At a time when many garment factory owners are facing criticism for keeping their units open during the countrywide coronavirus shutdown, an owner has set a good example by giving two month's salaries to his workers and other staffers.
SP Group, which runs two composite knit garment factories in Memberbari area of Gazipur, also assured its workers and employees of providing Eid bonus and not sacking anyone during this tough time.
AMC Knit Composite Ltd and SP Fashion Ltd were declared closed on March 25. Around 3,300 workers and employees of the factories were paid their salaries and allowances for March and also for April in advance.
Speaking to The Daily Star, SP Group Managing Director Shubal Chandra Saha yesterday said, "As I cannot go to the factories due to health safety issues, I must have to think about the health safety of my workers and employees. So, we shut down the factories."
Asked about paying salaries in advance, he said, "I know their one-month income will be gone with the payment of their house rent and other dues. They have to go to their village home and stay there for a long time. How will they run their families during this period? So, we gave them the next month's salary."
The government on March 23 announced closure of all government and private offices from March 26 to April 4 to contain spread of coronavirus. Later, the shutdown was extended to April 14. The government also suspended all public transport services.
But, division among influential owners over the closure of garment factories and an absence of specific instructions from the government had sent thousands of RMG workers into a dangerous scramble to get back to Dhaka on April 3, 4, said stakeholders of the sector.
Braving risk of coronavirus infection, workers travelled to Dhaka only to find most of their factories closed. Many came to the capital to collect their due salaries.
The incident drew huge criticism from different quarters. Even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday expressed serious discontent at the RMG owners over this, said cabinet sources.
SP Group, which exports RMG products worth around Tk 500 to 550 crore annually, shut down its factories from March 26. The factories will remain closed until April 30.
"We started as a small business 30 years ago. Our workers and staffers are like our family members. So, we have decided to stand by them," said Subal.
The workers and employees were very happy to receive two month's salaries, said the 70-year-old businessman from Pabna.
"We also assured them of not sacking anyone from the job and providing Eid bonus. We will try our best to give them salaries if we can't open factories after this month due to the coronavirus situation."
He said he would ask his workers and employees to join work after the situation improves.