More than 3 lakh workers are employed in 170 factories at Chattogram EPZ alone
About eight lakh workers in 350 garments factories in Chattogram have been working amid a greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.
The government has banned all types of rallies and mass gatherings and closed all academic institutions to contain the spread of the virus, but the labour-intensive apparel industries have not been closed.
Pointing out the issue, Fazlul Kabir Mintu, president of Bangladesh Garments Workers Trade Union's Chattogram district unit said, "If the garment factory owners do not take the right decision in this situation, the whole nation will have to pay for it."
He demanded immediate closure of all garment factories to avert the coronavirus risks.
Shafiqur Rahman, an official of a China-based factory in Chattogram Export Processing Zone (EPZ) said, "600 workers are employed in our firm. They have been working amid a great risk of being infected with the coronavirus as the situation is becoming more complex day by day."
"More than 3 lakh workers are employed in 170 factories at Chattogram EPZ. Who can guarantee that the workers will not get infected with coronavirus?" Shafiqur posed a question.
Nasima Khatun, a worker of a garment factory at Oxygen area in the city said, "I have heard that foreign buyers have been cancelling orders."
"In this situation, the garment owners are worried. We too are afraid of losing jobs. On the other hand, we are bound to work taking risk of contracting the virus," she added.
AZM Saiful Islam Tutul, a senior official of Clifton Group said, "We have made arrangements so that our workers wash their hands with sanitiser when they enter the factory."
"Besides, all workers have been given face masks and those feeling sick have been instructed to stay at home," he added.
Mohammad Abdus Salam, first vice-president of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association said, "We are waiting for a government decision on whether the factories will be closed due to outbreak of the coronavirus."
"The industry will face business losses if the factories are closed abruptly. This issue will also have to be looked into. We have ensured necessary measures for following health rules in all garments factories," he added.
Meanwhile, BGMEA Vice-president AM Chowdhury Selim said the production in the garment factories has fallen due to a scarcity of raw materials.
"Also, the European buyers have been cancelling orders following the detection of coronavirus positive patients in Bangladesh. As a result, a fresh crisis has been created in the garment sector," he maintained, adding that many owners have bank loans and that they will find it difficult to pay the bank loans back if goods cannot be supplied.