Thousands of Bangladeshi textile workers left instantly jobless because of coronavirus - GulfToday

Thousands of Bangladeshi textile workers left instantly jobless because of coronavirus

bangla1

Workers from the garment sector block a road as they protest to demand payment of due wages.

One day Parvin was toiling to meet the fast-fashion demands of European capitals, the next she was among hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi clothes workers made instantly jobless as the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Big-name international brands have cancelled billions of dollars in orders because of the pandemic, decimating Bangladesh's most important export industry and hurting in particular rural woman who dominate the workforce.

Parvin, a 28-year-old seamstress, joined thousands of workers queueing to collect final wages from tables of banknotes set up at the Al Muslim factory, one of the biggest in the country that supplies some of the world's most famous labels.

The workers waited in long lines, each one metre apart in a bid to keep up social distancing, and the anxiety built as the towers of bank notes went down.

bangla2  Labourers wait in lines to collect their salary in a garment factory during a government-imposed lockdown.

She has no other means to support her family going forward, and described her situation as a "catastrophe".

What do we do?

"Many of us don't have food at home now. We can't even ask for handouts on the streets because those poorer than us would mock us as we have jobs," said sewing machine operator Didarul Islam.

"What do we do? Die of hunger?" added the 38-year-old father of two.

International brands have cancelled or held up orders worth $3.11 billion, affecting more than two million workers, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

"The situation is apocalyptic," said Asif Ibrahim, a factory owner and a BGMEA director.

The Bangladesh group and counterparts in China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Cambodia and Myanmar, have pleaded with the high street majors not to cancel orders.


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Sone of the big firms, including H&M and Inditex, which runs the Zara chain, responded by vowing not to cancel existing orders. Others have sought discounts, according to the BGMEA.

'People will remember'

Ahmed, chain smoking as he watched the empty machines in his factory, said the pandemic was "one hundred times" worse than the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster.

"Those who have smaller factories like me will be destroyed," he said.

Activist groups say action must be taken to make sure wages hold up when work starts again.

"People will remember when this crisis is over which brands stepped up to protect their workers and employees and which did not," said Dominique Muller of Labour Behind the Label, a British group on workers' rights in the clothing industry.

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