Hide Message

Updating the Resource Centre Digital Platform

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is at a critical point in its development. Our digital platform is home to a wealth of information on business and human rights, but hasn’t had a visual refresh for a number of years.

We will soon be updating the site to improve its usability and better serve the thousands of people that use our site to support their work.

Please take an advance peek at our new look, and let us know what you think!

Thank you,
Alex Guy, Digital Officer

Find Out More Hide Message

Bangladesh: Garment workers at risk of COVID-19 infection as factories supplying to major brands reopen, against Health Ministry advice

Thousands of garment workers have returned to work across Bangladesh amid the nationwide COVID-19 shutdown as RMG factories begin to reopen to resume production, raising concerns over the risk of infection to both workers and communities. Hundreds of factories have been allowed to reopen, against advice from the Ministry of Health that all factories - except those producing personal protective equipment - should remain closed until 5 May.

Although the Bangladesh Manufacturers and Exporters Association has advised factories to only engage workers living nearby, unions say some factories have requested workers who had returned to their hometowns to resume work and job insecurity and concerns over payment of wages has made it difficult for workers to refuse. Reports are emerging that many factories do not have adequate safety measures to protect workers against the risk of infection. Meanwhile, thousands of workers continue to protest over unpaid wages after brands and retailers cancelled orders and delayed payments to their suppliers in response to the pandemic.

Factories have said they need to reopen as they are under pressure to complete and ship orders to meet deadlines. According to publicly available supplier lists and media reports, companies sourcing from the factories now re-opening include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, C&A and Primark.

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

15 May 2020

Bangladesh: Over 100 garment workers reportedly test positive for COVID-19 amid concerns over lack of health & hygiene protocols

Author: The Financial Express

"Most RMG factories fall short of reopening criteria as virus lockdown unwinds", 13 May 2020

Bangladesh has gradually rolled back the lockdown restrictions despite an escalating coronavirus outbreak, allowing garment factories to reopen on a limited scale... subject to their compliance with health and safety guidelines to reduce the risk of contagion among workers.

Nevertheless, the health and hygiene protocols set out by apparel exporters' lobby BGMEA and other owners' associations were not implemented in most of the cases initially.

Apart from healthy workers, even those who had been infected with the novel coronavirus were eager to return to work once the factories began opening in phases...

“We went through the media reports and found that more than one hundred workers have been infected with COVID-19 until now...” Taslima Akhter, president of Shramik Sanghati Andolon, told bdnews24.com. She pointed to the failure of factories to enforce the safety protocols as infected workers were allowed to stream back into work...

Read the full post here

11 May 2020

Bangladesh: Garment workers left at risk as factories open without social distancing and adequate protection measures

Author: Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Redwan Ahmed, The Guardian

“Bangladesh garment factories reopen despite coronavirus threat to work”, 11 May 2020

Workers in garment factories in Bangladesh, which have reopened despite a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, have said their lives are being put at risk as they are forced to return to work in cramped conditions where mask-wearing and physical distancing are not enforced.

Directives by the Bangladesh government stated that garment factories … would be allowed to resume operations … if they maintain physical distancing and the ban on public transportation.

… [W]orkers … said … no physical distancing measures had been enforced inside the factories. Overcrowded buses were bringing them into work…

… [T]he garment … has been hit brutally by coronavirus, already losing $3.5bn in cancelled or suspended clothing orders from brands including Topshop, Asda, Urban Outfitters, Sports Direct, New look and Peacocks in the past two months.

The financial brunt of the cancellations and withheld payments has been borne by the workers, with more than 150,000 denied their wages in March…

It was this pressure to revive the garment industry … that led to the decision to reopen the factories at the end of April…

But Sarwer Hossain, a workers’ rights leader … said the decision to reopen the factories without enforcing proper safety measures was putting the lives of hundreds of thousands of garment workers, their families and communities in grave danger.

Read the full post here

4 May 2020

Bangladesh: Labour advocates warn of insufficient health protections for workers as up to 2,000 garment factories resume production

Author: Julhas Alam, WJAC

"Bangladesh factories resume work, risking new virus cases", 1 May 2020

... An industry group said about 850 factories are operating with fewer workers than usual and following safety guidelines. Labor advocates say not enough is being done to ensure safety for the 4 million workers in Bangladesh's roughly 4,000 garment factories.

The number of factories that have reopened is in dispute. Activists and analysts said Friday about 2,000 garment factories have restarted production...

"Who will take the responsibility if hundreds of workers become ill?" said Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity...

Read the full post here

1 May 2020

Bangladesh: Labour leader warns of putting profits before garment workers' health as factories reopen without adequate protections

Author: Nazma Akhter, The Daily Star

“‘The risks are grave. We don’t want to go back to work right away.’”, 01 May 2020

[T]his May Day we … are … fighting COVID-19, which has led to hundreds of thousands of workers losing their jobs, losing their pay and fighting with police and factory owners.

… [W]e are demanding job security and social protection, the payment of wages and proper social distancing. Many [workers] have still not been paid for March …

[I]t is much too soon to open factories, but the pressure on us is immense and the government has instructed us to reopen.

Brands are also pushing as some stores in America and Europe are starting to reopen ….

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association has asked for our support to open the factories.

The consequences of putting competitiveness and profit before workers' health are too grave…

There is no respect, there is no dignity and there is no legal protection.

… [C]ompanies who promised accidents like the Rana Plaza collapse will never happen again … are asking us to reopen factories and risk our lives.

Workers … do not want to go back to work at this moment like they had said just before the Rana Plaza disaster when the building's owners ignored warnings to avoid using the building after cracks had appeared the day before.

Read the full post here

28 April 2020

Bangladesh garment factories reopen, defying virus lockdown

Author: Bangkok Post

27 April 2020

...  Hundreds of Bangladesh's garment factories defied a nationwide coronavirus lockdown... [to reopen] raising fears the industry's vulnerable and largely female workforce could be exposed to the contagion...

Factories shut their doors in late March but some suppliers said they were now being pushed by retailers to fulfill outstanding export orders... MB Knit company had reopened part of a factory that makes clothing for Britain's Primark and several other retailers...

Mofazzal Hossain said he felt compelled to return to his factory, where he earns $115 a month. "The fear of coronavirus is there," he told AFP. "But I am now more worried about losing my job, wages and benefits."..

Labour rights leaders said they were fearful the return to work could spark an explosion of Covid-19 cases. "Its impact could be worse than Rana Plaza," said activist Kalpona Akter...

Read the full post here

28 April 2020

Bangladesh: 500+ garment factories reopen amid COVID-19 risks

Author: Moinul Haque & Rashad Ahamad, NewAge

"Over 500 RMG units reopen in Bangladesh amid coronavirus risks", 27 April 2020

...Though the government extended the general holiday till May 5, it allowed factories to reopen on a limited scale, spurring a huge influx of people into the COVID-19 hotspots including Dhaka, Narayanganj and Gazipur...

Meanwhile, as uncertainty looms over jobs and wages, workers of apparel factories in... Ashulia and in Gazipur continued demonstrations for wages and reinstatement of laid off workers...

Trade union leaders alleged... the factory authorities asked many workers to join work... though they were now in their village homes. They said that workers were in uncertainty over their jobs and payment of wages as they believed that they would not get the wage... if they remained absent...

BGMEA official said that approximately 502 member factories of the trade body reopened on Sunday...

Bangladesh Institute of Planners in a statement expressed concerns over the decision of opening of the factories and said that it would increase the health risk for workers as well as the general people...

Read the full post here

28 April 2020

Bangladesh: Garment manufacturers association issues timetable to reopen factories

Author: The Daily Star

"BGMEA issues reopen timetable", 26 April 2020

Ignoring the risks of contracting and spreading the coronavirus, hundreds of garment factory workers left their villages... to join work in Dhaka and its outskirts... after a section of owners announced that they would open the factories...

[T]he Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) directed all of its members not to ask their workers, who are currently at their villages, to return to Dhaka until a concrete decision was taken about reopening of factories.

"To keep the economy running and considering the overall situation, the BGMEA will advise you on opening of factories," it said in a general directive to its members... [T]he association advised asking only the workers who are living near the factories to join the factories...

"We don't want to lose our job. I wish the management provided us with transport," garment worker Aysha Begum [said]...

Meanwhile... 1,000 workers... took to the street... demanding three months arrears...

Read the full post here

28 April 2020

Coronavirus hotspot Narayanganj reopens 191 factories raising escalation risks in Bangladesh

Author: bdnews24.com

27 April 2020

... Narayanganj, one of the worst-hit coronavirus hotspots in Bangladesh, has resumed operations at 191 factories amid the nationwide shutdown designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 outbreak... 

[A] worker of Hong Kong-based garment manufacturing unit Epic, said the workers were undergoing temperature check at the entrance. Disinfectants were also sprayed and they were maintaining a proper distance from each other. More than 8,000 workers are employed in the factory and over 600 of them rejoined work... 

Read the full post here