Phase I: Media Tracking of COVID-19 Crisis Impact on RMG Wages and Employment and Role of Trade Unions

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world economy and consequently on the apparel sector in Bangladesh is devastating. Data from Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) shows that $3.16 billion worth of orders were cancelled from 1140 factories from mid-March till 16 April 2020, affecting approximately 2.26 million workers, leading to many workers being sent home without pay. According to the Economic Times, by 25 March 2020, almost 1 million workers had lost their jobs. BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) has undertaken a media tracking exercise to understand the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the ready-made Garments (RMG) industry and the 4.1 million workers it employs, majority of whom are women. The study attempts to identify the roles of different actors including trade unions and workers’ rights activists as they navigate the crisis while dealing with international buyers, RMG owners, and the Government of Bangladesh (GoB). The findings of the study include- the closing of factories and job losses due to order cancellations triggered by the Corona outbreak in other countries, lack of consensus regarding factory closures within trade unions and RMG owners causing uncertainty amongst workers, wage payments delayed, among others. The study concludes by stating some recommendations, one of which stated that clear and unambiguous decisions and instructions should be taken about factory closure and opening, with adequate health and safety measures established for workers in open factories.

Author: Antara, Iffat Jahan
Type: Research Update
Year: 2020