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Apparel factories look for workers, hinting at recovery

September 07, 2020

Reported by the business standard

Manpower shortages and expansion plans are other reasons for some factories going for hiring.



Buoyed by restoration of cancelled orders and a surge in fresh orders, apparel factories are hiring workers to meet the newly introduced shortened deadlines for export deliveries.


The Business Standard talked with at least 20 leading exporters and eight of them informed of their expansion plans in the coming months requiring more workers.


In fact, there are some factories that have even hired workers during the pandemic to meet the demand for producing PPE garments.


Nearly a hundred apparel factories have made vacancy announcements, an industry association leader said, a hint of recovery in the garment sector.


For instance, DBL group is going to recruit  a thousand new workers for its two newly added floors in the factory, said its managing director MA Jabbar.


"We are recruiting 500 for each floor. One floor will go into production towards the end of October while another by the end of this year."


In the case of Snowtex Outerwear Ltd, a gold rated green certified jackets and sportswear factory located at Dhamrai, it is all about work pressure that prompted it to hire more.


Even when the pandemic was at its peak and many resorted to downsizing the workforce, Snowtex continued hiring new workers. In the last six months, it has employed around 1,000 workers and will add 1,000 more to its factory within the next three months. 


During the coronavirus shutdown, the factory did not stop production even for a day as it continued to make personal protective equipment and other health products for the domestic market in the crisis.


"We are under some work pressure as a number of cancelled or suspended orders have been restored after the factories reopened," said SM Khaled, managing director at Snowtex.


They needed to increase the number of workers to around 16,000 by June 2021 to cope with current and upcoming orders, he added. 

Snowtex Group has about 13,000 workers at present. 


"We have recruited 150 management trainees last week. Hopefully, the same number will be appointed next week," he added.


Around a hundred job seekers were waiting for interviews in the Snowtex factory Wednesday. Many of them chose this factory for better wages while some others came after losing their jobs due to the pandemic.


Snowtex Group has set a $250 million export target for 2021 based on their business partners' assurance, said Khaled.


The group has over $200 million businesses with some 17 brands and retailers, including Decathlon, C&A, Colombia, Camaieu, VF Corporation, Canada Sportswear, Huger Clothing, Toray, Bestseller, Debenhams and Kaufland. 


The group has engaged about 35% of its production capacity for Decathlon, a French sportswear retailer.


ABM Shamsuddin, chairman at Hannan Group said, "After the factories reopened on April 26, we hired about 1,600 workers to keep production smooth, as 1,357 workers were quarantined after suspected of being infected with Covid-19."


The workers rejoined but Shamsuddin said they were facing a shortage of about 2,500 to 3,000 workers since pre-pandemic times. Currently, they have about 12,000 workers.


"Ninety percent of our suspended orders have returned with a tight delivery deadline and new orders are coming too."


The group has secured a good number of orders to run their units till next November, Shamsuddin added. 


Fazlul Houqe, managing director at Plummy Fashion Ltd. said, "We are recruiting 40 to 50 workers every month as a number of workers have not joined work during the pandemic."  


Fazle Shameem Ehsan, chief executive officer at Fatullah Apparels Ltd, said the factory needs about 250 workers since the pre-Covid-19 period.


The factory hired about 50 workers last month. He hoped he would find the rest of the workers this month.  


Fazle Shameem, who is also a director Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), told The Business Standard that while visiting Ashulia, Tongi and Gazipur, "I saw about 100 factories displaying hire notices."


Comfit Composite Knit Ltd, a concern of Youth Group, is also known to be hiring; however, The Business Standard could not confirm this officially.


"Some large factories are expanding their employee capacity to meet the work pressure, but at the same time, some are also laying off," said Mohammed Abdus Salam, first vice-President at the BGMEA. 


Hiring workers during the first ten days every month is a regular practice in the apparel sector as some workers want to switch to other factories for better pays on completion of a year in a factory, he added.


The factory switching ratio increases up to 5% after Eid-ul-Adha every year, as most workers return to factories after spending a long time in their native villages, said Abdus Salam, who is also managing director at Chittagong Asian Apparels Ltd.


The group also appointed about 500 workers after Eid vacations, he said adding that their current manpower stands at about 20,000. 

"We have available orders to run units up to 8 hours each day," Abdus Salam added.


Nazma Akter, a Bangladeshi trade unionist and founder of the AWAJ Foundation, said it is good news that some factories are recruiting workers but still a large number of people, who lost jobs during the pandemic, remained unemployed. 


When asked, Khan Monirul Alam Shuvo, chairman of the BGMEA standing committee on public relations, said, "The apparel sector has bounced back on a positive trend in August, we should wait for at least the next two to three months to see how it sustains."


Some factories are hunting for workers as they have some work orders and it is good news for the industry but all do not have available orders, he added. 


He also mentioned that some factories are facing a worker shortage as a number of workers did not rejoin the factories on time after the Eid vacations.


A number of workers switched their professions too due to the pandemic, added Shuvo, who is also managing director at Fashion.com Ltd.


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