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.

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

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.

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)

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.

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 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.

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 the new Coronavirus 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 can not always be double-checked.

Media:

Anger at huge shareholder payout as US chain Kohl’s cancels $150m in orders

The Guardian | June 10, 2020
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H&M, Levi’s in Hot Seat for Allegedly Not Paying Bangladeshi Suppliers on Time

Sourcing Journal | June 10, 2020
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Survey finds 40% of fashion brands have not paid suppliers

just-style | May 29, 2020
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More brands named for failing on order commitments

just-style | May 27, 2020
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Bangladesh Threatens To Ban These UK Brands, Escalating Battle To Get Factories Paid

Forbes | May 27, 2020
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Some garment factory workers receive wages thanks to international pressure

The Hindu | May 24, 2020
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BGMEA engaging rights groups to ensure buyers pay local suppliers

The Daily Star | May 24, 2020
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COVID-19 pandemic: Worker advocacy groups create guidance for apparel and textile workers

Safety+Health Magazine | May 22, 2020
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Covid-19 set to reshuffle fashion’s sustainability focus

just-style | May 20, 2020
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‘All my dreams are shattered’: coronavirus crushes Asia’s garment industry

Reuters | May 18, 2020
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Special Edition: Can Fashion Clean Up Its Act?

Business of Fashion | May 18, 2020
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Bangladesh urges EU to pressure brands

Ecotextile News | May 18, 2020
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Densely populated Bangladesh faces immense infection control challenge

PBS | May 15, 2020
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Under Armour commits to paying suppliers

Ecotextile News | May 14, 2020
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EXCLUSIVE: Central American Workers Demand $1.7B in Back Pay From U.S. Firms

WWD | May 14, 2020
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Under Armour Follows Rivals, Commits To Paying Garment Makers In Full

Forbes | May 13, 2020
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How Walmart, Gap and other fashion retailers hit by lockdowns put women at risk of slavery in developing countries by not paying their bills

South China Morning Post | May 13, 2020
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Suppliers under pressure as Australian retailers ask for discounts, hold orders during coronavirus pandemic

ABC News | May 12, 2020
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Bestseller’s Reported Order Cancellations Deal Suppliers ‘Huge Financial Blow’

Sourcing Journal | May 11, 2020
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Bangladesh Suppliers Barely Afloat As Clothing Brands Find New Ways To Squeeze Them

Forbes | May 9, 2020
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‘They just don’t care’: Millions of garment workers facing destitution as Britain’s high street billionaires fail to honour contracts

Independent | May 6, 2020
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The BoF Podcast: Kalpona Akter on Choosing Between Lives and Livelihood

Business of Fashion | May 5, 2020
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LPP to pay for all orders in production & already produced

Fibre 2 Fashion | May 5, 2020
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Hanging on by a thread

Khmer Times | May 2, 2020
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Covid-19: Cambodian garment factories in serious financial woes

New Straits Times | April 30, 2020
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As fashion sales fall globally, big brands leave Asia’s garment workers in limbo

Reuters | April 29, 2020
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Coronavirus brings trouble to Cambodia’s garment industry

Deutsche Welle | April 29, 2020
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‘Millions of garment workers face starvation as fashion brands cancel orders’

Ethical Corporation | April 24, 2020
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Brands join ILO push for emergency funding for suppliers

Just-Style | April 23, 2020
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Coronavirus at the Bottom of the Supply Chain

The Nation | April 23, 2020
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