Covid-19 and Garment Workers

The economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic are colossal in scale and global in scope. The world’s wealthy countries are poised to spend trillions of dollars to shore up the income of their workers and to rescue their corporations. A vital question remains unanswered: who is going to rescue the workers who toil in the global supply chains of many of those corporations? These workers, like ones who make the clothes and shoes we wear, are among the hardest hit by the economic catastrophe of Covid-19.

Farce majeure: How global apparel brands are using the Covid-19 pandemic to stiff suppliers and abandon workersFarce majeure: How global apparel brands are using the Covid-19 pandemic to stiff suppliers and abandon workers

This paper by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, ILAW, and the Worker Rights Consortium explores the power imbalances between brands and suppliers and their contractual manifestation. It examines the law of force majeure and related doctrines and how they apply to the current circumstances. The paper explains how brands violate their due diligence obligations through canceling orders. It also calls for better access to accountability mechanisms for workers to enforce brands’ responsible supply chain practices.

Un(der) Paid in the PandemicUn(der)paid in the Pandemic

This report analyses nonpayment of wages to garment workers during the months of March, April, and May resulting from order cancellations by apparel brands, unpaid leave, and state-sanctioned wage cuts during the Covid-19 crisis. Based on a review of news reports and information from worker organizations, we estimate that across South and Southeast Asia garment workers have received 38% less than their regular income. In some regions in India, this number rises above 50%. Extrapolating these findings to the global garment industry, a conservative guess of wages lost by garment workers worldwide, excluding China, for the months of March, April, and May would amount to between 3.19 and 5.79 billion USD.

What the crisis means for the people who make collegiate apparel"My children don't have food. I can withstand this hunger, but they cannot." What the Crisis Means for the People Who Make Collegiate Apparel

The pandemic represents an unprecedented economic calamity for workers who make university logo products. Across the globe, factories have suspended or dismissed workers in the hundreds and thousands, often with little or no compensation. This includes many factories making collegiate goods. This report includes portraits of six workers at collegiate factories, drawing on workers’ own words to illuminate the impact on their families. Most of these workers are no longer able to buy sufficient food for their children.

Statement of the Worker Rights Consortium concerning the Global Union/Employer Statement on the Crisis in Garment Supply Chains

The joint statement from Global Unions and the International Organisation of Employers calls on brands and retailers to pay for all orders completed and in production, and it commits all parties to press quickly and energetically for a robust rescue package for garment workers and suppliers. The WRC welcomes this as an initial step and will continue to monitor and report on which brands have made concrete commitments to pay for orders and which brands are keeping those commitments. The WRC cautions that this is not a comprehensive solution or concrete plan of action, what matters is how and whether brands follow through. 

What Are Factories' and Brands’ Responsibilities to Laid-Off Workers?

Brands have committed through their codes of conduct to require suppliers to pay workers legally owed compensation when factories shutdown. Workers’ ability to get their families through the current crisis will depend substantially on whether brands make sure suppliers pay laid-off workers their legally due compensation. The WRC has compiled a detailed summary of these legal requirements in major apparel exporting countries, as well as changes to these obligations under new laws or policies enacted by governments in response to the crisis.

Effective Infection Control Practices and Policies for Operating Apparel and Textile Factories

Many garment factories worldwide have closed or suspended production—either as a result of shutdowns ordered by governments as a public health measure or due to cancellations of orders by brands. The WRC and occupational health experts from the the Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network (MHSSN), have developed recommendations for protecting garment workers from transmission of Covid-19 in those factories that remain in operation during the pandemic, including those that are now producing personal protective equipment (PPE). The recommendations were developed by MHSSN coordinator Garrett Brown, a former top official of California’s division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

Also available in Spanish. Disponible aquí en español.

Also available in Bangla. বাংলায় সহজলভ্য (translation by Bangladesh Accord)

Abandoned? The Impact of Covid-19 on Workers and Businesses at the Bottom of Global Garment Supply Chains

This report, authored by Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Global Workers’ Rights, in collaboration with the WRC describes the results of a survey of more than 300 garment suppliers in Bangladesh and has just reported the results. The survey found that 80 percent of apparel suppliers have been forced to slash employment as a result of buyers canceling orders—with nearly 60 percent reporting they have shut down most or all of their operations. Meanwhile, four out of five fired workers have not received the severance pay mandated by law. The survey found that almost none of the buyers had offered suppliers any financial support to help pay workers.

WRC WHITE PAPER: Who will bail out the workers that make our clothes?

Co-authored by WRC executive director Scott Nova and the CCC’s Ineke Zeldenrust, this white paper explains how brands and retailers are shoring up their own finances by refusing to honor contracts with apparel suppliers, forcing suppliers to the brink of bankruptcy and causing large-scale dismissals of workers. The report calls for brands to pay suppliers what they owe them, for the swift mobilization of international financial resources to provide income support to garment workers, and for deeper reforms to address the supply chain inequities that Covid-19 is laying bare.

Also available in Spanish. Disponible aquí en español.

Also available in Bangla. বাংলায় সহজলভ্য

CCC Live-blog: How the Coronavirus affects garment workers in supply chains

This live-blog by the Clean Clothes Campaign aims to collect daily information about how Covid-19 is affecting garment workers’ rights in supply chains around the world. It will be updated as new information comes in from media and the Clean Clothes Campaign global network. Information is posted as it comes in from the network and cannot always be double-checked.


“Lopsided contracts” expose garment industry frailties

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Teen Vogue | September 17, 2020

The world’s top suppliers of disposable gloves are thriving because of the pandemic. Their workers aren’t

CNN | September 11, 2020

UConn Facemasks Show Commitment to Human Rights Along With Public Health

UConn Today | September 2, 2020

The Children’s Place cancels millions of dollars of garment orders from Ethiopia

The Guardian | August 26, 2020

Masks for Georgetown Community Made by ‘Living Wage’ Factory

Georgetown University News | August 24, 2020

Fashion’s dirty secret: how sexual assault took hold in jeans factories

The Guardian | August 20, 2020

Gap Puts Focus on Youth Activists, Sustainability for Fall 2020

Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) | August 14, 2020

Dansk smykkegigant fyrede ansatte, da de stiftede fagforening

Danwatch | August 12, 2020

Garment workers seen losing up to $5.8 billion in wages during coronavirus

Reuters | August 10, 2020

Report: pandemic cost garment workers ‘billions’

Ecotextile News | August 10, 2020

Garment workers underpaid by up to US$5.8bn during pandemic

just-style | August 10, 2020

RMG workers lose Tk 4,250cr in wages in Mar-May: report

New Age | August 10, 2020

The fashion companies promising to pay their suppliers

FashionUnited | August 6, 2020

Covid Outbreak Threatens Xinjiang Internment Camps As Pressure On Beijing Mounts

China Digital Times | July 30, 2020

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Business Insider | July 22, 2020

OP-ED: Fashion companies abandon thousands of seamstresses

Dhaka Tribune | July 22, 2020

H&M’s Supplier Is Using Cancelled Orders As A Cover For Union Busting

Eco-Age | July 22, 2020

Time for fashion industry to #PayUp

North Texas Daily | July 21, 2020

Sewn on the edge

Reflekt | July 21, 2020

Wearing a Mask? It May Come From China’s Controversial Labor Program

The New York Times | July 19, 2020

Gap agrees to pay for cancelled orders

Ecotextile News | July 17, 2020

COVID-19 disguises underhand union busting

Ecotextile News | July 16, 2020

Asia’s garment workers say virus used as cover to smash unions

Bangkok Post | July 15, 2020

The Power Of #PayUp

Atmos | July 14, 2020

Gap Inc to compensate suppliers in full for cancelled orders

just-style | July 13, 2020

MDI Gurgaon conducts Chapter 4 of Gurugram Conversation series on “Corona Crisis: Voices from the Ground”

IndiaEducationDiary | July 13, 2020

NZ consumers urged to help millions of garment factory workers

Radio New Zealand (RNZ) | July 12, 2020

Gap Inc Confirms Plans to Compensate Suppliers for Canceled Orders

Sourcing Journal | July 12, 2020

This Hashtag Unlocked $15 Billion of Lost Wages Due to Cancelled Orders From Gap, Levi’s, and Other Brands

Vogue | July 10, 2020