COVID-19 Impact on RMG Sector and the Financial Stimulus Package: Trade Union Responses

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent order cancellations from international buyers, the RMG sector of Bangladesh and its 4.1 million workers are suffering. On 25 March 2020, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh announced a fiscal stimulus of BDT 50 billion for export-oriented industries, primarily the RMG sector. It was the first stimulus package announced by the government to support approximately a million RMG workers who by then had lost their jobs as a fall-out from order cancellations/deferrals, as well as the workers who were anticipated to be affected because of the unrest amongst the workers demanding the closure of factories amidst fears of contagion and payment of due wages. Trade unions (TUs) have been vocal about workers’ rights to wages and job security amidst this crisis. As a part of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD)’s Rapid Research Response to COVID-19 initiative, a study was undertaken 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 TU leaders, and to identify the role of the TUs in negotiating the rights of the workers with different industry actors during the crisis. The study also examined the perspectives of TU leaders on the design and implementation of the financial stimulus package and its impact on the RMG workers. In-depth qualitative interviews with 20 TU leaders were conducted for this study—10 female and 10 male members from plant-based unions and national federations of different political affiliations. In addition, secondary data, including the guidelines for the stimulus, was collected from research reports, newspapers, and other printed and digital sources.

Authors: Sultan, Maheen; Hossain, Md Shanawez; Islam, Mohammad Sirajul; Chowdhury, Kabita; Naim, Jannatun; Huq, Farah
Type: Summary Brief
Year: 2020