The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh says it has suspended all factory inspection and educational activities in order to protect the health of its employees amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
A spokesperson for the organisation says all other elements of the Accord programme will continue to be implemented.
“With regards to health and safety precautions to prevent the spread of the virus amongst workers, the Accord is working to support the dissemination of information to factories in accordance with WHO guidelines through the Safety Committee and the Accord’s training activities,” Joris Oldenziel, Accord deputy director for implementation, told just-style.
Factory owners are reportedly keen to keep factories open as long as they still have orders and are seeking government support to pay workers wages and allowances.
The president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) this week urged international apparel brands and retailers not to delay shipments, payment or cancel orders, warning that to do so could result in factories failing to pay workers and subsequently create social unrest across the country. Local media reports suggest $1.5bn of orders have been cancelled at 1,089 Bangladesh garment factories.
Global union IndustriAll is also calling for the implementation of measures to protect factories and workers to enable them to “survive the crisis.”
The union has identified “three critical stages” for which interventions are needed: payment of wages to workers now for orders that have been filled but will not be paid by the brand customers, payment to workers during periods of factory closures, either from lack of orders or through government measures related to Covvid-19, and support for restarting production.
“Brands, employers and governments must come together urgently with trade unions to find ways to support garment workers during this unprecedented period to ensure the future viability of the industry once the crisis has passed,” it says.