Workers fear for their lives as Bangladesh reopens garment factories

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Bharat SharmaUpdated: May 11, 2020, 12:49 PM IST

representative image Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

The factories have been permitted to reopen, but only if social distancing measures are followed

Garment factories across Bangladesh have reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has locked down most of the country.

A new fear has seeped in among garment workers, as they are forced to restart working in conditions not suitable to ensure social distancing. Additionally, wearing masks cannot be enforced in garment factories.

Bangladesh’s garment factories make clothes for some of the world’s biggest brands, and amounts for over 84 per cent of the country’s total exports, The Guardian reported.

The factories have been permitted to reopen, but only if social distancing measures are followed.

A few workers, while speaking to The Guardian asserted how social distancing measures remain unenforced across factories. Reportedly, the workers are transported in overcrowded buses. Even though the risks associated with such social contact are high, workers fear that they would lose their jobs by not complying.

Another worker told The Guardian that workers had to embark on a strike to ensure a supply of protective gear like masks.

Labourers wearing facemasks work in a garment factory during a government-imposed lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Dhaka on May 2, 2020 | AFP


Even though Bangladesh has only 10,000 cases of coronavirus, the country has been criticised for not testing enough.

Bangladesh’s garment industry employs over 4 million people across 4,500 factories and generates revenue worth $34 billion.

This season, the industry has suffered a loss of $3.5 billion as orders remain cancelled or suspended. Brands that procure their clothes from Bangladesh include Asda, Sports Direct, Peacocks, and Topshop, among many.

Recently, Debenhams, a fashion retailer stalled all its orders and was unable to pay for the ordered garments due to the loss incurred by COVID-19. As of now, the garments are stationed across ports, and the company is expecting discounts from Bangladesh.

A sudden disruption has made the lives of workers especially hard. Just in March, over 150,000 workers did not receive their wages. After this, protests happened across the country, demanding help.

As of now, over 1,000 factories are reproducing garments. This was partly done due to the fear of factories moving to Vietnam and Cambodia, which are also important players in the garment industry.