There is uncertainty over the payment of around 5,000 workers employed by these factories
Six ready-made garment (RMG) factories in Chattogram are about to lose work orders worth over $3.2 million as they are based in the novel coronavirus red zone that has been on lockdown since June 16.
The factories are: HKTG Garments Ltd, Kattoli Textile Ltd, Vanguard Garments Ltd, HB Fashion, Gartex Garments Ltd, and MN Clothing Ltd.
Uttor Kattoli ward was listed as a red zone by the national technical committee formed to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus. The government locked down the area and declared general holidays from June 16 to July 8. Hence the local administration is not allowing the RMG factories there to open.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) office in Chattogram said there are around 5,000 workers working at the six factories.
Uncertainty now looms over the workers' payment.
The factories were supposed to deliver 1,623,414 clothing items to buyers in different countries – including the US, Canada and Russia – by July.
The orders are worth $3.2 million, said the Chattogram office of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
As per the Chattogram City Corporation gazette notification, the Sagorika Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) industrial area was exempted from lockdown. As the six factories are not in the BSCIC area, the local administration has not allowed them to open, saying this may spread infections.
Enamul Aziz Chowdhury, director of BGMEA and managing director of HKTG Garments Ltd, told The Business Standard, "We have orders from two Canadian and Russian buyers. We were supposed to send a shipment on June 25 but failed to do so. Now the buyers asked me to cancel the work order or to send the clothes by a cargo flight."
His factory has remained closed since June 17, and he said he does not know what he should do now. The orders were from March and April, but were delayed because of the pandemic.
He said there was no way to extend the time for delivery.
"I have paid the workers for April although the factory was not open. The cancellation of work orders will bring misery for my 500 workers and I am tense about paying their salaries," Enamul said.
He said he had asked for permission from the Chattogram City Corporation and police to open the factory but has not received it yet.
Nafid Nabi, managing director of Vanguard Garments Ltd, said he is due to ship 550,000 garments on July 15. He had asked his US buyer to extend the deadline but is afraid his request will not be entertained.
"I have already been given an extension. At my factory, there are 1,800 workers. How will I pay their salaries and Eid bonus, and also cover the losses?"
When contacted, local ward Councillor Nisar Uddin Ahmed Monju told The Business Standard, "If we allow the factories to open, they will be the cause of community transmission of the virus. We have succeeded in containing the spread of the virus as only nine people were infected in the last 11 days in my area."
Md Arif Hossain, assistant commissioner of Chattogram Metropolitan Police, said it is true that the lockdown will impact the six factories but there is now general holiday in the red zone as per the government circular.
"There is no option to keep factories open during the general holiday and lockdown as this may spread the virus," he said.
However, BGMEA's Enamul said opening the factories would not cause the virus to spread.
"We will open the factory in line with health guidelines and on a limited scale to deliver the goods in time as per work orders. This should be considered for business and the livelihoods of 5,000 workers."
AM Chowdhury Selim, BGMEA vice-president, told The Business Standard the factories had already been granted extensions.
"They may have to cancel work orders if they are not allowed to open," he added.