Industry Update/National Response
- Despite a rise in coronavirus cases, the government allowed reopening of offices and public transport services as of 31 May, ending 66 days of lockdown measures. Workplaces are allowed to operate on a limited scale, subject to their compliance with the health and safety guidelines. Additionally, the country is now divided into three zones — red for high risk, yellow for medium-infected regions, and white for no-risk areas.
- Garment factories have started to reopen with a limited number of workers as of 26 April. Industry stakeholders anticipate a gradual reopening of factories to maintain compliance with COVID-19 guidelines from government authorities.
- The government announced a set of stimulus packages worth $8.56 billion to fight the impact of COVID-19 in Bangladesh. Of the packages, $600 million was previously announced in late March for export-oriented industries. Affected garment factories can avail funds from the $600 million deal in loans at 2% interest to pay their workers’ salaries for up to 3 months – paid into either a bank or mobile financial services account. The rest of the packages, carrying different rates of interest, will benefit other industries, service sector, SME(s), etc.
- The latest information from BGMEA states that 1,150 factories have lost export orders worth $3.18 billion (982 million pieces), and that 2.28 million workers have been affected. www.bgmea.com.bd
Factory Service Update
- Better Work released a COVID-19 Management Guidance document in April to help factories reduce the risk of coronavirus and take practical measures to maintain necessary Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) conditions.
- Better Work Bangladesh’s in-person advisory, assessment and training services are suspended until further notice.
- For factories that remain open, in-person advisory visits have been replaced by tailored virtual advisory through video conferencing. Virtual visits include working with management and worker representatives, primarily focusing on practical guidance on COVID-19 response and addressing unforeseen compliance issues.
- Although assessments are temporarily on hold, brand partners still have access to factories’ live improvement plan and progress reports on the Better Work portal.
- The team is mobilising resources for virtual industry seminars and training to provide factories with technical input and guidance.
Additional Better Work Activities
- On 1 July, the ILO, jointly with factory owners’ associations (BGMEA and BKMEA), launched the Learning Hub, a comprehensive training initiative coordinated by Better Work Bangladesh to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in the RMG sector in Bangladesh.
- Webinars with Better Work buyer partners are anticipated the second week in May on OSH guidance and on labour issues/legal issues linked to retrenchment.
- Better Work hosted a Buyers’ Forum on 30 April to present the industry Call to Action and technical material from Better Work related to COVID-19 workplace response.
- The ILO together with other UN agencies and BGMEA has created a task force with interested buyers to support the production of level-1 PPE equipment in the country, both as a response to the immediate Covid-19 crisis and as a future investment in higher-level PPE production capacity in the long-term.
- Better Work hosted a webinar with buyer partners on 2 April to address early COVID-19 response strategies.