Retrenched RMG workers caught in uncertainly
Globally, millions of garment workers could lose their jobs as global brands are demanding price cuts and delaying payments to suppliers who are desperate for orders to survive the corona pandemic, a survey conducted by the researchers of the Center for Global Workers Rights (CGWR) at Penn State University in the USA said on Friday.
In Bangladesh, the survey report noted that the RMG is the biggest foreign currency- generating sector that provides direct employment to around 4.4 million people, the majority of whom are women. But the pandemic has created a noxious situation in this sector. Already, 1 million workers have become unemployed as a result of order cancellations and unwillingness of Western buyers to compensate for abrupt cancellations.
During a survey of 75 factories in 15 countries, including Bangladesh, suppliers said that they had to wait an average of 77 days for payment, compared to 43 days before the pandemic, raising fears of further factory closures in an industry employing 60 million people worldwide. Then again the global bands have been asking the suppliers to make their prices an average of 12 per cent cheaper than last year.
The survey further stated that the fashion companies cancelled orders worth billions of dollars earlier this year as Covid-19 shuttered stores worldwide, leading to wage losses of up to $5.8 billion, according to pressure group Clean Clothes Campaign. However, some orders that were cancelled or suspended earlier in the year were being restored, along with new orders, but they were less than the number of firms jostling for contracts.
The British-based Ethical Trading Initiative said that the pandemic was not an excuse to row back on human rights and that it was in everyone's best interest to ensure a sustainable and robust supply chain.
On the other hand, the Geneva-based International Organisation of Employers (IOE), a global business network, said brands and suppliers were trying to find solutions in "extremely difficult circumstances".
The RMG industry in our country by now has acquired both skill and dynamism necessary to produce high-end products and add more values to its exports. Now it needs proper investment and research and development for product diversification to earn recognition as global brands. For which, BGMEA and BKMEA will have to work out on making a single apparel Bangladeshi brand by accumulating funds.