500 people
and infected more than 328,000
people worldwide, according to the
Johns Hopkins University.

Huq in a letter urged Germany’s
Minister of Economic Cooperation and
Development Gerd Mueller to
immediately call on all German
brands sourcing from Bangladesh not
to cancel or hold any shipments.

“While the businessmen in Germany
receive government support and
address their losses, at our end we
have an existential problem as we
have to pay our workers,” she wrote.

Cancellations may lead to serious
social unrest when factories will
fail to pay their workers. “I’m
certain no German brands would like
see that happen on their account,”
Huq says.She told journalists that
she would write similar letters to
ministers in other countries.

Bangladesh, the second-largest
apparel manufacturer worldwide after
China, employs nearly 4 million
people, mostly women, across nearly
4,000 factories.The garment sector
earned Bangladesh more than 34
billion dollars in exports in the
2018-19 financial year.

Most of the garments went to Europe
and the United States.Brands and
retailers in Europe and the US have
shut thousands of outlets after the
new coronavirus outbreak forced many
countries to put their cities under
lockdown.

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