Bangladesh garment workers pray for orders as pandemic shreds exports

Bangladesh garment workers pray for orders as pandemic shreds exports
A woman works in a garment factory, as factories reopened after the government has eased the restrictions amid concerns over COVID-19 outbreak in Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 3, 2020. (File/Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 20 October 2020

Bangladesh garment workers pray for orders as pandemic shreds exports

Bangladesh garment workers pray for orders as pandemic shreds exports
  • A garment supplier said customers were demanding price cuts of as much as 15%
  • In the financial year that ended in June Bangladesh’s garment exports totaled $27.94 billion

DHAKA: Bangladesh garment factory owner Shahidullah Azim laid off 20% of his workers in the wake of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Now watching the second wave build in Europe and the United States, Azim is staring at “an unprecedented crisis.”
He’s not alone. Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest apparel producer after China, but its industry leaders say international retailers are either refraining from placing orders, delaying buying decisions or demanding steep price cuts.
“This is a disaster. We are taking orders just to survive,” said Siddiqur Rahman, a garment supplier to international retailers including H&M and GAP Inc.
“We anticipated orders could look up before the Christmas but that didn’t happen.”
Rahman said customers were demanding price cuts of as much as 15%, making the recovery that much harder.
In the financial year that ended in June, Bangladesh’s garment exports totaled $27.94 billion, down 18% from the previous year.
There was a rebound of less than 1% in the July-September quarter, thanks to a surge in demand for knitwear items, which account for half of Bangladesh’s total garment exports.
But nearly half of factories producing knitwear products like t-shirts and sweaters are finding it difficult to remain open, said Selim Osman, president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
“A second wave could further delay the recovery,” Osman said.
Low wages have helped Bangladesh build its garment industry, with some 4,000 factories employing 4 million workers. Readymade garments are a mainstay of the economy, contributing almost 16% of country’s GDP, according to the central bank.
Factory owner Azim, who supplies European and North American retailers, says he has been forced to cut one-in-five jobs.
“That’s the case for most of the factories,” he said. “Now the second wave has started. We don’t know what future holds for us.”
Experts fear the South Asian country might itself face another surge in infections during the winter, having so far confirmed 390,206 cases, including 5,681 deaths.
About a third of the one million workers who were either furloughed or laid off have been rehired since July, according to union leaders.
But many workers are struggling without overtime pay, which often accounts for 20% of their monthly income.
“Without overtime, it is too difficult to meet expenses,” said Banesa Begum, a worker in Gazipur, on the outskirt of the capital city Dhaka.
“I just pray that my factory gets more orders so that we can survive.”


Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot

Updated 19 min 26 sec ago

Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot

Moscow starts mass COVID-19 vaccination with its Sputnik V shot
  • The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers
  • Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, registered 7,993 new cases overnight

MOSCOW: Moscow began distributing the Sputnik V COVID-19 shot via 70 clinics on Saturday, marking Russia’s first mass vaccination against the disease, the city’s coronavirus task force said.
The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers because they ran the highest risk of exposure to the disease.
“You are working at an educational institution and have top-priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, free of charge,” read a phone text message received by one Muscovite, an elementary school teacher, early on Saturday and seen by Reuters.
Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, registered 7,993 new cases overnight, up from 6,868 a day before and well above the daily tallies of around 700 seen in early September.
“Over the first five hours, 5,000 people signed up for the jab — teachers, doctors, social workers, those who are today risking their health and lives the most,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his personal website on Friday.
The age for those receiving shots is capped at 60. People with certain underlying health conditions, pregnant women and those who have had a respiratory illness for the past two weeks are barred from vaccination.
Russia has developed two COVID-19 vaccines, Sputnik V which is backed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and another developed by Siberia’s Vector Institute, with final trials for the both yet to be completed.
Scientists have raised concerns about the speed at which Russia has worked, giving the regulatory go-ahead for its vaccines and launching mass vaccinations before full trials to test its safety and efficacy had been completed.
The Sputnik V vaccine is administered in two injections, with the second dose is expected to be given 21 days after the first.
Moscow closed down all public places including parks and cafes, with exception for delivery, in late March, with police patrolling the streets looking for whose violating the rules. Restrictions were eased from mid-June, however.
Russia as a whole reported 28,782 new infections on Saturday, its highest daily tally, pushing the national total to 2,431,731, the fourth-highest in the world.
In October, certain restrictions such as remote learning for some secondary school children and a 30% limit on the number of workers allowed in offices were introduced again.