2 RMG units shut as 2 workers test positive

Lack of safeguards could cause a 2nd wave of virus: ILO

Staff Correspondent | Published: 21:56, Apr 28,2020 | Updated: 00:18, Apr 29,2020


A readymade garment factory at Savar on Tuesday announced a one-day leave and another one in Jashore was asked to close as each unit found one worker infected with the novel coronavirus.

Industrial Police sources said that Spring Trade Limited, a sweater manufacturing unit, at Zirani in Savar on Tuesday declared stoppage of work as a supervisor of the factory tested positive for COVID-19.

The swab samples of the worker were collected on April 22 when he was staying at his village home in Rangpur.

As the worker came back to Savar to join work on Sunday, the first day of factory reopening amid the nationwide holiday, his test result on Tuesday found him positive.

BGMEA health advisory team advised the factory authority to shut the unit for the next 24 hours and immediate quarantine of 15 people while the factory is being disinfected.

Local police shut down his residence at Zirani and factory authorities announced work stoppage over virus fear.

Many factories resumed operations on Sunday amid the risks of COVID-19 transmission as the disease has spread to 60 districts out of 64.

The government has extended the countrywide shutdown till May 5 but allowed the export-oriented factories to resume operation asking the authorities to ensure workers’ safety against the spread of COVID-19.

In another case, local administration instructed authorities of Divine Garments Ltd at Chowgacha in Jashore to keep their unit closed temporarily as a worker of the unit was found infected.

The samples of the worker were collected on Sunday and the result on Tuesday showed her COVID-19 positive.

The husband of the infected worker also worked as a security guard at the same factory but he was yet to be tested for the virus.

‘We have requested the factory authority to keep the unit shut till getting the result of the security guard,’ Md Zahidul Islam, Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Chowgacha, told New Age on Tuesday.

He said that an initiative would be taken as per the instruction of the district administration as it was an export-oriented industry.

Md Hasanuzzaman, managing director of Divine Garments Ltd, said that there would be no need for factory lockdown as the workers were infected outside the workplace.

‘When reopened our factory on Sunday, the worker was not allowed to enter the factory due to high temperature. We suggested COVID-19 test and she was found positive,’ he said.

Hasanuzzaman said that they were running their unit in full compliance with the BGMEA guideline and the next course of action would be taken as per the instruction of the trade body.

He also said that the local administration shut down the house of the workers and the samples of her husband and other family members would be collected by the health department.

Country’s apparel makers started a gradual reopening of factories from Sunday with a promise to maintain health safety strictly to protect workers from infection but many of factories were violating the guideline provided by BGMEA, trade union leaders alleged.

They said that most of the big companies started working with 60 to 80 per cent workers although BGMEA guideline for reopening factories asked its members to start their initial operation with 30 per cent workers between April 26-30.

Home affairs minister Asaduzzaman Khan in a meeting with business leaders at the secretariat asked to ensure health safety of the workers. He directed the law enforcers to check entry of workers into the city from other districts, according to officials.

The meeting was informed that more than 97 per cent of 2,300 BGMEA enlisted factories had already cleared wages of March. The minister asked the leaders of BGMEA and BKMEA to ensure that there was not labour unrest in the present situation by making sure that the workers would receive their wages of April in time. 

Nazma Akhter, president of Sammilita Garments Shramik Federation, alleged that many of the large garment factories were continuing their operation with majority of their workforce without maintaining suggested distancing.

The International Labour Organisation, however, on Tuesday warned that without adequate safety measures for returning workers there could be a second wave of the pandemic.

As the pressure mounts on countries to ease their lockdown restrictions, the ILO has urged governments to take action to prevent and control COVID-19 in the workplaces, with active involvement and dialogue with employers’ and workers’ organisations.

‘Putting in place the necessary measures will minimise the risk of a second wave of contagion contracted at the workplace,’ ILO said in a release.

 ‘As some industries begin to slowly resume operations, the ILO has developed a three-pronged strategy to ensure a safer return to work in the Bangladesh context. The first step is the adoption of several safety and health measures at work based on dialogue between employers and workers, and a shared understanding of coronavirus risks,’ country director of ILO Bangladesh Tuomo Poutiainen said.

To prevent transmission of the virus and safeguard workers, the ILO developed COVID-19-specific OSH guidelines, together with the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments.

The ILO recommended for employment retention through work-sharing and reskilling, in addition to essential social protection measures to ensure access to subsistence allowance, basic healthcare and income security for formal and informal sector workers.

According to IP data, a total of 2,916 industrial units, including 1,362 textile and readymade garment factories, remained open on Tuesday under the jurisdiction of the agency.

Out of 1,362 garment and textile factories, 993 are members of BGMEA, 237 registered with Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association and 132 are members of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, however, said they have conducted 27 factories surprise inspections and found deviant in only 2 units.

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