Business leaders have urged the government yet again to keep the mills and factories open during the ongoing strict lockdown, considering the overall business situation and economy of the country.
They have also requested the authorities concerned to vaccinate RMG workers as soon as possible.
A delegation of business leaders made the requests at a meeting with Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam at the Secretariat on Thursday.
The cabinet secretary assured that he would convey the matter to the highest level of the government for consideration.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Faruque Hassan urged foreign apparel brands and buying countries to extend their support for workers' rapid vaccination.
Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) President AKM Salim Osman said in the meeting that the ongoing lockdown had no positive impact on curbing the Covid-19 infection rate. Instead, the lockdown created scope for travelling to villages that were hot spots of the virus at the time, sources at the meeting quoted Osman as saying.
He also said that the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 had misguided the government regarding the imposition of this lockdown shutting down all factories.
After that meeting, the BGMEA president said if they could reopen the factories on 1 August, more workers would come under the vaccination coverage under the on-spot factory immunisation drives that had begun before Eid.
The BGMEA president also said garment factories strictly maintained safety measures that made production units safer than the villages where workers were now enjoying vacation.
He said if the government allowed factories to reopen on 1 August, they would start production with the workers staying in factory areas. The remaining workers will join later in phases, he added.
Faruque Hassan said, "If we cannot resume factories on 1 August, it may increase container congestion at the port, which may affect other activities. Moreover, many factories may not be able to pay workers due to the closure of factories."
He expressed the fear that factories' failure to pay workers on time might lead to unrest.
BGMEA Vice President Shahidullah Azim said, "We have urged the government to consider the industry situations as our main markets, the EU and US, have already opened their shops and manufacturers are under pressure to ship goods on time. Countries like Bangladesh have no economic strength to afford such closure of economic activities."
Following the Eid vacations, the government enforced a 14-day strict lockdown till 5 August under which all kinds of factories are closed.
Amid an alarming spike in infections and death toll crossing the 20,000 mark, the government might extend the time.
Meanwhile, State Minister for Labour and Employment Begum Mannujan Sufian on Thursday made a special request to employers not to lay off any workers and declare any factory closed at the time of the pandemic.
She has requested the owners and the management of all types of industries and mills to counter the crisis together.
BGMEA seek assistance from the EU, the US for vaccination and antigen tests of workers
The BGMEA on Tuesday sent a letter to US Ambassador Earl R Miller and EU Ambassador Rensje Teerink in Dhaka Tuesday, seeking their assistance to bring RMG workers under rapid vaccination and antigen test.
The organisation also sent a letter to H&M Regional Country Manager Ziaur Rahman and Marks & Spencer's Country Manager Shwapna Bhowmick on Wednesday asking for help in vaccinating workers.
It has been written in the letters that RMG owners requested their help to keep RMG sectors operational and thereby keeping the global RMG supply chain uninterrupted. Bangladesh economy and livelihood of millions of people depend on the availability of the vaccine.
Factory owners said they have been making various efforts at home and abroad to keep factories running as they think vaccination of workers is the best way out. They said about 29,000 garment workers have already been vaccinated.
Owners said they already successfully vaccinated workers of several factories in the Gazipur and Dhaka area with on-spot registration based on national and factory ID cards. After these successful vaccination programmes, they now want to continue it in all factories under BGMEA, BKMEA and others associated with the industry.
They said the government has been very supportive of providing us with the necessary vaccines, but the stock of available vaccines is the key issue in the mass vaccination of the RMG sector. If more vaccines are allocated to Bangladesh, it will help the RMG sector and Bangladesh tremendously, and save the life and livelihood of millions of people.