Webinar: COVID-19 Impact on RMG Sector and the Financial Stimulus Package

View the webinar deck here

The RMG industry in Bangladesh is facing a serious crisis because of COVID-19, with virtual freeze on new business and mass cancelation of existing orders, leading to a wave of job losses and unrest amongst workers, who are demanding the closure of factories and payment of due wages. Trade unions have been vocal about workers’ rights to wages and job security amidst the crisis. The first financial stimulus package announced by the Government on March 25th 2020 to cover workers’ wages, was aimed at the RMG export sector. BIGD has conducted a rapid qualitative study through in-depth telephone interviews to understand the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the RMG industry and the 4.1 million workers it employs, through the lens of the trade union leaders, and to identify their role in negotiating with different industry actors to mitigate the crisis.

The findings and recommendations were presented in a webinar titled “COVID-19 Impact On RMG Sector and the Financial Stimulus Package“. The session was presented by Maheen Sultan, Senior Fellow of Practice, BIGD, and moderated by Dr Imran Matin, Executive Director, BIGD. The research team consisted of Maheen Sultan, Md Shanawez Hossain, Mohammad Sirajul Islam, Kabita Chowdhury, Jannatun Naim, Farah Huq from BIGD.

Babul Akhtar, General Secretary, Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF); Najma Akhter, Founder and President of Sommilito Garment Sramik Federation, and Founder and Executive Director of Awaj Foundation; and Taslima Akhter, President, Bangladesh Garment Sramik Sanghati, and Photographer, participated as speakers of the event and represented different trade unions and associations. Furthermore, government representatives included Dr Mohd Habibur Rahman, Executive Director, Bangladesh Bank; and Mustafizur Rahman, Deputy Inspector General, Department for Inspection of Factories and Establishments (DIFE). Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, Director, BKMEA and Proprietor & CEO, Fatullah Apparels represented factory owners at the webinar.

The research respondents believed that the COVID-19 situation and the industry’s collective response put factory workers at the risk of exposure to the virus, and that unpaid wages and job insecurity induced by layoff notices has put the workers under huge psychological stress and financial suffering. The survey respondents also expressed concern regarding the design and implementation of the financial stimulus package, especially in regards to the adequacy of the amount and the possibility of excluding smaller factories.