IndustriALL Global Union, an international labour rights group, has requested Bangladesh's government ensure the immediate distribution of relief to ready-made garment (RMG) industry workers who have lost their jobs amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a letter sent to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on April 30, the organisation also urged the government to ensure that RMG industry workers are paid their salaries and Eid bonuses by May 15.
Urging the prime minister to immediately address the health, safety, economic and social impact of the Covid-19 on workers, the organisation's General Secretary Valter Sanches said, "We wish to encourage you to set up a tripartite committee to monitor and assess the situation and recommend steps as needed."
The organisation also requested the prime minister discuss ways to tackle the ongoing crisis with trade unions in Bangladesh, including the affiliates of the IndustriALL Global Union, represented by the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council.
In the letter, Sanches said, "We congratulate Bangladesh's government for having taken action to stop the spread of the disease."
"However, the confusion caused by conflicting messages by the RMG industry over the opening of factories has led to an unprecedented number of workers having to walk to Dhaka from neighbouring districts in the absence of public transportation," he continued.
He added, "A number of factories, including the chemical and RMG sectors have started production. It is now of the utmost importance that health and safety measures be followed so that workers' lives and health are not put in danger."
The IndustriALL general secretary stated, "We urge you to ensure that factory owners provide hand sanitiser, soap, and PPE for workers called back for work. In case workers are diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, their treatment must be provided free of cost."
Noting that several factories declared lay-offs despite the shutdown being declared at the same time, IndustriALL expressed concerns that there will be large scale retrenchment across sectors.
"We urge the government to intervene and ensure that no worker in any industry is laid-off, retrenched, or fired during the period of March 25 – April 25," said Sanches, adding, "We urge you to make sure that all workers in all sectors are paid their wages for March and April."
Protesting the authorities' decision to pay 60 percent of the salaries of RMG workers who were unable to work at factories in April due to the pandemic shutdown, Sanches said no deductions should be made, either in the name of lay-off wages or other reasons, as there was a shutdown declared by the government.
IndustriALL represents more than fifty million workers in the mining, energy and manufacturing industries – as well as the ready-made garment industry – in over 140 countries.