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

The ready-made Garment (RMG) sector is the largest export industry in Bangladesh and contributes 84.21% of the country’s total export and 20% of the GDP. The export dropped to 85.252% in April 2020 and GDP is projected to drop by 3%. After debates over whether to open factories or not, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) decided to reopen factories partially from 26 April 2020 to save the economy, after publishing the factory opening guidelines on 25 April. The main concern was regarding adherence to the health-safety protocol. According to media sources, 97 RMG workers have been infected, of which 52% have been infected after the reopening, till 8 May. Besides the fear of infection and health safety, RMG workers are still struggling for their wages and against layoffs. 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). This brief covers the media reports on the current situation of the RMG sector during the period 16 April – 9 May 2020.

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