Bangladesh has sought cooperation from the European Parliament for the restoration of apparel work orders, suspended or cancelled by various European brands and retailers after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Commerce (MoC) made the appeal on Wednesday since the work order cancellation or suspension has already unsettled the sector and forced many owners to lay off factories.
Several thousand poor workers lost their jobs in recent weeks, throwing their lives and livelihoods into dire uncertainty.
"I urge you…to take the initiatives to save the lives and livelihood of RMG workers, most of whom are women," commerce secretary Dr Jafar Uddin wrote in a letter to Bernd Lange, member of the European Parliament and chair of the committee of international trade.
He referred to a recent meeting of the committee, where Kathleen Van Brempt, a member of parliament, asked the trade commissioner what the EU will be doing about the cancellation of orders by the European brands, which have already been produced in countries like Bangladesh.
"Such unbearable and uncompassionate action by some European apparel businesses does not go with the idea of ethical and value-based trade as propagated by the EU," the secretary said.
Dr Jafar also said that Bangladeshi apparel factories have remained "trusted and dependable" partners and suppliers to the European apparel brands for many decades.
At present, some four million workers employed in Bangladeshi clothing factories are the "most vulnerable" in the apparel supply chain, he noted.
Until April 29, some 1,150 apparel factories reported order cancellation or suspension of products worth $3.18 billion, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association or BGMEA.
The Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association or BKMEA said its 523 members, out of 833, reported order suspension or cancellation of $1.78 billion.
First vice president of the BKMEA Mohammad Hatem told the FE on Thursday that factory owners are not hearing from the buyers about placing new orders or restoring the work orders, which were cancelled or put on hold.
"What we are doing now is making the shipment of the ready goods, which were produced before the buyers had started declaring work order cancellation or suspension," he said.
Many factories have raw materials and half-processed items worth millions of dollars on their premises. "The buyers are not saying anything about those. Those have become a big burden for us," said Mr Hatem.
Former BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman echoed, but appeared hopeful of receiving new orders from the buyers in the coming weeks.
"They did not respond positively until now. But we are hopeful of a turnaround soon," he told the FE.