Industry Update/National Response
- The average daily count of new COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh continues to drop since January. The Government of Bangladesh rolled out a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme on 7 February 2021.
- The Government allowed reopening of offices and public transport services as of 31 May, ending 66 days of lockdown measures. Industries, private organisations and Government offices resumed regular operations in compliance with the health and safety guidelines.
- Garment factories have started to reopen from 26 April. Factories are now operating in full scale, guided by the COVID-19 guidelines from government authorities and employers.
- The government announced a set of stimulus packages worth $8.56 billion on 5 April 2020 to fight the impact of COVID-19 in Bangladesh. Of the packages, $600 million was announced earlier on 25 March 2020 for export-oriented industries. Affected garment factories availed 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, were set to benefit other industries, service sector, SME(s), etc.
- The ILO supports a Global Call to Action endorsed by employers, worker organisations, brands and retailers in April 2020 to help manufacturers survive economic disruption caused by Covid-19 pandemic and to protect workers’ income, health and employment. In Bangladesh, BWB is leveraging support from tripartite constituents, IFIs, Development partners, brands and other stakeholders around a set of agreed priorities and means of implementation.
- 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. bgmea.com.bd.
Factory Service Update
- Better Work released a number of guidances including the COVID-19 Management Guidance document, HR Guidelines and the Transitions and Retrenchments Guidelines to help factories reduce the risk of coronavirus and take practical measures to navigate the disruptions caused by the crisis.
- Better Work Bangladesh’s in-person factory services are temporarily on hold, but all the services are being delivered virtually.
- In-person advisory visits have been replaced by tailored virtual advisory through video conferencing. Virtual visits include working with management and worker representatives. A total of 1,047 Virtual Advisory sessions were conducted from March to December 2020.
- A total of 72 (including 4 pilots) Virtual Compliance check sessions were conducted (September-December) to replace physical Assessments.
- The team is organising virtual industry seminars and trainings to provide factories with technical input and guidance.
- New training courses have been added to the Training Package to raise awareness of COVID-19 among workers and managers and build their capacity for effective preparedness and response.
- BWB’ COVID-19 Resource Hub offers useful guidelines, awareness materials and free training courses.
Additional Better Work Activities
- Over 250 RMG stakeholders including representatives from the government, employers’ and workers’ organizations, development partners, global brands and retailers, manufacturers, civil society and academia attended BWB’s virtual Business Forum on 28-29 October 2020.
- Trainings have been rolled out for all constituents under the Learning Hub, a comprehensive training initiative of the ILO led by Better Work Bangladesh to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in the RMG sector in Bangladesh.
- Better Work Bangladesh (BWB) has partnered with the Vision Zero Fund (VZF), situated within LABADMIN/OSH Department of the ILO, to provide Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) support to RMG factories in Bangladesh in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Webinars are being organised with the buyer partners every month to discuss COVID-19 response strategies and priorities, and share enterprise-level updates.
- The ILO joined a task force together with other UN agencies and BGMEA and interested buyers to support the production of medical grade 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.