Nearly 100 textiles and clothing factories were open on Tuesday, defying industry lobby groups' decision on the closure until April 14, part of the national attempt to slow the spread of virus, police said.
Even more, fewer than 300 garment factories paid wages for the last month and other allowances until Tuesday.
On Monday, after a meeting of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, BGMEA, and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, BKMEA, reached a decision to shut plants in line with the countrywide lockdown. The Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, or BTMA, also followed suit.
The trade groups requested their members to pay workers' monthly wages and other allowances by April 16.
Commerce minister Tipu Munshi on Tuesday also asked factory owners not to terminate any workers and clear wages and other allowances by April 16.
Insiders said a total of 546 industrial units, including 98 textile and apparel were open out of the 7,602 factories located in six industrial zones.
Ashulia, Gazipur, Chattogram, Narayanganj, Khulna and Mymensingh zones are overseen by the Industrial Police.
Of the textile and readymade garment units, 54 are registered with the BGMEA, 10 with the BKMEA and 34 with the BTMA.
Only factories making personal protective equipment (PPE) and having urgent shipments can continue operations after complying with health and safety requirements in consultation with the police and the state-run Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, according to the trade bodies.
Out of 1,882 BGMEA-affiliated member factories, 186 paid wages and other allowances, police said.
Some 57 and 46 member factories of the BKMEA and the BTMA paid March wages and other allowances out of 1,101 and 388 units respectively.
Out of 364 factories regulated by the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority, some 121 paid wages.
Additionally, 614 non-textile factories out of 3,867 overseen by industrial police also made payment to their workers.
Trade unions are irked by the decision to keep the factories open. Nazma Akter, a laobur leader, reiterated the demands for closure of all factories, wage payment and Eid bonus and other equivalent payments during the closure.
"If garment workers are infected with coronavirus, brands, companies and suppliers should take the responsibility for putting their lives at risk," she added.
She alleged many workers have lost their jobs and when workers raised their voice for safety and protection from Covid-19, factories blacklisted them and forced them to sign different documents.
Meantime, the BGMEA on Tuesday, in a letter to central bank, sought its support for the payment of March wages.
The BGMEA president Dr Rubana Huq said due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, global buyers have suspended or put on hold current orders and delayed the shipment and slashed future orders.
"As a result, our business has been hampered, resulting in a negative impact on export growth," she said, citing data that showed shipment shrank by 30 per cent in March'20 compared with March '19.
Last month, production was affected due to the disruption in supply chain, she said, calling for measures from the central bank so that banks can reduce documentation requirement for wage payment.
Between 10 and 15 per cent of smaller plants affiliated with the BGMEA failed to export from March 15 and might not get overdraft facility or anything from the banks to pay salaries, she said, urging the central bank to consider their case.