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Associate professor Stephanie Premji is studying the pandemic health and safety experiences of Bangladeshi workers in collaboration with the Toronto-based South Asian Womens' Rights Organization. JONO&LAYNIE / SUPPLIED BY STEPHANIE PREMJI

McMaster study looks at how pandemic has affected Bangladeshi workers

A community-based study led by McMaster University seeks to highlight the systemic health and safety issues facing Bangladeshi workers as racialized groups continue to disproportionately represent COVID-19 cases. Originally published in the Hamilton Spectator on March 24th, 2021 by Vjosa Isai

Mar 24, 2021

Stephanie Premji, an associate professor at McMaster’s faculty of social sciences, had obtained the routine ethics approval to begin her study among these workers just as the pandemic began. She shifted the project’s focus, originally on the effects of precarious employment, to capture the health risks presented by COVID-19 for essential workers.

In partnership with the Toronto-based South Asian Women’s Rights Organization (SAWRO), the research team conducted interviews in Bangla with the workers beginning in August 2020, and ran a focus group.

“I can’t say that the results were shocking because we’ve been documenting these types of conditions for many, many years. It’s just that they’re really amplified in the context of the pandemic,” Premji said.

Among those conditions were the precarity of temp agency work, lack of regulation and enforcement, and limited access to paid sick days and other rights, according to a study abstract.

Premji said some workers described “nonsensical” health policies, including being asked to drink at a water fountain because they were not permitted to keep a water bottle at their factory workstation. She also cited systemic issues regarding accessible transportation, including the story of a woman who walked over an hour in each direction to work in order to avoid a crowded bus route, wanting to protect her baby at home.

Read the full article: 'McMaster study looks at how pandemic has affected Bangladeshi workers' by Vjosa Isai in the Hamilton Spectator