Trade union leaders have demanded swift, transparent and inclusive implementation of the financial stimulus packages announced by the government to prevent adverse impact of coronavirus pandemic on Bangladesh’s RMG sector.
A study conducted by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) as part of its ‘Rapid Research Response to COVID-19’ revealed the information. The results of the research and recommendations were presented in a webinar organised by BIGD on Thursday.
While most trade union leaders praised the government's incentive packages as a timely move, they also questioned its adequacy.
The labour leaders say they think that it is possible to meet only 51 percent of the requirement for three months' wages through the announced packages.
One of the workers' leaders said small factories needed more cooperation although in reality larger factories are ahead in taking facilities from the government.
Bangladesh is the second-largest exporter of RMG products after China. The sector employs over four million workers, mostly women. The sector was hit hard after coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation or suspension of orders of more than $3 billion by buyers.
Bangladesh Bank Executive Director Dr Habibur Rahman said the announced Tk 5,000 cr package for the RMG sector is a form of loan which needs to be repaid eventually.
“As this has to be repaid there should be no misuse of the incentive. Risky and weak firms need to have regular activities and there should be proof that they have been paying the workers,” he said.
He also said that the amount of the stimulus packages can be increased if necessary.
“I think if everything is alright and the package is successfully distributed then it can be increased if necessary,” he said, noting that speedy implementation is dependent on other parties involved.
BIGD Research Lead Maheen Sultan presented the research data. He said the incentive amount will not be enough to pay the salaries and allowances of all workers.
She noted that due to employers' anti-labour sentiments and their misuse of government incentives in the past, RMG workers have lost faith.
BIGD put forward a set of proposals to ensure that the stimulus package announced become more worker-friendly which includes the revision of the incentive plan to improve inclusiveness; revision of operational guidelines to ensure prompt disbursement; activate the Tripartite Consultative Council (TCC) for the RMG sector for effective monitoring.
The webinar, hosted by BIGD Executive Director Imran Matin, featured Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation General Secretary Babul Akter, Awaaz Foundation Founder and Executive Director Nazma Akhter and Bangladesh Garments Sramik Shanghati President Taslima Akter among others.