Rights groups demand safe transportation of garment workers

FE REPORT | Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Two local rights groups on Monday put stress on transportation of millions of garment workers during the ongoing lockdown amid the spike in Covid-19 casualties.

They called for the government and the factory owners to ensure health safety of the sewing machinists.

The groups alleged that most factories were not compliant with the government's instruction to do so, thus putting the workers' health at risk.

They made a six-point demand separately, urging not to lay off factories and no termination of workers.

The rights bodies sought full payment of wages and festival allowances ahead of Eid.

Their demands included providing incentive and risk allowance to the workers who are running production of factories amid the lockdown, risking their lives.

Sammilita Garments Sramik Federation (SGSF) in a letter to labour secretary said the government put factories out of lockdown followed by owners' plea without any consultation with worker representatives.

A majority of garment factories did not arrange transportation for their respective workers during the week-long hard lockdown from April 14, the letter said.

They rather put pressure on workers to join factories by paying four times more transport fare, it added.

"As a result, there are crowds of workers to join factories with their health safety at risk," SGSF president Nazma Akter cited in the letter.

Health safety was being scantily maintained during workers' entry and exit to and from factories and three-feet distancing also being flouted, she alleged.

The unionist exhorted the owners to ensure transport for workers and provide transport allowance in case of their failure to provide vehicles for workers.

Ms Akter also called for strict monitoring at workplaces to see whether factories were strictly maintaining health-safety measures during entry and exit and distancing inside the units.

On the other hand, the Bangladesh Garment Workers' Solidarity in a statement also made six demands that included ensuring transport, incentive and risk allowance for workers.

Both the rights groups demanded measures to test and vaccinate workers, arrangement of sufficient isolation centres, field hospitals and health cards for workers.

They suggested constituting teams with worker representatives and doctors to monitor health safety at factory level.

They also pleaded with the owners not to terminate any worker, cut wages and festival allowance during this trying time.

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