31 March, 2020ACT signatory brands have expressed their commitment to maintain responsible business practices and social dialogue with union representatives from IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), amid the corona virus outbreak.
In the majority of garment factories in Bangladesh, workers are yet to receive their due payments for March. Union leaders in the IBC stress that workers are vulnerable, as many factories are closing over fears of the virus outbreak, and in some cases laying off workers.
The IBC is urging brands to pay for orders that are wholly or partially completed, and if possible to consider paying in advance.
According to BGMEA, 907 million pieces of apparel worth US$2.87 billion have been cancelled or suspended by brands and buyers that source from Bangladesh. This has a direct impact on the 2.09 million workers in the country’s textile industry.
If brands don’t take ownership of items already produced and ready to be shipped and pay at least the production cost of orders in the process of being manufactured, it will be nearly impossible for employers to pay workers’ wages, according to the BGMEA.
The majority of the stores of the ACT brands, inlcuding H&M, Inditex, PVH, C&A, Primark, Next, Lidl, Tesco, Tchibo and others, are closed in Europe and North America, leading to liquidity crisis.
However, most agree in principle to pay for completed orders, and are discussing various incentive and stimulus packages for suppliers to ensure workers are paid.
The government of Bangladesh will make available 50 billion Bangladeshi Taka (US$581,000) late April. However, this will be enough to pay workers’ wages for one month and it is a loan, which the employers have to pay back with 2 per cent interest.
IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary, Apoorva Kaiwar, says:
“We would like a written agreement with trade unions on how the government’s allocated fund can be used for paying workers. We are also urging the brands to contribute to that fund.”