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

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. Exports dropped to 85.252% in April 2020 and 62% in May 2020 compared to the same period last year and GDP is projected to drop by 3% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some factories have been shut down permanently leaving thousands of workers jobless. After a month’s closure, RMG factories started functioning from the end of April 2020 following health safety guidelines but concerns remain about workers’ health and safety. Workers not receiving their due and full wages remain an issue and workers’ protests and demonstrations for full wages for the month of April and 100% festival bonus in May continued during the reporting period, although trade union representatives had agreed to employers and government proposals. In the meantime, BGMEA and the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) have engaged with several international rights groups and in international negotiations respectively to revive the industry from the massive fallout. BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) has undertaken a media tracking exercise to understand the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the readymade garments industry and the 4.1 million workers it employs, the 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 GoB. The report covers media reports on the current situation of the RMG sector during COVID-19. The third instalment covers the period 10 – 30 May 2020.

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