Factory inspection department in a letter to the garment manufacturers association requested stopping apparel worker layoffs
The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments has expressed deep concern to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) over the ongoing textile worker layoff.
In a letter to the BGMEA president, the department Inspector General Shib Nath Roy requested the manufacturers association to stop firing workers.
Some apparel manufacturers have terminated the jobs of workers after the Eid-ul-Fitr festival, wrote the inspector general.
According to the factory inspection department, some 17,579 workers of 67 apparel factories were dismissed from their jobs in Dhaka, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chattogram.
On April 25 in a Tripartite Consultative Council meeting, it was decided that no factory would go for layoffs on the condition that workers of the shutdown factories would get 60 percent of their gross salary.
Reminding them of the decision, Shib Nath Roy also urged the manufacturers to consider the pandemic-related crisis and requested them not to sack any workers.
The factory inspection department, an autonomous government agency which is responsible for health and safety inspection in factories and industries, also warned of that layoff could prompt labour unrest in industrial areas.
Police data also backs the department's concern
On June 1, more than 2,000 workers of Tanaz Fashions Ltd and Viyellatex Ltd blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway to protest the termination of their jobs.
The local administration, the factory inspection department and the industrial police normalised the situation by assuring the workers that the issue will be resolved.
According to Industrial Police data, 16,786 workers lost their jobs in Ashulia, Gazipur, Narayanganj, Chattogram, Mymensingh and Khulna as a result of the coronavirus fallout. Of them, more than 15,000 workers used to work at apparel and textile production units.
Recently, the layoff issue came under the spotlight and was followed by a statement by BGMEA President Rubana Huq.
"The reality was unexpected for the sector that workers will have to face termination, but entrepreneurs are helpless as 99 percent of factories are running with only 55 percent capacity," the BGMEA president told journalists at an online press conference last Thursday.
Stung by widespread criticism, the BGMEA later denied the remark on layoff which Rubana said "will actually be counted from June 1".
Layoff fear 'stronger' than virus infection
Muhammad Sujan was a supervisor at the Gazipur-based Mhc Apparels Ltd. He lost his job on May 22. Sujan and two of his colleagues Rakib and Jamal who lost their jobs on the same date, said the factory was yet to clear their salaries for the last three months.
Labour leaders said that apparel workers are haunted by the fear of layoffs. They dread the thought of their names appearing on the firing list amid the pandemic.
Bangladesh National Garment Workers and Employees League President Sirajul Islam said the fear of layoff is stronger than the concern of a virus infection.
"The workers are mentally exhausted," said Sirajul.
He added, "Though the government is asking factories not to go for layoffs now, the owners do not comply with the order. Besides, they are not interested in holding a tripartite meeting with the labour organisations before the national budget."
Nazma Akter,the president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, said she has been receiving hundreds of phone calls from the terminated workers everyday.
"Owners never considered the interest of workers. They accumulated wealth by continuously depriving the workers. I strongly protest the layoff amid the pandemic," she told The Business Standard.
Echoing Nazma Akter, another labour leader Ruhul Amin told The Business Standard that many garments factories are terminating workers without clearing dues.
"This is inhumane and it needs to be stopped," he added.