Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association at about midnight on Saturday reversed its decision on factory reopening while the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president requested members not to reopen factories until April 11.
The announcements came after thousands of workers of the factories had rushed to Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj amidst the government shutdown as the closure of their factories expired on Saturday.
BGMEA president Rubana Huq in a message to journalists on Saturday night said that she requested the garments factory owners to keep the factories closed till April 11.
‘Considering the situation, we are requesting all factory owners to keep their factories closed until April 11,’ read the message sent at about 9:45pm.
BKMEA vice-president Mohammad Hatem in a text at about midnight on Saturday informed that a meeting of the association president and vice-presidents through videoconferencing decided to keep the factories of the association members closed until April 11.
The government-imposed nationwide shutdown has been extended till April 11 to contain the coronavirus pandemic that already killed eight people and infected 70 till Saturday in the country.
Earlier on the day, industry insiders said that the leaders of the two apparel bodies on Saturday held a telephone conference and decided to reopen factories from Sunday.
Some garment factories’ owners said that their factories would reopen on Sunday as BGMEA and BKMEA did not extended their shutdown for the garment industry.
The government on March 31 decided to extend the general holiday till April 11 from April 4 to contain coronavirus spread. It also banned all modes of public transports and public gatherings for ensuring social distance across the country.
BGMEA president Rubana Huq did not make any clear comment on the factory operation.
‘If any worker remains absent in workplace with valid reason, he/or she will not be terminated,’ Rubana said in an audio message.
But she did not say what would constitute the valid reason.
‘We, the factory owners of Ashulia Zone, decided to reopen factories on Sunday with maintaining the health guidelines provided by the government to protect our workers,’ Envoy Group managing director Abdus Salam Murshedy told New Age on Saturday.
He said that as per the decision of the meeting factories would pay the wages for March to their workers by April 15.
‘We requested all the factory owners not to sack any workers during the pandemic,’ said Salam, also the former president of BGMEA.
BGMEA on March 26 and BKMEA on March 27 asked its members to consider closing factories up to April 4 in line with the government’s announcement of general holiday to prevent coronavirus.
The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments on Wednesday in a notification allowed owners to run their factories with ensuring health protection for the workers.
BKMEA vice-president Mohammad Hatem said that they decided to run their factories from Sunday.
He said that workers were not supposed to visit their villages during the shutdown.
Amid the suspension, transport service workers went to village houses on their own arrangement and now they were returning to their work, Hatem said.
Letter on, Hatem posted a video message to the BKMEA members on Saturday, saying that if it was possible keep your factories shut up to April 10 in line with the government holiday.
When Hatem made the announcement at night, already thousands of garment workers from several districts of the country were heading to factories in Dhaka and its adjacent areas disregarding the fear of COVID-19 to secure jobs.
The DIFE in an announcement said that the prime minister in her address to the nation on March 25 announced incentive Tk 5,000 crore for the payment of wages to the workers of export-oriented sectors and directed to ensure health protection of the workers.
There was no direction in the prime minister’s speech to close down factories, the department said.
It also said the factory owners having export orders and providing personal protection equipment to workers could open their factories.
Bangladesh Garment Shramik Sanghati president Taslima Akhter and general secretary Julhasnayeen Babu on Saturday termed the decision of reopening garment factories as duel policies in one country.
The labour leaders in a statement urged the government to apply the general holiday for the garment workers to protect them from the possible infection of COVID-19.
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