With buses off the roads and factories open, garment workers set out on foot

The ‘tough lockdown’ imposed by the government has suspended most transport in the country. But garment factories have been allowed to remain open, causing difficulties for workers.

Staff CorrespondentTabarul Huq, bdnews24.com
Published : 1 July 2021, 09:24 AM
Updated : 1 July 2021, 09:25 AM

The lockdown took effect at 6 am on Thursday. In the next one and a half hours, hundreds of garment workers were seen coming to work on foot. The roads in Dhaka were largely empty at the time.

Factory owners made no transport arrangements for their employees, so most had to come on foot, while a few came by rickshaw.

Some workers of Easy Fashion Ltd, New Faisal Garments, Rabeya Garments, RHR Apparels, Hearty Apparels in Dhaka’s Rampura, Chowdhurypara and Malibagh faced difficulties as they began the day on Thursday morning.

But factory authorities say that there is no need to provide transport as most of their workers live about 2-3 kilometres from the factories. They say most of the workers commute on foot anyway and rent homes near the factories for the same reason.

Hosne Ara, a garment worker, said her home is half a kilometre along the street next to the Badda Post Office and she walked to the factory at Malibagh’s Chowdhurypara where she works. “I usually take the bus to and from the factory. But no vehicles are running today, so I was forced to walk.”

Munshi Gausul Azam, another worker, lives in Tilpapara, about 1.5-2 km from the factory where he works. “A co-worker of mine lives next to me so we both used the same rickshaw.”

Factory worker Shaheda Akhtar, who lives in Nayatola, set out on foot as well. It was the same with Omar Faruk, who works in the cutting section of a factory. “I left home early today. There weren’t any buses, so I knew I had to walk.”

“About 98 percent of our workers live within 2-3 km of the factory,” said Amjad Chowdhury, general manager of Easy Fashion.

“They know they have to get to work every day so they rent homes near the factory.”

Those who live further away generally stay with co-workers or relatives who live nearby when they hear about a lockdown or a suspension of public transport, he said.

Workers entering the factory had their temperature checked on thermal cameras and were sprayed from a drum before entering.

“We check every worker for fever and if they have cold or congested noses, we send them home,” Amjad said. “We then get updates on their condition over the phone. Once they recover, they have to test negative for COVID-19 before their allowed to come back to work.”

Workers were seen lining up for temperature checks using a thermal camera at Al Muslim Group’s Dress and Dismatic Ltd and Hearty Apparels Ltd factories. They also washed their hands with soap before entering and were given instructions to follow health regulations.

“We are doing our best to follow health restrictions when allowing employees to enter,” Md Harun-ur-Rashid, a senior officer of Al Muslim Group. “If anyone falls sick, they take leave and are sent home. If anyone has a fever or congested nose, we tell them not to come to work.”

Asked why there were no transportation arrangements for workers at the factory, he said: “Most of our workers live nearby. At one point, we had over 700 workers, now we have about 500. Even those who used to live further away have moved closer.”