Tracking Media Coverage of Women Trade Union Leaders During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the ready-made garment industry and garment workers’ livelihoods. USD 3.16 billion worth of orders for 1,140 factories were cancelled, according to the BGMEA, affecting approximately 2.3 million workers, leading to them being sent home without pay and job loss for thousands of workers in the six months between March through August. To better understand the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the ready-made garments industry and the 4.1 million workers it employs, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development undertook a media tracking exercise. The tracking exercise sought to analyze the roles of different actors, including trade unions and workers’ rights activists, as they navigate the crisis while dealing with international buyers, ready-made garment owners and the government. The media tracking followed coverage by print and online media on the situation of the readymade garment sector during COVID-19, with a special focus on female-led trade union activities. The tracking began on 15 March and ended on 15 August 2020. The study found that female trade union leaders fought for factory closures to protect workers from mass infection at the beginning of the pandemic in Bangladesh. The end of the lockdown and reopening of the factories brought their own set of challenges. COVID-19 infection among ready-made garment workers increased, and there were reports of an increasing number of worker terminations, retrenchment and layoffs. Workers and trade union leaders had no other choice but to organize rallies, human chains and sit-ins to claim their jobs and livelihood security while the virus infection was still at large.

Authors: Antara, Iffat Jahan
Type: Report
Year: 2020