Readymade garment (RMG) exporters say they will run factories at full capacity, maintaining health guidelines, despite the government's recent directive to reduce the workforce in all organisations by half amid the surge in Covid-19 infections and deaths.
Expressing concern over the government directive, they say full-fledged factory operations are needed to ship goods on time in order to avoid possible order cancellations or deferred payments.
In a letter to KM Abdus Salam, secretary to the labour ministry, on Thursday, exporters said factories would continue production at full capacity following health safety protocols.
The letter signed by Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Dr Rubana Huq said the RMG industry had started reviving after the first wave of Covid-19 and if the latest government directive was complied with, they would miss shipment deadlines, which would lead to big losses.
BGMEA Director Rezwan Selim, who is responsible for monitoring workers' issues, said they had already instructed all the member factories to maintain health guidelines.
"Workers have to use face masks, undergo temperature checks while entering factories, and wash hands and use hand sanitiser. They also have to maintain social distancing not only in the workplace but also while entering and leaving factories," he added.
The BGMEA letter said the factories were able to keep the Covid-19 infection rate below 0.03% among RMG workers during the first wave as health guidelines had been maintained.
It said work orders had fallen by 30-40% due to the second wave of the pandemic in the West and buyers were creating pressure to promptly deliver the existing orders.
'Another stimulus needed'
Faruque Hassan, panel leader of the Sammilita Parishad for the next BGMEA polls, said the second wave had hit the RMG industry hard and the sector needed another stimulus package and policy support from the government.
"The second and third waves began in Europe and the US in December last year. The situation there is still concerning and that is why we are now in the middle of a perfect storm.
"Moreover, we are facing order cancellations, suspension of spring/summer shipments, and reduced orders for autumn/winter season. We normally work on autumn/winter orders from April onwards," he told The Business Standard.
"This is disrupting the financial cycle of the RMG sector. In this situation, stimulus is a must to overcome the obstacles and stay afloat," said Faruque.
He further said they would work with the government to restructure or refinance the existing loans, to get fresh working capital loans at a favourable interest rate, and to introduce a special loan scheme for small and medium factories.
"Our goal is to weather the storm and make sure that factories do not face closure. If we can survive another six months without closing factories, we can recover and further grow business. We are very confident about that," added the BGMEA leader.