Industry Update/National Response
- Garment factories have started to reopen with a limited number of workers from 26 April. Industry stakeholders anticipate a gradual reopening of factories to maintain compliance with COVID-19 guidelines from government authorities.
- The Bangladesh government allowed reopening of offices and public transport services from May 31, ending a 66-day lockdown since March 26 despite a rise in coronavirus cases. Workplaces are allowed to operate on a limited scale—on a trial basis until June 15—subject to their compliance with the health and safety guidelines.
- The Ministry of Public Administration issued a gazette on 23 April, suggesting that export-oriented factories, including RMG units, can be kept open during the public holidays, provided they ensure proper health and safety precautions. The owners’ association (BGMEA) issued safety instructions and asked the factories to reopen on a limited scale, with 30% workforce.
- 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 Bangladesh’s in-person advisory, assessment and training services are suspended until further notice.
- In-person advisory visits have been replaced by tailored virtual advisory through video conferencing.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.
- Better Work Bangladesh released a COVID-19 Management Guidance in April to help factories reduce the risk of coronavirus and take practical measures to maintain necessary Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) conditions.
- 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 conducting virtual industry seminars and training sessions to provide factories with technical input and guidance amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Additional Better Work Activities
- 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.