Although the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has assured that all the workers will get their wages for the month of April by May 20, leaders of garment workers have aired doubt over it saying the owners are yet to complete the process to receive loan from the stimulus package announced by the government.
Faisal Samad, senior vice-president of the BGMEA, the apex body of the country’s garment sector, said workers of garment factories have started receiving wages for last month (April) from May 7. "Hope, we’ll be able to complete the wage disbursement by May 20.”
He said owners have already started the process to avail themselves of the assistance from the stimulus package announced for the export-oriented industries to pay wages and allowances to the workers.
The government previously announced a Tk 5,000 crore stimulus package for the export-oriented industries in this regard.
Replying to a question, Faisal Samad said 40-60 factories, most of which are working on sub-contract, failed to pay wages for March due to inadequate fund but they will able to pay the wages before Eid as they (owners) have already applied for ‘disaster fund’ which is expected to be disbursed next week.
Asked about the wages of the workers staying in their respective village homes since the announcement of general holidays from March 26, the BGMEA senior Vice-president said almost all of them have already received wages for March through mobile banking system. They will get the wages for April the same way.
About Eid-bonus, he said their priority is to clear wages now.
Joly Talukder, general secretary of Garments Sramik Trade Union Kendro, told UNB that she has a doubt about the commitment the BGMEA leaders made over the payment of wages by May 20.
Referring to May-14 tripartite meeting with BGMEA leaders, union leaders and government representatives, Joly said BGMEA president Dr Rubana Huq informed the meeting that many owners were yet to start the process to get soft loan from the stimulus package.
“Around 500 owners are yet to complete the process. How’ll they pay the wages for the last month by May 20?” she was quoted as saying.
If the authorities concerned do not create pressure on them (RMG factory owners), they will not pay wages before Eid, Joly said.
When her attention was drawn to garment factory owners’ decision not to retrench workers until the Eid-ul-Fitr, she said around 40,000 workers have already been sacked since March 26.
Garments workers may take to the streets amid the risk of coronavirus transmission if they do not get wages timely, she said.
Workers in the labour-intensive garment sector are at the high risk of coronavirus infection since they work in close proximity to each other, health experts say. A number of RMG workers have already been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has so far reported 283 deaths and 18,863 coronavirus cases till Thursday.