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Bangladeshi government must protect workers from impacts of Covid-19

Rushing to contain the spread of Covid-19 in Bangladesh, the government declared a general holiday from 26 March to 4 April, which was then extended until 14 April. With some exceptions, the lockdown was further extended until 3 May.

Confusion ahead of the general shutdown resulted in stress and panic, as large numbers of workers, mostly women, were not paid, thousands laid off and many set off on foot and by dangerous modes of transport to leave Dhaka.

Despite the lockdown, many factories are now running, exposing workers to infection. There have been protests of workers demanding payment of wages during the lockdown.

According Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) export orders of 982 million pieces, worth US$3.18 billion have been cancelled or suspended, affecting 2.28 million workers in 1,150 factories. As the global action to support garment industry gets underway, the crisis is getting worse in Bangladesh.

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches, expresses serious concerns over the health and safety, economic and social impacts of Covid-19 on Bangladeshi workers:

“No worker in any industry should be laid-off/ retrenched/ fired during the lockdown period. All workers must be paid in full without any wage deduction and Eid Bonus should be paid by 15 May. The government should consult unions and set up a tripartite committee to monitor and assess the situation and recommend steps as needed.

“The government should ensure that factory owners provide hand sanitizers, soap, and PPEs for workers. In case workers are diagnosed with the coronavirus, their treatment must be done free of cost.”

In a letter to the European delegation in Dhaka, IBC underlined that, according to preliminary reports, over 500,000 garment workers will not get any payment due to ongoing unjust lay-offs, which will lead to a massive social crisis.

China Rahman, IBC general secretary, says:

“We urged the EU delegation to provide possible support Bangladeshi workers and ensure that no brands, buyers postpone or cancels work order and they clear the dues to their suppliers. In order to avoid the humanitarian crisis, the government, brands and employers have to take shared responsibility to ensure that workers’ wages and benefits are paid, jobs are secured and they receive social protection.”

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