Threat of starvation outweighs fear of corona virus in Bangladesh

Bangladeshi garment workers
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Bangladeshi trade union organizes emergency food support for vulnerable members

The National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) has launched a project to supply food to garment workers who have no work and no income and inadequate support from the Bangladeshi government.

Bangladesh has been under lockdown since 25 March 2020. The first three known cases of COVID-19 were reported on 7 March 2020. The highest number of deaths reported in a single day is15 on 17 April. Public health experts have warned that country is heading towards the fourth stage of corona virus transmission when the virus spreads quickly. On 18 April the total number of corona virus cases is 2,144, deaths number 84 and 66 have recovered. 

The reality of no work and no pay, and inadequate relief distribution is forcing many to break the lockdown as the fear of starvation for outweighs the fear of corona virus. 

Bangladeshi garment manufacturers say fashion retailers have cancelled or put on hold more than $3 billion in orders because of the pandemic, though a handful have agreed to pay anyway. 

According to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), this threatens the ongoing employment of more than two million Bangladeshi garment workers. According to manufacturers’ reports to the BGMEA, the cancelled orders included tens of millions in purchases from many big buyers, including European buyers C&A and Inditex, Primark of Ireland, Britain’s Marks & Spencer and Tesco, and US retailers like Walmart and Target. 

For example, according to the information given by one garment industry company (Ananta Group), the Bangladeshi supply chain is in complete disarray with many foreign brands acting irresponsibly. The Group owns seven factories with a total of 26,000 workers and supplies brands that include H&M, Zara, Gap, Levi’s and Marks & Spencer. 


The National Garment Workers Federation is the biggest trade union federation of garment workers in Bangladesh, established in 1984. The Federation has 10 branch offices in 10 major garment and textile industrial zones. Eighty-seven factory unions are affiliated. NGWF is one of the member organisations of the Conciliation cum Arbitration committee (which includes nine registered garment workers’ federations and BGMEA). It is also affiliated with the global union federation Industriall, and one of the founders and main trade unions of Accord.