Factory owners resist calls for production shutdown amid coronavirus threat

  • Faysal Atik, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-03-24 13:31:09 BdST

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Industry leaders do not want to shut down factories as a measure to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, so they are waiting for government directives on workers and factories.

On Monday, the government declared the shutdown of all government and private offices and courts from March 26 to April 4 amid mounting fears of the coronavirus that infected 33 people and killed three in Bangladesh.

The workers are flooding out of cities towards their homes after the announcement. Whether this fuels the spread of the virus has been brought into question.

Some owners said they are taking steps to ensure the well-being of the workers.

There are 41 manufacturing sectors in Bangladesh, including the garment industry, processed foods, plastic products and footwear. The garment industry alone employs more than four million workers. How these workers, along with workers in other sectors, will get about their livelihoods after the government’s decision on Monday is also part of the larger concern.

BGMEA President Rubana Huq said, “Every factory owner will decide themselves on shutting the plants. Or the government will provide a guideline. BGMEA is not an authority who can give the decision on this.”

The Ministry of Labour and Employment called meetings twice on Saturday and Sunday over the present situation. In these meetings, owners, workers and the government have all agreed to keep the factories open.

However, some garment labour leaders have been pushing for the immediate shutdown of factories due to health concerns.

President of Bangladesh’s apex trade body FBCCI Sheikh Fazle Fahim told bdnews24.com that industry owners are waiting to receive a comprehensive plan from the government.

“We are thinking about the millions of workers travelling home and what results this may bring. Besides, the future of these scores of unemployed people and when production may resume are also matters of concern,” he said.

“The association or the owners turned to the government for a decision on this, because only a central decision can maintain discipline.”

On Tuesday, the government announced the cutting off of all public transport services from Mar 26-Apr 4 after mandatory holidays were declared for 10 days with all government and private offices and courts shut down.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will address the nation on Mar 25. The premiere is expected to issue directives on the coronavirus outbreak in her speech the day before Independence Day.