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Authorities turn blind eye to public sufferings

Almost 90pc RMG workers, employees join work

Published : Monday, 2 August, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 593

Dhaka-bound passengers get down from a crowded ferryboat at Shimulia terminal on Sunday as people from the southern districts, including a large number of export-oriented factory workers, start for the capital after temporary lifting of      restriction on plying of inter-district water transport during the ongoing lockdown starting from July 23. 	PHOTO: OBSERVER

Dhaka-bound passengers get down from a crowded ferryboat at Shimulia terminal on Sunday as people from the southern districts, including a large number of export-oriented factory workers, start for the capital after temporary lifting of restriction on plying of inter-district water transport during the ongoing lockdown starting from July 23. PHOTO: OBSERVER

More than 90 per cent of readymade garments (RMG) workers and employees have already reached their workplaces by Sunday morning and attended their factories amid the strict lockdown.
Due to pressure of workers and employees returning to their workplaces, most highways across the country on Sunday faced huge traffic congestions for the rush of RMG workers carrying transports.
On July 30 (Friday), the Cabinet Division issued a notification lifting the restriction for the export-oriented factories after a meeting of the Cabinet Secretary with the business leaders, where they
    reiterated their demand for permission to operate factories amid the ongoing lockdown.
After the announcement was made, the country witnessed a mad rush of workers hitting roads to reach their respective workplaces in time despite the deteriorating Covid-19 situation in the country.
Thousands of workers on their way to workplaces had to bear endless sufferings after they got a notice from factory authorities on their mobile phones to join work.
Ignoring health and social distancing directives, hundreds of thousands of workers travelled in by goods transports, auto-rickshaws, rickshaw vans and even on foot to reach their workplaces in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur and other places to apparently save their jobs.
They had to pay five to 10-times higher fares to reach their destinations before their factories reopened. In such a long journey of hundreds of kilometers, the rain added to their misery.
Amid this situation, thousands of workers blocked the Dhaka-bound highway in Rangpur on Saturday failing to get vehicles to reach Dhaka under strict lockdown restrictions.
Under the circumstances, the government later allowed operation of all public transports till Sunday 12:00pm to facilitate carrying Dhaka-bound factory workers.
During this period, the authorities allowed to operate bus and launch services till 12:00pm on Sunday. However, operation of the transports will continue till 6:00am on Monday, the authorities ordered due to the pressure of passengers.
Though the BGMEA on Saturday gave announcement that the workers staying outside of their workplaces after enjoying Eid ul Azha holidays and due to strict lockdown need not join their jobs immediately, the mad rush could not be stopped as the workers were served messages earlier to attend workplaces on Sunday. At the same time, opening of public transports triggered the pace in the mad rush.
There was no coordination between the administration, law enforcement agencies and factory owners to bring the millions of workers back to their workplaces before giving announcement of opening factories. The lack of coordination also increased the sufferings of workers during the period.
On Sunday, the RMG owners and high officials of police claimed that almost all workers and employees would be able to attend their workplaces on Monday.
Though the millions of RMG workers had to face untold sufferings to return to their workplaces within a short time, the RMG owners have expressed satisfaction over the return of the workers. They haven't yet expressed their sorrow for the sufferings of the workers who are the key to run the factories.
BGMEA sources said RMG workers started returning to their workplaces from July 25 despite lack of transports as most factory owners asked them to return to workplaces before July 31 after Eid ul Azha vacation.
However, they were reluctant due to the ongoing strict lockdown.
A mad rush of returning to workplaces started from Friday evening following the government approval to allow all export-oriented industries, including the readymade garment sector, to resume production from August 1 amid the ongoing restriction.
According to industrial police sources and worker leaders, around 90 per cent of the workers and employees had already joined their works.
The rest would be able to join their factories by today (Monday) as the government had already allowed the transports to carry the workers until the pressure relieves.
In this situation, the RMG factory owners have expressed satisfaction at the attendance rate of workers which was over 90 per cent on average on Sunday.
BGMEA First Vice-President Syed Nazrul Isam on Sunday told reporters that that on average, about 90pc of workers and employees had joined the factories in the Dhaka and Chattogram region.
BGMEA Vice-President Shahidullah Azim said that 90 to 95 per cent workers have already joined the factories.
However, the rate of attendance was around 87pc in Narayanganj area amid the lockdown. At Adamjee EPZ the rate of attendance crossed 80pc on the day.
However, the BGMEA leader assured that there was no pressure of prompt joining from the owner's end amid the ongoing lockdown.
Several RMG factory owners claimed that the attendance rate was more than they had expected as on regular days more than five percent workers remain absent.
In a statement, BGMEA President Faruque Hassan on Sunday said that the RMG industry has resumed operations today. Production levels at many factories have significantly reduced alongside maintaining the health protocol standards. On the other hand, cost of operation had increased due to workers' transportation requirements, ensuring sanitisation, etc.
Moreover, many factories have developed a huge backlog of orders due to the recent mandatory country wide lockdown. Under the current circumstances, BGMEA has written to the buyers' representatives through buyers' forum in Bangladesh and individual buyers, requesting them not to penalize suppliers for any reasonable delays caused by the national lockdown, he added.
BGMEA President Faruque Hassan told reporters on Saturday that workers cannot be forced to return to work at a time when factories are set to open. Factories will be reopened with only workers living nearby.
While factories will reopen, they must strictly maintain all health protocols, including ensuring social distancing at entrances and exits too, he added.
Faruque also assured that workers will not lose their jobs if they fail to rejoin work during the lockdown, adding that once the lockdown is lifted workers can gradually return to work.
Starting from July 23, the factories were supposed to be closed till August 5 as part of the government's efforts to curb alarming spike in Covid-19 infections but following repeated demands from business leaders, the government decided to ease the restrictions from August 1.

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