A recent report found that Bangladeshi RMG workers suffered a 35% pay cut during the unofficial lockdown months throughout 2020.
It also highlighted that many thousands of workers lost jobs and depleted their savings without having a safety net to fall back on, reads a press release.
The report, titled "The Weakest Link in the Global Supply Chain: How the Pandemic is Affecting Bangladesh's Garment Workers", was launched by Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies, UC Berkeley, in collaboration with the Institute for Human Rights and Business, with support from UNDP Bangladesh and the Government of Sweden on Thursday.
As Bangladesh's second lockdown is underway, the findings of the report offer a cautionary tale on how brands and supply chains should respond.
During the launch event, Labour and Employment Secretary KM Abdus Salam in his remarks as the chief guest, said, "The government has taken strong measures to ensure health safety in the workplace, particularly in the RMG sector, to continue the production in the industry as well as to safeguard the Welfare of the workers' group. We also need to develop OHS culture which can create a brand image and goodwill."
UNDP Bangladesh Resident Representative Sudipto Mukerjee said, "We need a fundamental mind shift in terms of the role and responsibilities of the business sector. If we want to reverse pernicious trends that have offset much of the pre-Covid progress made in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we must commit ourselves to tackle the crisis head-on and to do so together."
"With support from the government of Bangladesh, we have taken a number of steps in ensuring the safety of garments works during Covid-19 pandemic including the establishment of isolation centres, PCR lab among others," said BGMEA President Faruque Hassan.
The report is drawn from in-depth interviews conducted between October 2020 and February 2021 with senior executives from international brands, Bangladeshi suppliers, representatives of the international civil society, and Bangladeshi labour activists.
It sought to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry and the workers, and it proposes changes to policies and practices that can lead to long-term changes that would benefit global retailers, suppliers, and workers.