All export-oriented industries, including the readymade garment sector, will resume production from 1 August amid the prevailing Covid-19 restrictions.
The cabinet division issued a notification in this connection on Friday after business leaders had kept asking the government for permission to operate factories amid the ongoing lockdown.
The leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), and Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) thanked the prime minister and all concerned for the permission.
But, the notification has no instructions on how workers will return to work from home villages they had gone to celebrate Eid, with the restrictions on public transport to remain in force until at least 5 August.
Expressing his gratitude to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, BGMEA President Faruque Hassan told The Business Standard, "We are very thankful to the government for taking the right decision by allowing export-oriented industries to resume production units, which is very important for the country's economy."
"Our ports are facing container congestion. If factories are not reopened, containers at ports cannot be released. If containers are not released from Chattogram port within three-four days, there might be severe container congestion," he added.
Faruque said, "We hope the ports will get back on track."
He also asked all BGMEA member factories to take initiatives to maintain health safety protocols to prevent Covid infections.
Faruque said, "We will now focus on bringing all workers under the vaccination programme."
The BGMEA president also requested their buyers and buying countries to extend their support to vaccinate all workers. About 29,000 garment workers of several factories in Gazipur and Dhaka have already been vaccinated before Eid vacation.
They have been vaccinated with on-spot registration based on national and factory ID cards. Now, they want to continue inoculation in all factories under the BGMEA and the BKMEA, he said.
BGMEA Vice-President Shahidullah Azim said they have a plan to resume production from 1 August with 60-70% workers who are staying at factory areas.
A good number of workers have already returned to factory areas and the remaining workers will join later in phases, he also said, assuring that those joining later will not lose jobs.
BKMEA first vice-president Mohammad Hatem said production will resume with the workers staying around factory areas.
He also said as some workers currently at home villages may try to get back to their respective factories hurriedly after hearing the notice, local administration might help prevent them.
Denim Expert Ltd Managing Director Mostafiz Uddin said, "The permission to reopen factories will give a signal to our buyers that we are back to production."
It is good for all – buyers, workers and factories, he added.
Echoing with BGMEA and BKMEA leaders, Nazma Akter, founder and executive director of labour organisation, Awaj Foundation, said maximum workers are now staying near factories.
But, the government's notification has no directive on how workers staying in villages will get back to work, she added.
After the notification was issued, she received several phone calls from workers who are staying at home villages and they expressed their worry about how they would return to work, Nazma said.
Nazma said factory owners should give transport facilities to workers for bringing them back to the factories.
She also requested to bring all workers under vaccination and maintain health safety protocols.