As many factories have not made any arrangements for their transportation and the public transports services are suspended due to strict lockdown, most of the garment workers have to walk to their workplaces.
At present, more than 40 lakh workers are working in ready-made garment factories. 81.1 per cent of workers walk to workplaces, 5.6 per cent go by non-motorised vehicles, 7.3 per cent go by buses, and the rest use other types of motorised vehicles – according to a recent survey by the Asian Center for Development (ACD).
However, industry insiders stated most of the garment workers live near the factories and they have always been walking to their workplaces, so they are not facing many problems amid the strict lockdown.
On the other hand, the experts said the authorities concerned should provide the workers with safe and hygienic transportation systems, otherwise ensuring hygiene at the factories will be useless. Besides, the workers should be vaccinated against Covid-19 to ensure smooth operation of the factories.
Sirajul Islam Rony, president of the Bangladesh National Garments Workers Employees League, said, “Workers who live nearby have no problem coming to the factory, but those who live far away face problems. Now they have to come by rickshaws as there is no public transport.”
“The workers are going to the factories by managing their own means of transport. The factory owners did not make arrangements which they were supposed to make for the workers’ transportation. We want the factories to operate following the hygiene rules,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Faruque Hassan said, “We have seen that those who live near the factories are our workers. Around 80 per cent of the workers live near the factories. They are accustomed to going to the factories on foot, which is good for us.”
Faruque Hassan also said, “We have divided the time for the workers to enter the factory. Earlier, all the workers entered the factory at 8 am. Now we have arranged their entry times as 7:30 am, 8 am, 8:30 am, so they can enter the factory and wash their hands according to the hygiene rules.”
“The lunchtime has also been divided. We also separated the times of ending the shifts. We have also made it compulsory for everyone to wear a mask. We measure everyone’s temperature. We have kept 3-meter distance from one machine to another,” the BGMEA president continued.
“We are following strict hygiene rules inside the factories. Most of our workers are aged below 30. We could say that there have been almost no Covid-19 infections among the workers in the last 10 months,” he added.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, former president of BGMEA and president of the Exporters Association of Bangladesh (EAB), said, “Most of the workers live in the vicinity of the factory. Some factories have their own transportation system for those who come from far away. There are also the mid-level officers including the merchandiser, production manager who come and go in their own cars.”
Health and Hope Hospital Chairman Dr Lelin Chowdhury opined, “People who stay together must wear masks. When working in a factory, it is best to have six feet distance between the workers, but if that is not possible at least three feet distance should be maintained.
“The transport in which the workers will be brought should not be crowded. We have seen in various studies that public transport is a major cause of Covid-19 spread. Following health rules is necessary now, and it should start at the transportation systems,” said Dr Lelin.
Chairman of Health and Hope Hospital, Dr Lelin Chowdhury said, “Vaccine should be provided on special consideration to the workers who stay together for a lengthy period of time.”
Again, a recent paper titled “Post Covid-19 sustainability challenges for readymade garments (RMG) industry: A study on Bangladesh” has been published on 26th April (Monday) said workers had to put their lives at stake on returning to their residences where they have to live in congested spaces and where ensuring social distancing is difficult.
The paper is co-authored by Swadip Bhattacharjee, an assistant professor of the University of Chittagong, and freelance writer Arjita Saha.
The researchers recommended Bangladesh’s RMG industries need green industrialisation as a huge amount of energy was used here for lighting and other maintenance purposes.
Implementation of advanced technologies is required to set up sustainable industrialisation, according to the study.
Shuvra Dey Babu, leader of one of the merchandising teams at Beximco Industrial Park said, “When they go home and use common bathrooms, sit and eat in common places and use common transport, the risk of infection of coronavirus remains.”
“From that point of view, it is very difficult for them to follow the rules of hygiene and physical distancing,” he added.