Bangladesh garment factories reopen in Coronavirus lockdown putting workers lives at stake
On Monday, the garment factories in Bangladesh reopened amid the Coronavirus lockdown. The manufacturers are ‘under pressure’ to meet the export deadlines. International retailers are either cancelling or holding orders worth billions of dollars creating, an economic panic in the South Asian country.
Heads Up! Amid Lockdown Retailers Force Bangladesh Garment Factories to Resume Work
- Bangladesh Factories Reopen Amid Lockdown
- Exporters Fear Business Diverting to Competition
- Joblessness is Worse Than Coronavirus for the Workers
Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association vice president Mohammad Hatem believes that shut factories might lose business. He told Reuters, “We have to accept coronavirus as part of life. If we don’t open factories, there will be an economic crisis.”
To get the supply chain back on its foot manufacturing needs to start. So while Europe, the UK and the US debate whether to open their countries or not, seems like, international retailers have made up their mind to defy lockdown in Bangladesh.
As a result, hundreds of manufacturing units have resumed operations over the weekend in the industrial areas just outside the capital Dhaka, Ashulia and Gazipur.
Walking into a Death Trap
About 4 million garment workers across Bangladesh make branded clothes in hazardous health and work conditions. Issues ranging from sanitation to safety negligence prevail at most of the manufacturing units. Which employs largely women. However, while the world is in a protective lockdown, the garment factory workforce returns to their jobs.
Bangladesh is only second to China in apparel manufacturing export in terms of value. The country exports garments to the biggest brands in the UK, the US and Europe. Zara (Inditex), H&M, Walmart, Target, GAP, Primark, Levi’s and, JC Penny are few among international retailers. Which source and manufacture large quantities of apparels and home furnishing goods from the duty-free exporter Bangladesh.
Negligence of Safety in Work Conditions
Bangladesh is not new to tragic garment factory accidents. The first time world’s attention was drawn to the dangerous working conditions of the garment workers was back in 2013.
Rana Plaza, a huge garment unit in Dhaka collapsed leaving more than 1,100 dead. The incident forced the United Nations as well as global retailers to acknowledge and demand better health and working conditions for the workers. Furthermore, the incident encouraged activists and consumers worldwide to ask the most pertinent question from the Fashion Industry — Who Made My Clothes?
“Its (reopening) impact could be worse than Rana Plaza,” activist Kalpona Akter told Bangkok Post. Ironically, it happens only three days after the seventh Rana Plaza anniversary. Bangladesh is walking into the Coronavirus death trap.
The country has almost 6,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections and 145 deaths. However, experts believe that due to the absence of thorough testing the number could be much higher.
As the garment factories reopen in lockdown, the fear a rapid community spread of COVID-19 intensifies. A couple of days ago, the country recorded the highest single-day cases from coronavirus infection as 503.
Joblessness is Worse than Catching Coronavirus
The pressure to put a meal on the table is increasing with the fear of getting infected by Coronavirus looms over worker’s heads.
“I am now more worried about losing my job, wages and benefits.”Mofazzal Hossain, a grament facrtory worker
Admitting the fear of catching Coronavirus and sharing his compulsive feeling to return to work, Mofazzal Hossain, a garment worker echoing thoughts of the rest told BP.
While the fear of catching COVID-19 strongly prevails among workers they are forced to defy lockdown and get back to making clothes. In these conditions, the factory owners are trying their best to follow precautionary measures. “We are making sure the workers wear masks, wash hands at the entrance, undergo temperature checks, and maintain physical distancing,” Hatem said.