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:

Covid-19 has emphasised the importance of brand transparency

Vogue Business | April 21, 2020
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Exclusive: Fashion plots Covid-19 survival plan

Ecotextile News | April 20, 2020
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Online tracker lists apparel brands’ response to Covid-19

Just-Style | April 17, 2020
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Research contributes to policy changes to support workers amid COVID-19 pandemic

Penn State News | April 17, 2020
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Who’s Paying Garment Workers, Who Isn’t and How Can People Help?

Sourcing Journal | April 17, 2020
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Arcadia Group cancels ‘over £100m’ of orders as garment industry faces ruin

The Guardian | April 15, 2020
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US fashion wear giant Primark criticised over supplier wages offer

Khmer Times | April 15, 2020
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Is the Covid crisis the catalyst for more sustainable supply chains?

Just-Style | April 14, 2020
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Workers Rights Consortium Launches COVID-19 Brand Tracker

WWD | April 14, 2020
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The Coronavirus Is Exposing Holes in Our Current Fast Fashion Model

Teen Vogue | April 9, 2020
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Fashion Social Justice Advocacy in the Time of Coronavirus

WWD | April 8, 2020
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Brands urged to follow through on order payments

Ecotextile News | April 8, 2020
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Primark criticised over supplier wages offer

Ecotextile News | April 7, 2020
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Brands heeding calls to help garment workers

Ecotextile News | April 6, 2020
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Retailers tell suppliers they won’t cancel orders. The reality is more complicated

Vogue Business | April 6, 2020
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Primark wage pledge draws sceptical response

Financial Times | April 4, 2020
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“It’s Collapsing Violently”: Coronavirus Is Creating a Fast Fashion Nightmare

GQ | April 2, 2020
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Fashion brands’ cancellations of £2.4bn orders ‘catastrophic’ for Bangladesh

The Guardian | April 2, 2020
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More than a million garment workers are out of work because of coronavirus

Quartz | April 1, 2020
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Bangladesh garment makers say $3B in orders lost to virus

Associated Press | March 30, 2020
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Garment workers going unpaid as fashion labels cancel orders

Associated Press | March 27, 2020
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Consumer brands’ global worker army faces financial shock from lost orders

S&P Global | March 26, 2020
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Coronavirus threatens the livelihoods of garment workers around the world

Quartz | March 20, 2020
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Garment workers face destitution as Covid-19 closes factories

The Guardian | March 19, 2020
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