Promotion of employee wellbeing practices adopted by many apparel manufacturers may encourage other entrepreneurs in the sector to follow suit.
This will also brighten the industry's image at home and abroad, speakers said at a webinar on Monday.
The webinar was organised by The Business Standard (TBS) in association with Shojag Coalition to present the findings of a study entitled "Good practices of RMG factories in the time of Covid-19".
TBS Senior Staff Correspondent Kutub Uddin Mohammad Jasim presented the study report at the event.
The study was conducted from February to April this year covering factories located in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Mymensingh districts. It was funded by Funders Organised for Rights in the Global Economy (FORGE).
Shojag Coalition includes Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Christian Aid and Naripokkho.
Mohammad Hatem, first vice president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA); Asif Ashraf, director of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and managing director of Urmi Group; Abdullah Hil Rakib, director of the BGMEA and managing director of Team Group; Navidul Huq, director of the BGMEA and Mohammadi Group; Rezwan Selim, managing director of Softex Sweater Industries; Tariqul Islam, assistant director of Snowtex Group; and Pradip Nath, assistant general manager of Intersotf Apparels Ltd spoke at the webinar.
Morshed Noman, the chief reporter of TBS, moderated the discussion while Pankaj Kumar, country director of Christian Aid Bangladesh, delivered the welcome address and Maheen Sultan, team leader of Shojag Coalition, gave the vote of thanks.
Mohammad Hatem of the BKMEA said there are many good initiatives for the welfare of workers in the garment sector but they are not published in the media. The negative news is more publicised.
In such a situation, the initiative taken in this webinar to recognise or promote good work has been very timely, he added.
He further said learning lessons from the Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashion accidents, garment owners themselves wanted to build international standards and safe factories here.
"Many people say workers' rights are not being protected in the garment sector. To them, I would say my door is always open for workers. As far as I know, other garment factory owners are also by the side of their workers in all their problems," he continued.
Urmi Group MD Asif Ashraf said there are many good humanitarian stories about workers in the garment sector, which, if published, will change the general public's perception of garment factory owners.
Mohammadi Group Director Navidul Huq said, "What we are doing for the workers is very insignificant. As human beings, it is our responsibility to stand by other people."
"My father worked as a driver in the company. He died of cancer in November last year. Earlier, the company authorities had borne all the medical expenses of my father," said Tawhid Shikder, a production reporter of Softes Sweater.
"After my father died, the managing director of the company arranged my job here. Besides, my mother is now given the same amount of money as my father's monthly salary. The company is also bearing the cost of my sister's higher education," he continued.
Shakhawat Hossen, a sample accessories man of the company, has been getting the same kind of support.
He said his wife and he joined this firm at the same time. Since his wife's death in 2016, he has been receiving his wife's salary, he added.
Maheen Sultan said, "During the coronavirus pandemic, we wanted to see if hygiene was being observed in the garment factories. We felt the need for recognising those who are doing well. Others will be encouraged then."
"Initially, we saw that many factories had taken exceptional initiatives for the welfare of workers. But, we have to go a long way. Owners' associations need to do more to institutionalise these good initiatives," Maheen observed.