The current situation of construction workers due to COVID-19 in Bangladesh
By Md. Zakir Hossain Litu, General Secretary, National Construction Workers Federation-NCWF
In Bangladesh, construction workers are facing very difficult circumstances due to the pandemic. The number of workers is more than 60 million, with about 78% of them working in unestablished sectors. These are people who play a significant role in building our countries, and their life is at stake. They get low wages, no work safety, very low or no compensation or health care and so on, with the employers rarely being convicted. There is also neglect on behalf of the state, without even having a national database with all workers in the construction sector.
Our countries construction industry has come to a standstill due to the deadly COVID-19 and the workers are not getting anything from the state. As a result, many people move from province to province in search of work due to lack of food and are being subjected to various cruelties. In many cases, landlords are evicting them because they cannot afford the rent, and as a result, there are homeless people. The situation is bound to become even worse, if the workers in this sector are not provided with immediate employment and emergency financial assistance.
Under the initiative of the city of Dhaka, some food is provided to 500 poor construction workers, but it was very little compared to what is required. We believe that development projects should begin quickly and construction workers should be fully employed. Also, arrangements can be made to send some workers abroad at low cost on a first come first served basis.
What is more, in many foreign countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh workers have been left without work and they are living in inhumane conditions as a result of COVID-19. Arrangements should be made by Bangladeshi embassies for the immediate relief of these workers, while also taking into consideration the many construction workers that have been forced to return to the country.
The National Construction Workers Federation-NCWF is trying to help those victims through our labour fund, trying to get the government’s help in many cities and provinces such as Dhaka, Khulna, Borishal, Rajshahi, Chitagang and Shylet, by providing relief, safety materials and advice for staying safe themselves.