- 81.1% of workers walk to workplaces
- 5.6% go by non-motorised vehicles
- 7.3% go by buses
- The rest use other types of motorised vehicles
- Most workers live near factories, so they face no problem
- Workers living far away from factories face problems to commute
- The factory owners were supposed to arrange transports for the workers, but they did not
- Ensuring hygiene at factories may not be effective in controlling Covid-19 without ensuring hygienic transportations system for workers
The government has imposed a strict lockdown to curb the Covid-19 infections, but allowed the garment factories to operate, while suspended the public transports.
So, most garment workers have to walk to their workplaces as many factory owners did not make any arrangements for their transportation.
People involved in this sector said most of the garment workers live near the factories and they have always been walking to their workplaces, so they are not facing many problems amid the strict lockdown.
However, the experts said the authorities concerned should provide the workers with safe and hygienic transportation systems, otherwise ensuring hygiene at the factories will be useless. Besides, the workers should be vaccinated against Covid-19 to ensure smooth operation of the factories.
According to a recent survey by the Asian Center for Development (ACD), 81.1% of workers walk to workplaces, 5.6% go by non-motorised vehicles, 7.3% go by buses, and the rest use other types of motorised vehicles. Currently, more than 40 lakh workers are working in ready-made garment factories.
Sirajul Islam Rony, president of the Bangladesh National Garments Workers Employees League, told The Business Standard, "Workers who live nearby have no problem coming to the factory, but those who live far away face problems. Now they have to come by rickshaws as there is no public transport."
"The workers are going to the factories by managing their own means of transport. The factory owners did not make arrangements which they were supposed to make for the workers' transportation. We want the factories to operate following the hygiene rules," he added.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Faruque Hassan told TBS, "We have seen that those who live near the factories are our workers. Around 80% of the workers live near the factories. They are accustomed to going to the factories on foot, which is good for us."
Relevant sources said the factories have made arrangements so that the workers can enter the factories in a hygienic manner. The factory authorities have created a schedule, so the workers come to the factory in several phases, not all at once like they did earlier.
Faruque Hassan said, "We have divided the time for the workers to enter the factory. Earlier, all the workers entered the factory at 8 am. Now we have arranged their entry times as 7:30 am, 8 am, 8:30 am, so they can enter the factory and wash their hands according to the hygiene rules."
"The lunchtime has also been divided. We also separated the times of ending the shifts. We have also made it compulsory for everyone to wear a mask. We measure everyone's temperature. We have kept 3 meter distance from one machine to another," the BGMEA president continued.
"We are following strict hygiene rules inside the factories. Most of our workers are aged below 30. We could say that there have been almost no Covid-19 infections among the workers in the last 10 months," he added.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, former president of BGMEA and president of the Exporters Association of Bangladesh (EAB), said, "Most of the workers live in the vicinity of the factory. Some factories have their own transportation system for those who come from far away. There are also the mid-level officers including the merchandiser, production manager who come and go in their own cars."
Murshedy further said, "We have taken all the necessary measures to follow the hygiene rules. We will not leave out any of the government instructions. We are ensuring our workers' safety."
Health and Hope Hospital Chairman Dr Lelin Chowdhury told TBS, "People who stay together must wear masks. When working in a factory, it is best to have six feet distance between the workers, but if that is not possible at least three feet distance should be maintained.
"The transport in which the workers will be brought should not be crowded. We have seen in various studies that public transport is a major cause of Covid-19 spread. Following health rules is necessary now, and it should start at the transportation systems," said Dr Lelin.
Demanding that workers should be vaccinated quickly, Dr Lelin Chowdhury said, "Vaccine should be provided on special consideration to the workers who stay together for a lengthy period of time."