Industry Update/National Response
May 2021: The government has extended the ongoing coronavirus lockdown to prevent further transmission of the disease in the wake of Eid celebrations. Public transport continues to operate within cities, but long-haul passenger transport services are on hold to stop the outbreak from spreading to rural areas. However, an exodus of people from cities to rural areas for Eid celebrations has stoked fears of a spike in coronavirus cases. All industries and factories are allowed to continue their operation following health guidelines. Shopping malls and stores are open until 9 pm. The Government resumed international commercial flights to and from a selected group of countries, with certain strict rules in place.
April 2021: Bangladesh went into lockdown amid a staggering rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths. However, factories will operate following health guidelines and the factory management will be responsible for ensuring and arranging workers’ transportation. Domestic and international flights are suspended. All kinds of transport (road, waterway, railway and domestic and international flights) are suspended with the exception of the transports carrying essential goods, production system and emergency services.
- Late March 2021: Around 5 million people have been vaccinated since the start of the vaccination programme on 7 February 2021. Bangladeshi health authorities have confirmed 605,937 COVID-19 cases and 8,994 deaths as of 31 March 2021. In light of the rising cases of Covid-19 in the country, the government has imposed a new set of restrictions, including a ban on all public gatherings in areas with high rate of infections. Garment factories continue to operate in line with health guidelines.
- 29 March 2021: Bangladesh has recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases in a day, 5,181, since the pandemic broke out in the country in March last year.
- February 2021: The government has decided to reopen the schools and colleges gradually from 30 March after a year of shutdown due to COVID-19.
- May 2020: The Government allowed the reopening of factories, private organisations, government offices and public transport services, ending 66 days of lockdown measures.
- April 2020: 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 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. 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.
- October 2020: 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 1,688Virtual Advisory sessions were conducted until 18 May 2021.
- A total of 123 Virtual Compliance check sessions were conducted (September 2020 – March 2021) 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
- Under the Learning Hub initiative, some 192 Master Trainers from BKMEA, BGMEA, Employee Associations (IBC/NCCWE), WRC (Workers Resource Centre), and Department of Labour engaged over 9000 worker and management representatives in 500 factories (beyond BWB partner factories) until April 2021 to support factories respond to the traditional and COVID-19 crisis more efficiently.
- 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.