With job on the line, hundreds of Bangladesh workers walk over 100km to RMG factories

More than 1,000 workers started walking from Mymensingh to their readymade garment factories reopening Saturday amid a Bangladesh-wide shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mymensingh CorrespondentIlias Ahmed, bdnews24.com
Published : 3 April 2020, 09:52 PM
Updated : 3 April 2020, 09:52 PM

According to Google, they will need to walk for 18 to 28 hours without break to reach the factories that are 112 kilometres away in Dhaka.

One of the workers, who spoke to bdnews24.com near Mymensingh Bridge on Friday morning, said over mobile phone at 11:30pm that he was still on his way, on foot.

The government announced a 10-day shutdown of public transport services, offices and workplaces on Mar 26, and extended it to Apr 9 to stem the outbreak. Educational institutions are also closed.

The government and the owners’ associations have advised the garment and knitwear factories to continue production with proper protection of the workers from the virus if they have orders to deliver.

The government has also announced a Tk 50 billion economic relief package for the exporting industries. The owners will be able to use the funds only to pay the workers even if the factories remain closed due to the global economic turbulence caused by the pandemic.

Most of the fund is supposed to go to the $34 billion RMG sector which contributes to more than 80 percent of Bangladesh’s export.

Bulbul Ahmed, a worker of Standard Garments in Gazipur on the outskirts of Dhaka, said his factory will reopen on Saturday.

“I will lose my job if I can’t reach tomorrow. I have started for Dhaka [on foot]. I have no other option,” he said.

Farzana Akter, a worker of MM Garments in Gazipur Chourasta, said she lives with her family in Dhaka but had returned to her village home before the shutdown.

“The fear of losing job is bigger than the fear of coronavirus,” she said, walking with the other workers.

Khalil Ahmed began walking from Netrakona’s Islampur, some 35 kilometres from Mymensingh, at dawn.

The PN Garments worker also said he would lose his job if he failed to join his workplace on Saturday.

“And the salary will be given tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. So I must walk to Dhaka if I have to,” he said and added he took short rickshaw rides sometimes to reach Mymensingh.

Yusuf Ali was walking from Sherpur, some 65 kilometres away from Mymensingh, to save his job.

He may have to cross the capital on foot as well as his workplace, an Ananta Group factory, is located in Narayanganj.

“I won’t be able to draw my salary if I can’t reach in time,” he said.

“I’ve been working in garments factories for 10 years, but I haven’t seen any disaster like this coronavirus,” Yusuf added.

Md Ahmaruzzaman, Mymensingh district’s superintendent of police, said some garment factories would reopen on Saturday.

“We are trying to help the workers as much as we can,” he added.