The president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has urged international apparel brands not to delay shipments or cancel orders, warning that to do so could result in factories failing to pay workers and subsequently create social unrest across the country.
Rubana Huq took to social media to express her concern, acknowledging that globally stores are closing on the back of the coronavirus outbreak, but that requests to push payments back, delay shipments or cancel orders altogether, could mean “4.1m workers literally go hungry” as factories are forced to shut down.
Yesterday (23 March), value fashion retailer Primark said it would be closing all its shops and cancelling all orders, adding it already has large quantities of stock in stores, depots and in transit, and did not want to take delivery of stock that “we simply can’t sell.”
Last week, Mostafiz Uddin, managing director at Bangladesh manufacturer Denim Expert, told just-style factories across Bangladesh are facing a “very tough time,” adding that while the early impact of the outbreak saw pressures on raw material supply coming out of China, the problem has intensified, with factories now increasingly being told to push back payment terms.
Huq suggested while Bangladesh has worked to change its labour narrative, the current scenario could result in the undoing of those efforts.
“We need to work together. There is no alternative to that. I’m not going to question your decisions, I’m going to appeal to your good senses so that you kindly take all your goods that are under production. Please take them under normal payment terms and then if you have any which is uncut, uncut fabric, uncut anything, kindly allow us to go ahead, if not give us the CM portion so we can at least compensate our worker’s salaries with that when the production time comes.
“If we don’t have that support, in three months’ time, we will have 4.1m workers literally out on the streets and this is a social chaos we can not afford. Neither do you want your reputation at stake nor do we want such anarchy at our end.”
In terms of the unused fabrics, Huq said buyers could defer payments and Bangladeshi factories could store the goods until buyers were ready to receive them. But once goods were out of factories, they should be considered shipped.
“Three months of support to the sector that has basically been of service to you for so long, we have been partners for so long…You know we are the most competitive nation, therefore I appeal to your good senses not to let us down at this point of time. Let us work together, we must come out of this journey much stronger, we must trust each other.
“I am sure and confident we will get through this together.”
Separately, Huq wrote to the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dr Gerd Müller, to urge German brands sourcing from Bangladesh to allow shipments and production to continue till July at least.
“In the face of cancellation, it is only evident that we will fail to pay our workers which will create serious social unrest and I am certain that no German brands would like to see that happen in their account,” the letter reads.