August 2020: How the Coronavirus affects garment workers in supply chains

This blog aims to collect daily information about how the new Coronavirus COVID-19 is influencing 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.

This is the content of our ongoing coverage from August 2020.


For the latest news go to https://cleanclothes.org/covid19

Our blog archive:

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

31 August 2020

Global: IndustriALL is organising a global day of action to support the many workers across the textile and garment sector who are standing up for their rights to form a union as part of their global campaign to protect the rights of workers in the sector. The online global day of action will take place on 4 September and will focus on making our collective voice heard to demand that union busting in the textile and garment supply chain must end. IndsutriALL general secretary Valter Sanches, textile director Christina Hajagos-Clausen, union leaders Athit Kong from Cambodia and Khaing Zar from Myanmar will discuss union busting in the textile and garment supply chain on IndustriALL's facebook page. The event can be accessed here

Bangladesh: Media report that over 95,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers have returned to Bangladesh in the last four months, after losing their jobs amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Official figures show that 88,406 of returnees are male and 6,656 are female migrant workers. The government informed that the affected Bangladeshi migrant workers will get investment credit with 4% interest from a Tk700 crore fund. 

Media report that IWW Ireland has organised a third picket in front of Lidl stores last Saturday in solidarity with workers from Dragon Sweater in Bangladesh, who are still fighting to get their full wages and compensation. "As part of a month of action called by the International Confederation of Labour (ICL – CIT) in solidarity with 6000 sacked garment workers, members of the IWW continue to hold information pickets at Lidl Stores in Ireland. The action is seen as an international effort to help raise awareness with the public, of the ongoing struggle by garment workers in Bangladesh, represented by members of the Garment Workers Trade Union Centre (GWTUC)", IWW Ireland, wrote. 

Cambodia: IndustriALL reports that the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) has called on Irish clothing retailer Dunnes Stores to stop union busting in its supply chain and ensure that four dismissed union leaders are reinstated to their original positions at Greefield Industry. On 17 June, eleven workers at Greenfield Industry, which produces garments for Dunnes Stores, held a meeting to form a factory level union of C.CAWDU and elected 11 union officials. Three days later, the 11 union officials were informed that the company could not renew their employment contracts due to a "lack of orders and poor performance by the workers". The factory used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to union bust. C.CAWDU filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, who ordered Greenfield Industry to reinstate the four union leaders with full back-pay from the date of dismissal. The company refused to accept the order and banned them from factory premises.

Media report that The youth activist group that has been driving this month's protests in support of union leader Rong Chhun plans to hold an 8-day protest for the release Chhun, group members Chhoeun Daravy and Hun Vannak, activist Sar Kanika and Khmer Win Party leader Suong Sophorn. "What we want is [for the court] to drop charges and free teacher Rong Chhun and the other four people, as they didn’t do anything wrong as they were charged", one of the activists explained. Naly Pilorge, from Licadho, said that lawyers had filed a bail request for Daravy and Vannak on 24 August and were still waiting for a response.

China: Media report that, according to official data published earlier today, factory activity in China declined in August, particularly affecting small companies. Indeed, over 50% of small companies reported insufficient market demand and over 40% reported capital shortage, as their production and operation still face many difficulties.

India: The Suno India Show has published a podcast on how home-based workers in India have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The episode features Sujatha Mody from Pen Thozhilalargal Sangam, a working women's organisation in Chennai, to understand how women who work from their homes are recognised and how their lives were impacted by the pandemic. Aajeevika Bureau reported that migrant women workers who do home-based work for over 8 hours a day are only making Rs 10-15 during the pandemic. In India, there is no specific national policy for home-based workers, as their employers are often challenging to identify. 

Media report that, as businesses face labour shortage due to COVID-19 migrant crisis, some business owners are now offering better pay and conditions, including overtime or bonuses, in an effort to bring back migrant workers in order to restart operation. "The importance of migrant workers has been fully highlighted by this lockdown", the managing director of the Prajapati Group said. 

Malaysia: Media report that Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) urged the government to take action against employers who failed to improve the living conditions of migrant workers amidst the coronavirus pandemic. According to MTUC, many are still living in cramped and shabby conditions at the worksites or rented houses. In some cases, as many as 15 to 20 workers are sharing a three-bedroom apartment of less than 1000 square feet with one or two bathrooms. In such conditions, the coronavirus is likely to spread. 

Myanmar: Media report that over 10,000 businesses in Myanmar have applied for low-interest loans from a second tranche of K100 billion. Businesses have warned that more assistance is needed and that it should target a more diverse range of businesses. "There’s not enough to support everyone, but it’s really difficult to decide on the priority industries. Also, we are still getting some applications from businesses in sectors that were prioritised in the first batch of loans, but not this time. We have to follow the rules so we can’t accept their application", U Aye Tun, secretary of the chamber's COVID-19 Fund Working Committee, said. 

Nepal: Media report that Nepali migrant workers stranded in Gulf countries are being charged exorbitant fares for air tickets as the government of Nepal decided to allow airlines to operate scheduled commercial flights instead of chartered ones. As a result, companies are taking advantage of migrant workers' situation and charging almost double the regular fare. "The government can’t force any airlines company in terms of the airfare; they are free to charge the rate as per the supply and demand situation. The airlines have grabbed the opportunity and selling only the higher-class tickets", the article reads. 

Sri Lanka: IndustriALL reports that, according to the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union (FTZ&GSEU), a garment factory in Sri Lanka, Isabella Pvt Ltd., which produces for Hugo Boss and HanesBrands Inc., dismissed union members and union leaders instead of entering into a meaningful dialogue with the union. Management then started threatening workers to resign from their union membership and that, after reopening the factory consequent to the easing of curfew measures, some of the union activists were stopped from going back to work. IndustriALL sent a letter to factory management calling upon them to "immediately stop intimidation and victimisation of union members" and urging them to enter into a good social dialogue with the union and its federation, the FTZ & GSEU.

Thailand: Media report that Thai government agencies are increasing patrols along the Moei River to prevent undocumented migrant workers from neighbouring countries to cross the border. Another article reports that, as the crackdown continues, more and more migrant workers attempt to cross the border as businesses in Thailand call them back to work. Thai businesses report that labour shortage related to tighter border controls is hurting their recovery. Meanwhile, media report that 35 migrant workers from Myanmar were arrested while attempting to cross the border. The arrests highlight the "plight of thousands of poor people from neighbouring countries who depend on work in Thailand", the article reads.

United Kingdom: Media report that Leicester's garment district, which is home to more than 1,000 factories, has received fewer than 60 health and safety inspections and only 28 fire inspections since October 2017 despite long-held concerns about working conditions.

Petitions and relief efforts

Labour behind the Label focusing on UK brands.

Oxfam Australia focusing on Australian brands.

Public Eye petition in German and French.

Abiti Puliti petition in Italian.

Traidcraft focusing on UK brands.

Remake focusing on global brands.

Garment worker Covid relief collects relief efforts.

Donate to the CCC relief fund in EUR:

Donate to the CCC relief fund in USD:

Resources

Demands, recommendations, proposals

CCC list of demands upon brand and retailers.

Global union and employer joint call to action.

WRC and MHSSN safety recommendations.

ILO's COVID-19 business resilience guides for suppliers.

The Circle has created a guide for suppliers in the garment industry on 'force majeure'.

Information trackers

WRC's brand tracker on which brands pay for orders

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre maintains a continually updated live-resource of articles on the influence of COVID19 on supply chains and is tracking brand responses to the crisis in dealing with their orders.

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre's created a COVID-19 Action Tracker, monitoring industry responses, government actions and workers’ demands.

International Labor Rights Forum created a resource for global solidarity during COVID19.

Labour Start collects materials coming in from trade unions around the world.

The International Trade Union Confederation collects trade union news on the COVID-19 crisis.

The Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD maintains a website with partner responses.

Retail dive tracks retailers’ response to COVID19.

The US Chamber of Commerce maintains a corporate aid tracker.

Foot Wear News tracks fashion philanthropy.

ICNL has a civic freedom tracker.

Omega research foundation tracks excessive use of force by law enforcement during the pandemic.

HRDN resource on business, human rights, digital rights and privacy.

COVID-19 Impact Survey Report by Decent Work CheckIndonesia and Ethiopia garment industry.

Background and position papers

WRC's white-paper "Who will bail out the workers?"

WRC and Penn State University on cancelled orders in Bangladesh "Abandoned?"

OECD's paper on COVID-19 and responsible business conduct.

ECCHR policy paper "Garment Industry in intensive care?"

ECCHR, SOMO and Pax paper on responsible business relationships.

AFWA's paper The emperor has no clothes.

Traidcraft Exchange "Bailing out the supply chain"

Basic health information

Hesperian Health Guides' COVID-19 Fact Sheet

30 August 2020

Global: Media report that recent research from the World Bank and others has found that COVID-19 is having a disproportionate effect on women's work. Indeed, AaMcKinsey study published in July estimated that, around the world, women's jobs are 1.8 times more likely to be cut in this recession than jobs held by men. According to findings, even in the best of times, women facing economic loss have fewer plan B's than men. 

Bangladesh: Media report that the BGMEA and the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) have said that the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS)'s numbers on job losses and shuttering of garment factories for the coronavirus pandemic are exaggerated, affirming that the number of layoffs and shuttering was not as high as was presented in the study. According to the BGMEA, about 48,000 workers lost their jobs in and around Dhaka. They used to work in subcontracting factories that were not receiving work orders. According to DIFE, about 26,000 workers were terminated during this pandemic. Amirul Haque Amin, the vice-chairman of BILS, admitted that the study had a lot of limitations. "By this time, the situation in the garment sector improved a lot as there was almost no labour unrest for payment and termination. We should have updated the number of job losses and factory shutdowns", he said. Meanwhile, media report that, according to a recent report, even during the coronavirus pandemic, Bangladesh remains one of the top sourcing destinations after China for international clothing retailers and brands.

Media report that the BGMEA is updating the list of US buyers who cancelled orders amidst the coronavirus pandemic, after the US government assured them assistance in realising dues from US buyers. 

Media report that thousands of undocumented Bangladeshi workers in Kuwait are at risk of facing deportation, as authorities in the Gulf country have recently decided to crackdown on workers who enter the country through informal routes. Authorities estimate that there are currently about 75,000 undocumented foreign workers who are in violation of residency permits in Kuwait. The article points out that Bangladeshi migrant workers in Kuwait have been facing multi-faceted challenges amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Philippines: Partido Manggagawa (PM) reports that around 200 workers, most of whom are women, have been laid off from an Adidas supplier at the Mactan Ecozone. They went to work only to be told that they do not have a job anymore, which is in violation of the 30 days notice period. PM added that their information is that this is just the first group to be fired and that another mass layoff is expected to take place in the next few days. 

Thailand: Media report that Thailand's Ministry of Public Health has urged business owners to delay the return of migrant workers from COVID-19 impacted areas after a surge in COVID-19 cases in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

29 August 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that laid-off garment workers from Dragon Sweater held a meeting to discuss further actions and announced that they will protest in front of the factory owner's house, the BGMEA's office and hold a hunger procession towards the Prime Minister's office. Workers are demanding hat Dragon Sweater pay terminated workers the benefits they are legally entitled to. Protests have been scheduled to start on Monday, 31st of August, and will continue until their demands are met. Workers' representative, Abdul Kuddus, explained that most of the laid-off workers had been working at the factory for over 15 years and that factory authorities failed to pay them their provident fund, earned leave and other benefits. According to Kuddus, factory management laid off the permanent workers without paying any lawful benefits and are now running production in the same building with temporary workers under a different factory name. 

Media report that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has posed serious threat to the existence of the traditional silk industry in Rajshahi, as business owners struggle to keep their businesses in operation during an abnormal decline in sales and production. "Our sales are generally higher during Pohela Boishakh and the two Eids. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re unable to sell on the festivals. The estimated loss in that period is around Tk 50 lakh", Jahirul Islam, manager of Usha Silk Industries, said. Liakat Ali, president of Bangladesh Silk Industries Owners Association, said that, as a result, thousands of workers have lost their jobs in the industry.

Cambodia: Central Cambodia reports that nearly 400 workers at Chico Bag supplier Pactics (Cambodia) Co. Ltd have started strike action demanding reinstatement of union leaders, $190 minimum wage and for their employer to respect a decision of the Arbitration Council. Chico Bag said that it "has been made aware of the strike at Pactics (cambodia) Co., LTD" and is "looking into the situation at this time".

Media report that a coalition of local and international nonprofits has launched an initiative which will focus on educating garment industry workers and collective transport drivers in order to prevent traffic accidents, which remain a major safety concern for factory employees as they travel to and from work. According to a recent National Social Security Fund report, in 2019, garment and footwear workers were involved in 698 road accidents. Last month, two garment workers were killed and more than 30 others injured in a road accident in Svay Rieng province’s Svay Teap district, where the driver fled the scene. 

Media report that, although the government of Cambodia temporarily banned all flights from Malaysia and Indonesia on 1 August, travel between Malaysia and Cambodia has been allowed to resume via Singapore. All arrivals will be required to follow strict quarantine conditions once in Cambodia. 

Jordan: Media report that reports have found a pattern of sexual abuse, forced labour and wage theft in Jordan's garment industry and that the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly detrimental to its migrant-majority workforce. Hundreds of migrant garment workers have been laid off and left stranded in Jordan for months without pay. The Guardian reports that "activist groups work towards improving labour conditions in textile factories but abolishing the industry’s 'norms' is an uphill battle."

India: Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) reports that Manjamma, organising secretary of the Garment Labour Union (GLU), has died of COVID-19 on the 28th of August. Manjamma tested positive for COVID-19 on the 25th of August, but didn't receive proper care due to the lack of facilities in government hospitals. "Her death is a terrible loss to the garment labor movement in Bengaluru", AFWA wrote on social media. 

Nepal: Media report that, after being stranded in Nepal for six months, Nepali migrant workers will be able to migrate or remigrate for work starting next week. Hundreds of migrant workers, who returned to Nepal during their annual break, have been waiting to return to work in the Gulf countries and Malaysia after Nepal suspended all international flights amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Workers will be allowed to fly out from the 1st of September. Migrant workers who want to go or return to work in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, however, will have to wait for a bit longer, as flights from these countries to Nepal are still awaiting approval. Meanwhile, media report that around 490 Nepali migrant workers left stranded in various countries amidst the coronavirus pandemic returned home yesterday.

Media report that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for strong migrant workers' welfare and safety system, as tens of thousands of Nepali migrant workers working in the Gulf struggled to pay for rent and food amidst the pandemic. The article points out that, even though the Supreme Court has ordered the government to set up safe shelters in all the major labour destination countries, many countries do not have shelter homes for Nepali citizens, which has left Nepali migrant workers at risk of homelessness. Activists made clear that these shelters could have served migrant workers during the pandemic.

Pakistan: According to reports from the CCC network, an international garment factory from the French brand "Standard" has dismissed over 70 workers for taking legal action against management during lockdown. Factory management closed the factory gate in order to block workers from going inside and took their entry cards. The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) has announced that it will file a case against factory management at the Labour Court.

28 August 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that garment workers from Dragon Sweater, organised with the Garment Workers’ Trade Union Center (GWTUC), expressed their gratitude towards the workers and unions in other parts of the world who stand in solidarity with them. Workers also held a meeting to decide on the next steps for their ongoing movement for the payment of their wages and benefits. At the meeting, workers decided to take to the streets again. Place and time is still to be confirmed.

Media report that, according to the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies' (BILS) study report, over 324,000 garment workers have lost their jobs as 1915 factories, mostly subcontracting unites, have shut down since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. In many cases, workers' retrenchment took place without following labour laws and rules. The study, titled "COVID-19: Decent Work in Readymade Garment Sector" also found that:

  • 80% of the workers had no savings left;
  • 27% of the workers had reduced their food expenses as monthly wages became irregular during the pandemic.

Amirul Haque Amin, from BILS, explained that garment workers in the country were facing three types of risk during the pandemic: risk of life, risk of termination and risk of not getting wages on time. He pointed out that many factories were running their production without complying with the COVID-19 health guidelines. China Rahman, from IndustyriAll Bangladesh Council, explained that women workers, especially pregnant ones, had been facing severe problems as factory authorities denied them entry to work without paying their job benefits.  

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) reports that, although it seems that Bangladesh's garment sector is reviving and exports orders are coming back, workers' struggle for regular pay and job security continues. The Institute has undertaken a media tracking exercise to understand the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the garment industry and garment workers, which can be accessed here

Media report that human rights groups have said that security forces and law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh have remained involved in the disappearances of journalists, activists and government critics, even during the coronavirus pandemic. According to reports, at least four people have disappeared during this time. "Enforced disappearance is part of the ruling party's ongoing crackdown on freedom of speech. Disappearance, or threats of disappearance, is used to silence critics and repress the opposition", one NGO's report reads.

Cambodia: ITUC has released a statement condemning the arrest and prosecution of Rong Chhun, the president of Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU). "The ITUC and Global Union Federations urge the government of Cambodia to drop the charges and release Rong Chhun and the detainees. We support the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia. The government of Cambodia should respect the rights of civil society organisations to undertake activities and organise peaceful assemblies without surveillance, legal harassment and use of excessive police force", the statement reads. 

India: Media report that smaller garment businesses in South India are struggling to restart production due to labour shortage related to the migrant workers COVID-19 crisis, as employers have to undertake transportation and quarantine costs for workers who returned to their home states during lockdown. Indeed, manufacturing hubs across the South are staring at huge costs, as these small factories are built on the back of migrant workers from Northern and Eastern states. Now, the owners are doing everything they can to persuade them to return to work. Some are booking flights, many are buying seats on coaches, and everybody is praying for the resumption of train services. "Last week, I brought back 12 workers to Kochi by flight. It cost me around ₹6,000 a person. They are undergoing a 14-day quarantine, and I am taking care of their expenses. Given the cost, I don’t know if I will be able to get back more workers", one garment factory owner explained. "We are bringing them by buses; then we have to keep them in 14-day quarantine. For every person, we are spending ₹10,000 in transportation alone. It is as costly as a flight", another factory owner said. Manufacturers added that factories were not running at full production, as many buyers are yet to place orders. 

Malaysia: Media report that the government of Malaysia has announced that it will not open its borders to migrant workers, in an attempt to prevent a rise in COVID-19 cases. Many migrant workers, who have Malaysian work permits, are currently stranded in Bangladesh and elsewhere, waiting to return for work. Md Shahidul Islam, Bangladesh's Ambassador to Malaysia, raised the issue with Human Resources Minister of Malaysia Datuk Seri M Saravanan, who said that "a decision will be taken when the time comes."

Myanmar: Media report that Myanmar's Tanintharyi regional government has announced that it will take legal action against migrant workers who illegally return to its border town Kawthaung from Thailand and Malaysia, as well as those who transport them. According to returning migrants, they have to pay 2,000 to 2,500 Thai baht to middlemen for transport from Thailand to the Kawthaung border and have been trying to return home after losing their jobs in Thailand and Malaysia amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Returnees face three months to three years in prison under the Immigration Act and one month in prison for failure to report to the health authorities if they attempt to enter the country illegally. 

SMART Textile & Garments report that laid-off pregnant garment workers in Malaysia are being supported by the EU Myan Ku Fund with 125,000 MMK assistance per month for up to 6 months and receiving counseling from medical doctors on maternal and infant nutrition. 

Pakistan: A video shows garment workers from Lucky Textile Mills explaining what happened at their factory amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Workers explained that management wrote resignation letters and then called over 150 workers, most of whom were women, and forced them to sign. Workers further expressed that they weren't even paid what they are owned, such as wages and bonuses. The processing department alone laid off over 270 workers. "I owe two months in back rent. Where will I get the money to pay for it? I don't have enough to buy groceries", one of the workers said. Workers expressed that, without being paid their wages, they are unable to buy food or water. Many have children. One of the workers explained that, in his case, management simply blocked his factory ID card, as, one day when he came to work, it simply stopped working and he was told to "just go home."

United Kingdom: Media report that a Guardian investigation has found that Boohoo has been selling clothes made by at least 18 factories in Leicester which audits say have failed to prove they pay the minimum wage to workers. Claudia Webbe, the MP for Leicester East, where many of the factories are based, said the allegations suggested "an unforgivable breakdown of our basic social contract" and called on Boohoo to urgently release a full list of its suppliers in the city. Claims in the documents, which were described by one expert as "a smoking gun on Boohoo's oversight of minimum wage issues", detail allegations of:

  • Workers not clocking in and out for their shifts, suggesting they worked for longer than officially recorded;
  • Discrepancies in working-hours records, making it impossible to verify minimum wage;
  • Hours set out using informal handwritten notes instead of computerised timesheets;
  • Working-hours records that were contradicted by workers in interviews;
  • Other concerns including inadequate health and safety policies, fire safety issues, missing or expired "right to work" documents, non-payment of furlough money and no records of holiday pay.

The reports, which date from 2017 to just a few months ago, came alongside whistleblower claims of other violations in Leicester’s factories. Dominique Muller, from Labour Behind the Label, made clear that the range of the audits showed that "the idea that this could go on without Boohoo’s knowledge or tacit acceptance, it’s a complete fallacy. They hold the power in Leicester, and it’s disingenuous to pretend anything else." Meanwhile, media report that criticisms mount against Boohoo's QC-led inquiry into allegations of workers' rights abuses in its UK supply chain.

27 August 2020

Global: Forbes has published an article on how brands and retailers, as well as factories manufacturing for large companies, are using the pandemic as a guise to get rid of unionised workers, in which they interview Thulsi Narayanasamy, BHRRC senior labour researcher and co-author of the report called "Union busting and unfair dismissals". Narayanasamy explains why brand Codes of Conduct aren't enough to protect unionised workers right now, and which brands and retailers are going far enough to protect the right to organise.

Asia: Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), WIEGO, HomeNet South Asia and HomeNet Southeast Asia have reiterated their call upon global brands in the fashion industry to make a one-time Supply-chain Relief Contribution (SRC) to all garment workers in their supply chains during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Bangladesh: Media report that a new survey has found that a third of garment workers in Bangladesh are the sole earners of their households, meaning they are susceptible to shocks such as the coronavirus pandemic that could completely wipe out their livelihoods and render them poor overnight. Indeed, workers said that they faced a difficult financial situation in April and May because of the coronavirus pandemic, as their income was severely affected and they are the only source of income for their families. The survey is part of an ongoing assessment of the COVID-19 fallout on garment workers. The survey found that workers adopted different coping mechanisms for their survival during the pandemic, with some reducing consumption, some relocating to villages, some borrowing money and others spending from their savings. "Since June, garment workers have been getting better wages as most of the factories have resumed operations on a large scale. Workers also reported that their working hours have increased more from July" Dr Bazlul, from the University of Dhaka, explained. 

USAID and Winrock International released a report which examined the experience of returning migrants to Bangladesh during the coronavirus pandemic. Of the 155 respondents, 94% no longer had enough income to support themselves, and 60% did not have enough daily food to eat. Of the returnees, 86% had not received any support since returning, with many at increased risk of exploitation and nearly two-thirds planning to re-migrate.

Media report that the Asian Development Bank has announced that it will provide over $11 billion to Bangladesh in 2021-2023 period in order to help the country address the coronaviruspandemic and overcome its immediate challenges. 

Media report that the US Trade Representative (USTR) has said that the US will assist Bangladesh if they sends the list of US companies that have cancelled purchase orders for garment products during the coronavirus pandemic. After securing the list, the US government is expected to urge the retailers to accept their shipments of previously cancelled work orders. 

Media report Bangladesh's Finance Minister, AHM Mustafa Kamal, said that the government may consider another stimulus package for garment exporters such that they can pay workers' wages for August, as requested by the BGMEA. He made clear that this decision will depend on the consent of the prime minister.

Media report that workers in agriculture, industry and service sectors witnessed a further drop in wage growth in July, as they were shut of income opportunities due to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. General wages grew 5.82% in July, the lowest in recent months, as economic activities did not pick up as expected to create adequate job and income prospects.

Haiti: IndustriALL reports that tensions are rising in Haiti's garment industry, as trade unions report that workers are struggling to survive in the midst of a deepening COVID-19 crisis. Indeed, the persistent problem of non-compliance with social security payments in the industry has presented disastrous consequences. Two workers from factories in the Palm Apparel Group have died after being denied medical care because their employer reportedly failed to pay their social security contributions on time. As previously reported, Sandra René died from complications during her pregnancy, while Lionel Pierre died after being denied dialysis treatment. GOSTTRA further reports that employers from several factories are dismissing union leaders and members. At Premium Apparel, 43 union leaders and members were dismissed after protesting against the company's decision to send them home in the middle of the day. At Horizon, union leader Sandra Emilion was dismissed after lodging a complaint against excessively high targets. At MBI, union leader Sonia Saintvil was unfairly dismissed after rejecting an offer of promotion on condition she quit the union. Roughly a third of the 57,000 workers in the country's garment industry are currently suspended or terminated and have yet to receive any compensation from the government in spite of earlier promises. The rest are working reduced hours in unsafe factories that lack even the most basic precautions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, IndustriALL reports. At the same time, the price of staple foods has increased sharply; as an example, the price of rice and beans has jumped by almost 135%. 

Myanmar: SMART Textile & Garments reports that, since 1 May, 57,632 payments totalling over 4.3 billion MMK have now reached garment workers in Myanmar who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis.

Media report that, according to a migrant aid group, Thai companies are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to abuse the rights of Myanmar migrant workers. “More and more, the rights of Myanmar workers in Thailand are being violated”, Ko Ye Min, spokesperson for the Aid Alliance Committee for Myanmar Workers, said. He said that the most common abuses were found in employment contract violations, particularly in the South of Thailand. The same article reports that over 150,000 Myanmar migrant workers who lost their jobs in Thailand due to factory closured have returned home since May. Some have since returned to Thailand, including the over 400 workers who held a protest to demand unpaid wages at a factory in Mae Sot province. According to the Myanmar labour attaché, their dispute is being mediated by the Thailand Labour Department and industrial zones officials.

Nepal: Media report that a report on Nepali migrant workers' rights amidst the coronavirus pandemic has found that female migrant workers have been disproportionately affected by the impacts of the pandemic. "Violence against women migrants has increased amid COVID-19 pandemic. Women migrants, mainly the domestic helpers have been most affected in foreign countries. As employers and their family members stay home all the time due to lockdown and other measures enforced by various countries to curb the spread of coronavirus, the women migrants have been forced to work for extra hours without getting time for rest. It has also resulted in their physical and mental torture", the report, by the National Human Rights Commission, reads. 

Thailand: The US-Asia Institute has published a new episode of "Asia Unscripted" in which Tim Ryan and Atley Chock from Solidarity Center speak about workers' rights in Thailand, as well as labour disruptions and challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

United Kingdom: Labour Behind the Label has submitted their response to the Boohoo enquiry raising serious concerns that the way it is structured is unlikely to lead to the systematic reforms necessary to protect workers and deliver justice for harms they have suffered.  

An ePetition demanding that the Leicester City Council publicly acknowledge the undeniable evidence of modern day slavery in the city and work with all relevant national agencies to address the problems outlined, intervening to ensure that factories are operating safely and that workers are receiving a fair wage for their work, has been launched. Only people who study, work or live in Leicester can sign. The petition can be found here.

26 August 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has once again sought government financial assistance to pay workers' wage for August. Rubana Huq, president of the Association, wrote a letter urging the government to extend assistance to export-oriented units for one more month, as factory owners are still facing financial constraints due to the cancellation of work orders worth around $3 billion and payment delays. The same article reports that the Bangladesh's garment exports for the recently concluded fiscal year 2019-20 declined by over 18% due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, media report that the government of Bangladesh has extended its support policy to garment exporting factories falling under the small and medium enterprise (SME) category. Factories whose exports amount to up to $5 million are considered as SMEs in the garment sector, and will now be able to receive incentives. 

Cambodia: Media report that the South Korean government has allowed Cambodian migrant workers whose contracts have expired to apply for alternative jobs in agriculture and fishery, as at least 4000 Cambodian migrant workers in South Korea lost their jobs in the industrial sector. 

LabourStart has launched a petition in partnership with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Education International to support the release of Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) and Sor Saknika, president of the Cambodian Informal Labourers’ Association (CILA). Sor Saknika joined protests demanding Chhun's release and was arrested for incitement on 7 August, seven days after Chhun. The petition can be signed here

Media report that Cambodia's Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has announced that it will allow migrant workers to make up more than 10% of certain enterprises' staff, if they cannot find local workers to fill positions. The Center for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central)'s executive director Moeun Tola said he was surprised at the ministry’s decision and concerned that this alteration could turn Cambodia into a transit point for human trafficking.

Ethiopia: The Guardian reports that the largest kidswear retailer in the US, The Children's Place, has cancelled millions of dollars worth of clothing orders from suppliers in Ethiopia because of the coronavirus pandemic, pushing companies into debt and leaving employees facing pay cuts. According to suppliers, the brand cancelled orders from Ethiopia in March and delayed payments by six months for orders completed in January and February. In order not to pay suppliers, the company cited the 'force majeure' clause, which frees companies from contractual obligations in the case of certain extreme events. Suppliers said that the cancellations have had serious consequences for their businesses. One workers, who has been making clothes for The Children's Place for three years, said that her salary has been cut from $26 a month to $10 since March. She added that her employers had told workers that the company would likely file for bankruptcy due to the volume of lost orders. Workers said that they frequently skipped meals because they are now unable to afford enough food. "I sometimes skip dinner. I walk from home to work every day because the factory has stopped providing transport service and I can’t afford to pay for a bus", one garment worker shared. The Children's Place declined to address specific claims made by suppliers to the Guardian. 

India: Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWF) reports that READ India has collected over 35,000 signatures from garment workers across India as part of a nationwide campaign demanding a monthly direct cash assistance of Rs 6000 for families affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Media report that the coronavirus pandemic is forcing India's children out of school and into farms and factories to work, worsening a child labour problem that was already one of the most dire in the world. A total of 591 children across the country were rescued from situations of forced work during lockdown by just one civil society group focusing on children's rights. Indeed, the International Justice Mission (IJM) reports that recent rescue operations in the garment industry of Tamil Nadu have brought to light the way business owners are taking advantage of COVID-19 to increase child labour and forced labour for profit. Anti-trafficking experts believe that this pattern of abuse may likely be tied to India's COVID-19 migrant crisis - as millions of migrant workers were forced to return to their home states during lockdown, textile and garment factory owners in southern India shifted to deception and abuse in order to keep production running. "A lot of companies have been recruiting child labourers and young people to work in spinning mills by giving them false promises. Since many families find it hard to make ends meet due to the loss of jobs or work opportunities, a lot of them fall prey to these lucrative offers", Clement David, from IJM, explained. 

Myanmar: Media report that Japan will provide emergency funding to assist Myanmar in supporting the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. The Japanese Foreign Minister announced that Japan will be extending its financial support to Myanmar, providing an emergency budget support and loans to help SMEs in the country.

Media report that 200 workers from Ah Nan Garment Factory in Yangon went on strike on 13 August because the factory failed to pay over 60 workers their full wages for July. According to the factory workers, the manager 'mistakenly' paid a basic salary of Ks3600 each instead of Ks4800 to over 60 workers. When workers' representatives went to the HR department in order to discuss the matter, the manager told them off. "Those affected were over 60. As per the law, such a problem must be solved within five days. We were told we would be paid on the 15th. The manager used abusive words, so we went to the boss demanding that the manager apologise to us. But the manager didn’t and the boss didn't do anything with the matter", Nay Lin, secretary of the factory workers' union, explained. Workers further expressed that the factory lacked proper health measures amidst the coronavirus pandemic, failing to provide enough face masks to workers. 

Sri Lanka: Media report that garment workers at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone have been living in overcrowded boarding houses or rent poorly-constructed rooms with shared bathrooms and little sanitation where diseases, such as COVID-19, can easily spread. Informal workers in Sri Lanka's garment industry were already in a precarious position, with low wages, few benefits and tenuous employment, but, according to Jayani Fernando from Dabindu Collective, a Sri Lankan worker’s rights organization, their situation gotten even worse amidst the pandemic. Meanwhile, media report that the pandemic has pushed many people into debt, who are now forced to live off borrowed money. 

United Kingdom: Media report that the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) has refused to give evidence to Boohoo's investigation into allegations of workers' rights abuses in its supply chain, criticising the focus of the QC-led inquiry and questioning its independence - as the inquiry has been commissioned and paid for by the retailer. 

Media report that, Philip Green, the owner of Topshop and Topman has been accused of potential breaching employment law by offering staff being made redundant less favourable terms for their notice periods, linked to the government’s furlough scheme. 

Vietnam: Media report that the coronavirus pandemic has put a sudden halt on Vietnam's three-decade economic boom, which has left workers in a dire situation. As garment companies in the country saw their slashed and other sectors were hit with sudden export declines, "Vietnam's workers are enduring the downside of being tethered to the global economy", the article reads. In April, Vietnam's exports plummeted by 14%, followed by a drop of over 12% in May as global commerce came to a standstill. For the seven months through July, exports rose just 1.5% compared to 8% in the same period last year.

25 August 2020 

Global: Media report that a group of employers' organisations, unions and major brands in the garment industry are working with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to support manufacturers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. "This is an unprecedented crisis that can only be solved through global solidarity. The priority must be to sustain businesses and protect workers", Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, said. Under the agreement, brands and retailers commit to paying manufacturers for finished goods and goods in production and to maintaining open lines of communication with supply chain partners about the status of business operations and future planning. According to the ILO, brands and retailers who have signed up to now include Adidas, C&A, H&M, Inditex (Zara), M&S, Primark, Under Armour and PVH.

Bangladesh: Media report that there are not enough programmes which monitor the health status of female garment workers in the country, who work in stressful and unhygienic working conditions. The little studies that exist on this issue, however, have shown that reproductive health problems are quite prevalent among female garment workers. Many contract urinary tract infections because of the unhygienic conditions in which they work and are unable to get treatment due to the costs associated and not being able to miss work from fear of losing it. 

Media report that migrant workers have been among the first victims of the global economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. The latest data by the Expatriates' Welfare Ministry shows that at least 78,043 Bangladeshi migrant workers have been forced to return to the country over the last four months. The government is documenting the number of migrants who have returned in order to design training and rehabilitation packages according to their needs. According to the Ministry, migrant workers will undertake trainings which will allow them to meet the changing demands in a post-COVID international labour market. Until now, migrant workers and their families are yet to be included in the government's social safety net programmes. 

Cambodia: Media report that Chin Malin, Ministry of Justice spokesperson, responded to the 79 civil society organisations that called for the release of protesters who were detained earlier this month for demanding the release of union leader Rong Chhun by saying that issuing a statement pressuring or demanding that the court release the accused and drop charges was not legal and would not have any effect on the court’s decision. Another article reports that activists protesting for Chhun's release have requested that the international community to intervene. Indeed, media report that activists are continuing to protest for his release despite the Prime Minister's warning that there would be more arrests if protests continue. Am Sam Ath, deputy director at rights group Licadho, said he was concerned by the declining state of fundamental freedoms in Cambodia. 

El Salvador: Media report that, although almost 95% of garment factories in El Salvador are now operating again after being closed for months, around 15,000 garment workers lost their jobs in the country as a result of the pandemic.

Guatemala: Media report that Guatemala’s garment industry is back on track as buyers have restarted to place orders. Around April/May, the sector suffered heavy losses of 30 to 50%, but the decrease is now at 7 to 15%, which is better than expected. “We lost the back-to-school season but we are hoping Christmas won’t be so bad”, Alejandro Ceballos, president of Vestex, a Guatemalan apparel and textile industry association.

India: Media report that many garment workers in India have been laid off amidst the coronavirus pandemic and now face an uncertain future as business has been slow to take off, even as exports start to pick up in other countries. According to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), almost 19 million people lost their jobs amidst the coronavirus pandemic, with around 5 million jobs being lost during the month of July. It is important to note, however, that the loss of around 5 million jobs comes after an increase of almost 4 million jobs in June. The article explains that, in many cases, however, garment workers have been re-hired on lower wages. Garment workers explained that many had been laid off while orders were low and that some are now being reinstated, which could be a strategy put in place in order to not pay staff when operations are in a lull.

The Wire has published an article titled "The Coronavirus Lockdown Has Been a War on India's Informal Labour", which expresses that the harshest lockdown in the world with one of the smallest relief packages has created catastrophic suffering imposed by the state on informal workers. The article explains that the coronavirus pandemic revealed that the state has no system to ensure the registration of migrant workers, meaning that they are invisible to the state.

Indonesia: Media report that a number of garment workers' unions and employer associations in Indonesia have issued their joint commitment to the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Action in the Global Garment Industry strategy, which proposes coordinated action to protect garment workers' income, health and employment. It also calls for more sustainable systems of social protection. Another article added that both employers and unions pledged to implement ILO core labour standards, comply with occupational safety and health regulations and engage with the government and brands in order to maintain jobs and protect the livelihoods of workers, both during and after the pandemic.

Myanmar: Media report that 16 Myanmar migrant workers have been arrested at the Thai-Malaysian border after trying to enter the country without undergoing the mandatory COVID-19 quarantine. The workers told the police that they intended to travel to their home country. 

Nepal: Media report that undocumented Nepali migrant workers have been "left to fend for themselves", as officials only provide passage to those with valid labour permits. As a result, a large number of workers, who overstayed or migrated through informal routes, remain deprived of government assistance to return home. The government doesn't have data on the number of undocumented workers living in various labour countries, but, according to a recent report, the number of people requiring repatriation after the expiration of their work permit is going up every day.

Thailand: Media report that, although exports continue to drop compared to the same time last year, the Ministry of Commerce is hopeful that "the worst might be over". In June, exports decreased by over 23%, the worst decline since July 2009. 

United Kingdom: Media report that Home Secretary Priti Patel has written to, John Lyttle, Boohoo chief executive, saying that she expects the company to work with suppliers to ensure workers are "protected and remediated". "I am concerned that your response to recent reports of labour exploitation in your supply chains appears to be focused on terminating contracts with suppliers found to have breached your code of conduct, rather than on protecting vulnerable workers", Patel said.

Meg Lewis, from Labour Behind the Label (LBL), has written an article in the Guardian on how the fashion industry echoes colonialism and Department for International Development's (DfID) new scheme will subsidise it. The DfID funding intends to support large companies to fix vulnerable supply chains and ensure that "people in Britain can continue to buy affordable, high-quality goods from around the world". "These aims, along with the fact that UK brands have been entrusted to deliver them, set off alarm bells for labour rights campaigners like myself, who advocate for better working conditions in the global garment industry", Lewis writes. Explaining that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of supply chains, the writer called on the UK government to "use its influence to strengthen mandatory due diligence and bolster enforcement of human rights protections in supply chains".

United States: Garment Worker Center LA has launched a petition in support of SB 1399, which demands end to legal wage theft in California's garment industry. The petition will be delivered to the Governor of California and can be found here

24 August 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that six garment workers from Goodrich Sweaters Ltd, a factory in Ashulia, started an indefinite hunger strike in front of Ashulia Press Club yesterday, after being illegally forced to resign by factory authorities on 30 July, who took their signatures on blank papers and collected their factory identity cards. After the incident, workers filed written complaints with the industrial police, a labour organisation and the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), demanding reinstatement, but the matter was not resolved. "That's why we started this hunger strike, and we'll continue until something is done", Shirin, one of the workers, said. Sorwar Hossain, from Bangladesh Textile and Garments Workers League explained that "[a]fter the workers informed us of the incident, we communicated with the factory authorities, industrial police and officials of Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, but found no solution to this issue."

Media report that, overall, businesses in Bangladesh seem to be recovering, but that the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are being left behind. Even though SMEs contribute to about one-fourth of the country's GDP and employ millions of people, a large number of enterprises have not received any financial aid from the government's stimulus package. 

Media report that, since 1 April, over 78,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers have returned home after losing their jobs overseas. In response, the government has formed a Tk700 crore fund which aims to rehabilitate and re-employ migrant workers amidst the coronavirus pandemic. According to government authorities, workers and their families will be provided with humanitarian assistance, including financial aid. Meanwhile, IOM Bangladesh has published a video expressing that migrant workers are facing different challenges due to COVID-19, such as unemployment and health issues. IOM reports that it will provide migrant workers who have returned to Bangladesh with financial aid, training and recognition of skills that workers have already acquired. 

Media report that garment workers from the Free Trade Zone of Katunayake, in Sri Lanka, have expressed solidarity with workers at Dragon Sweater, Bangladesh, who were illegally fired in March. Members of the Free Workers' Union (FAU) Bonn, Germany, also expressed their solidarity by organising a picket in front of the NewYorker store in Bonn. Activists distributed leaflets in order to inform the public about the ongoing struggle of the garment workers at Dragon Sweater. 

Cambodia: Media report that over 200 unionists and activists from 17 unions are committed to conducting the campaign "Say No to Workers' Hunger", which began on 15 August and aims to grant garment workers benefits and seniority indemnity if a company lacks orders or shuts down amidst the pandemic. In this sense, the campaign has called on the Labour Ministry to cancel its letter saying workers will lose their work benefits during the pandemic. Khun Tharo, from Central, said yesterday that the campaign will persist until a solution is found. "We will continue our campaign to demand the Labour Ministry responds to help workers", he made clear. 

Media report that protesters calling for the release of union leader Rong Chhun were prevented by authorities from marching towards the Japanese Embassy in Phnom Penh earlier today, where they were going in order to deliver a petition. Before being stopped, the group of around 30 activists submitted a petition to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights office in Phnom Penh, seeking the institution's intervention in Chhun's case. The president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) was detained about three weeks ago on a charge of incitement to commit a felony over his comments about the Cambodia-Vietnam border. 

Media report that the Ministry of Planning announced yesterday that around 56,000 more vulnerable families will receive aid from the government's relief programme. In total, the government has decided to deliver $25 million per month to more than 560,000 poor and vulnerable families who have been severely affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

India: Media report that 20,000 migrant workers will be provided with accommodation and jobs in garment factories in Noida though a job portal created to aid migrant workers find jobs amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Lesotho: Sourcing Journal has published an article on how a garment factory in Lesotho, Bull Clothing, has been accused of firing and then rehiring workers in order to dock benefits, explaining that this has happened in the country before. Indeed, labour activists have condemned the garment factrt for allegedly firing 253 “striking” workers and then rehiring them with new probationary contracts at significantly lower wages.

Myanmar: Media report that 700 garment workers, who worked at a Euro Gate garment factory in Yangon, have not been paid compensation nor wages for March and April after the factory suddenly closed amidst the pandemic. The factory has not opened till date. Not having paid workers their wages and consequently disrespecting the law, the owner, who is based in Germany, has been sued, but is yet to make an appearance in court. Ko Myo Min Lwin, a worker from Euro Gate explained that "[i]t seems that we have to starve ourselves sitting and waiting for the factory owner to come to court. It has been four months since we have been going for the hearings. Due to having to go to court, we don't get any job as a daily wager. It is difficult to earn a living. We are not asking for anything improper. We are asking for what is due to us. The authorities concerned are pulling time and it is very detrimental to us." With no jobs or income, workers and their families are facing difficulty for their livelihood.

Qatar: Media report that, according to Human Rights Watch's recent report, widespread labour abuses persist in Qatar, as migrant workers are still being exploited by employers who withhold wages, threaten expulsion, and deduct pay, leaving some staff unable to eat - issues which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. "Since the pandemic first appeared in Qatar, these abuses have appeared more frequently", HRW said. 

Nepal: Media report that 262 Nepali migrant workers who had been stranded in Dubai Airport finally returned to Nepal via a chartered flight yesterday. 

United Kingdom: Media report that the mayor of Leicester has written to UK fashion retailers including ASOS, New Look, River Island, Next and Boohoo, urging them to demonstrate that their stock isn’t produced using exploited labour. Another article added that the mayor also urged UK fashion brands to sign an agreement in which they agree to only produce goods from manufacturers who recognise and work with trade unions. The mayor said that "[t]his is not a new problem, but it has been once again highlighted by recent revelations about minimum wage violations and suggestions that working conditions in the industry may have been a catalyst for the spike in COVID-19 cases in the city."

United States: Media report that U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced bipartisan legislation which calls for the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) to be produced in the United States. The senators said that USA-production will ensure workers, students, health care professionals in the country have the PPE they need as the economy continues to reopen and will also create manufacturing jobs in the United States amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Media report that, according to the Commerce Department's Office of Textiles and Apparel, US footwear imports decreased by almost 30% in the first half of 2020, affecting China and Vietnam's footwear export industry. 

Vietnam: Media report that Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) expects its profits to drop by half this year, compared to its 2019 profits, due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

23 August 2020

Global: Media report that, according to a new report, there were at least 61 fires in garment factories during the month of July with India being the country with the most incidents, reporting a total of nine fires. Countries reporting more than two fires for July were India (9), Bangladesh, Korea, and Pakistan (6 each),Brazil (4), and Indonesia, Portugal, and Turkey (3 each).

Bangladesh: The Daily Star has published an op-ed on how the government’s poverty alleviation projects have had some implementation issues that prompted the reduction of funding, which will ultimately affect poverty alleviation efforts for the poor and vulnerable people in Bangladesh. The Planning Commission announced that, in June, the percentage of “ultra-poor” went up from 10.5% to 20.5%. “In this situation, the government should make best possible efforts at implementation and monitoring of projects so that their impact on poverty reduction is truly felt”, the article reads. Dr Nawshad Ahmed, the economist who wrote the op-ed, called for a stronger monitoring system, in order to reduce the risk of implementation issues.

India: Media report that India’s garment industry is yet to pick back up, as it continues to struggle with low demand and labour shortage. According to manufacturers, 50% of workers and artisans who returned home during lockdown are yet to return. Factory owners said that, in many cases, workers were unable to return due to lack of transportation. Due to labour shortage, factories are unable to prepare for the winter season and take on the little orders that they have received, which has left them in a very dire situation.

Nepal:Media report that the government of Nepal has announced that it will limit international airlines to operate one flight to Nepal per day. Only 500 passengers will be allowed to enter Nepal via international flights a day, a big reduction compared to the already low limit of 1500 passengers a day. The government has decided to resume scheduled international flights to bring back Nepali migrant workers from countries such as Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Korea, Thailand, Japan, China, Hong Kong, European countries, Australia and the USA, because, according to the government, PCR tests are easily available in these countries. For migrant workers stranded in Kuwait, Qatar or Saudi Arabia, however, only chartered flights will be available, because, according to the government, PCR tests are not easily accessible in these countries.

22 August 2020

Bangladesh: IWW Bristol has expressed solidarity with garment workers at Dragon Sweater Bangladesh and will organise pickets outside Asda and Lidl stores. 6000 members of the Garment Workers Trade Union Centre (GWTUC) were illegally sacked in March and have not been paid by Dragon Sweater Group, a supplier of Lidl and Walmart/ASDA.

China: Media report that, according to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), China’s garment industry’s revenues and profits decreased during the first half of 2020. During the same period, exports of clothing and accessories decreased by over 19%

India: Bloomberg has published an article expressing how COVID-19 is ‘bringing back’ caste discrimination. “Millions of migrant workers made arduous journeys to their villages after India imposed the world’s largest lockdown in March. Back in the rural hinterland, many say caste discrimination is reversing even the small economic and social gains they eked out in the cities”, the article reads. Migrant workers who returned to rural areas after losing their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic have explained that the double stigma of coming from a lower caste and having traveled from urban areas where there are more COVID-19 cases has made it impossible to find a job in the villages and towns. Based on interviews with migrant workers, the article concludes that “the pandemic is widening one of the nation’s sharpest inequities, the social hierarchy determined by India’s ancient caste system, which can often determine everything from social interactions to economic opportunities.” Bablu Ahirwar, 32, from a village in Madhya Pradesh, explained that, in his case “[t]he village headman is giving jobs to people from his caste. Nobody has anything for people like me.

Malaysia: Media report that Mohammad Rayhan Kabir, the Bangladeshi migrant workers who was arrested in Malaysia in July for speaking out in Al Jazeera’s documentary on Malaysia’s treatment of migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic, has been deported to Bangladesh. When the documentary aired on 3 July, Rayhan was arrested and blacklisted from entering the country

Myanmar: Frontier Myanmar has published an article expressing how COVID-19 is affecting mental health issues in Myanmar. According to the article, official figures suggest no significant increase in mental health issues in Myanmar during the COVID-19 pandemic, but culture and a lack of resources may be masking the true scale of the problem. According to health experts, it is difficult to say whether COVID-19 has caused an increase in depression or suicide in Myanmar, but it has likely increased stress levels among many people, which can increase the risk of depression, adding that this issue is not unique to Myanmar. Indeed, the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 have been far-reaching, which has caused concern among mental health experts about a looming mental health crisis. The article pointed out that some returnees from abroad had suffered from depression after being rejected by their communities out of fear that they might be ‘carrying’ COVID-19.

21 August 2020

Global: Business and Human Rights Research Centre (BHRRC) reports that their country analysis for 10 major garment exporting Asian countries reveals human rights abuses faced by garment workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. In all 10 countries, reports indicate that some garment workers have not been paid wages. In 4/10 countries, protests over unpaid wages have been met with harsh crackdowns, and, in 7/10 countries, reports reveal lack of COVID-19 safety precautions in garment factories. 

Media report that, according to World Bank data, the coronavirus pandemic may have driven as many as 100 million people back into extreme poverty. The Bank previously estimated that 60 million people would fall into extreme poverty due to COVID-19, but the new estimate puts the deterioration at 70 to 100 million, and the Bank's president warned that the "number could go higher" if the pandemic worsens. 

Bangladesh: Media report that garment exporters in Bangladesh are hopeful that garment exports will rebound by December, although they expect a decline in August-September. According to manufacturers, Bangladesh's garment factories are currently operating at 60-70% capacity. "We’re getting work orders, but not enough. Only the basic items are exported now. Big fashion houses haven’t opened yet", Anwarul-Alam-Chowdhury Parvez, former president of the BGMEA, said. Meanwhile, another article based on new data by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) shows that, in April, the situation was very different, as garment exports plummeted by over 80% compared to the previous month. Data shows that, in all the manufacturing sector, knitwear and garment exports were the hardest hit by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Media report that, after losing their jobs overseas due to the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of Bangladeshi migrant workers are struggling to survive. Many are struggling with unpaid debt and are considering selling their land in order to pay back loans, as they have been left with no income amidst the coronavirus pandemic and have no other way to pay loan instalments. "I recently took a loan to buy land and I have been paying it back in instalments. This loan has become a huge pressure for the family. It seems I need to sell our land to pay back the loan", a migrant worker who recently returned to Bangladesh, explained. 

India: Media report that the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a Mumbai-based think tank, estimates that more than 90 million informal jobs were lost in April. Many turned to the agricultural sector to find work, particularly as migrant workers returned to their homes in rural areas. There has been a partial recovery since restrictions eased in June but there have still been nearly 7 million informal jobs lost. India’s overall unemployment rate, which was 7.2% at the start of the year, soared to nearly 11% in June and remains high at 9.1% currently. As job opportunities in rural areas remain low, and coronavirus cases in urban areas surge, many workers face a dire choice between life in their villages and hometowns where there are few jobs and risking an income in bigger cities where number are increasing. 

Media report that the Tirupur district administration has rescued 10 girls and 5 women from a private spinning mill at Thekkalur, on the outskirts of the city, where they were forced to work against their will. With factories facing a manpower shortage due to the migrant exodus amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a spike in forced labour practices and use of child labour. According to one of the officials, "[t]he girls were asked to work overtime and night shift. They were physically assaulted for even small mistakes. When the girls expressed their wish to return, the mill management forced them to work."

Malaysia: According to reports from the CCC network, 49 trade unions and NGOs have signed a joint statement demanding that inquests (inquiries into death) be conducted for all deaths reported in workplaces in Malaysia, in order to ensure that justice is made and that those responsible for the death of workers are tried and charged for their crimes. According to Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), at least 61 workers died at the workplace from January to March 2020. "Worker’s lives matter, and all these deaths must be comprehensively investigated beyond merely looking at permit/licensing laws and/or occupational safety and health legal obligation compliance, but also whether any person may criminally liable for the crimes of causing death and/or injury", the statement reads. In this sense, trade unions and NGOs urged that:

  • Public inquest (inquiries into death) be conducted for all worker deaths at workplaces;
  • An inquest be forthwith conducted for the deaths of Md Shorifuland and Julhas Rahman, who died after being buried alive working in a deep trench;
  • The government enact laws that provide for a higher penalty, if by reason of non-compliance of laws, injury or death of workers happens;
  • The government prioritise worker safety and health, and make the needed legal, policy and practice reforms.

Myanmar: Media report that, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), only 100,000 of the 4 million Myanmar migrant workers currently living abroad registered to vote in the upcoming general election. Migrant rights' activists pointed out that most migrants are not familiar with the necessary tools needed in order to register to vote. Many have not received voter education for the election and are unable to travel to their respective embassies in order to vote in November. 

Nepal: Media report that, although the government of Nepal had announced that the fifth phase of repatriation flight would begin on 17 August and some repatriation flights took off on the first day, the COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) later directed the ministries not to issue any permission for repatriation flights and to cancel previously scheduled flights due to lack of preparation regarding quarantine. Thousands of Nepali migrant workers, who have been stranded abroad for mounts after losing their jobs and income, are criticising the government's decision. "Most of the people have become jobless while others are getting very low pay. In such a scenario, workers don’t have any option other than to return home. But the government does not seem serious about this issue", Santosh Rana, a migrant worker currently working in Abu Dhabi, made clear. 

Thailand: International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Thailand has published a COVID-19 Flash Update, which includes the lasses updates on extension of work permits for migrant workers, safe return arrangements for Myanmar migrants and official plans to reopen land borders between Thailand and Cambodia. The IOM reports that the Department of Employment (DOE) further extended eligibility to work and stay in Thailand for four groups of migrant workers, under specific conditions, for a maximum period through 31 March 2022. Eligible migrant workers must register for their work permit extension between 17 August and 31 October 2020.

United Kingdom: Media report that the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) has launched a petition urging the UK government to implement new legislation that would protect retail workers from violence, threats and abuse. Meanwhile, media report that total UK retail sales are still down by 27.5%.

United States: Garment Worker Center (GWC) reports a major victory for garment workers as SB1399 passed in Assembly Appropriations today and is now off to full Assembly. 

Media report that a workers' union of former Everlane workers has announced that it will be dropping charges of union busting held against the brand, as it is "hard to prove" that the company targeted this group of remote workers when it made cut-backs in March. The article points out that unionised workers are amongst the hardest hit by dismissals amidst the pandemic. Former Everlane workers had filed charges that layoffs had been pre-meditated and disguised by the virus outbreak. 

20 August 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that IWW Ireland has announced that protests in front of Lidl and Asda in support of Garment Workers in Bangladesh who have been illegally sacked and/or had their wages withheld will continue. 6000 members of the Garment Workers Trade Union Centre (GWTUC) were illegally sacked in March and have not been paid by Dragon Sweater Group, a supplier of Lidl and Walmart/ASDA. "Lidl and Walmart/ASDA urgently need to ensure and enable that ALL workers receive their full wages and payments due, and that their suppliers adhere to labour rights", IWW Ireland wrote. Meanwhile, media also report that the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar (FGWM) has also expressed solidarity with workers from Dragon Sweater as part of the Global Month of Solidarity.

Media report that weavers in Tangail have been severely impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the recent flood, which has left factory owners uncertain of the sector's future. Hundreds of factories closed on 26 March, when the government directed a general shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and haven't reopened since. Many materials inside factories have been damaged as a result, having been lying unused for so long. To compound matters, floodwaters have now entered factories and caused even more damage. "I cannot make out how I will survive", Miah, a factory owner, said. "There is no option other than immediate government support for saving the industry from destruction", Mofakhharul Islam, president of Balla handloom owners' association, made clear. The workers need financial support to make it through while the factory owners need large amounts of bank loans either interest-free or at low interest to restart their operations, he added. 

Media report that, according to a report by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 99% of migrant workers who have returned to Bangladesh have said that they would stay in the country if better job opportunities presented themselves. 

Media report that, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), wages continued to decline during the month of July in all three sectors - agriculture, industry and services - due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, another article reports that the price of rice and vegetables have continued to increase during the same month, which has severely affected low-income households. According to a study, the price of vegetables has shot up by Tk 5 to Tk 30 per kg over the last month. Retailers have said that the price hike is related to supply shortage.  

Cambodia: Media report that, as the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic severely affects Cambodia's economy, fears are growing that it could undo the progress made regarding fighting poverty in the country. Indeed, although the number of coronavirus infections in Cambodia remains relatively low, the Southeast Asian country has taken a heavy hit from the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have warned that poverty may significantly increase. According to the ADB, the current crisis could push an additional 1.3 million Cambodians into poverty, which represents 8% of the population. The article points out that Cambodians working in the tourism industry and the garment sector have been particularly hit by the crisis.

Haiti: Solidarity Center reports that, according to a study, garment workers in Haiti need four times as much pay as they currently get to survive. The organisation shared a video on the issue. 

India: Media report that the Supreme Court (SC) has let down workers by effectively insulating employers from paying their wages. According to the op-ed, the SC has passed a series of orders that effectively decided in favour of employers and against workers. First, by ordering that no coercive action could be taken against employers for failing to comply with the government's directions regarding wage payments. It took over a month and multiple hearings to hear the case, even as the pandemic and lockdown were in progress, and the issue - involving the payment of wages to people who are compelled to live pay check to pay check - was an urgent one. The case is still unresolved, which has left workers waiting for their wages for months amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Media report that migrant workers who benefitted from the rural employment guarantee scheme are asking that the number of work days offered under the scheme be doubled to 200 days and the wage rates be increased, as the scheme seems to be falling short in helping residents who have been impacted by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. According to data from Rajasthan, nearly 43% of households worked under the scheme completed more than 50 of their 100 days of work in the first four months, which raises questions about families' sustenance for the rest of the year.

According to the CCC's recent report on unpaid wages during the pandemic, garment workers in the National Capital Region (NCR) of India lost 95% of their wages in April. In Tirupur, garment workers lost 87% of their wages during the same month. In Bangalore, the figure is set at 50%. 

Indonesia: IndustriALL reports that a joint commitment on promoting safety and health, the welfare of workers and business sustainability was signed by four garment and textile unions and three employer associations in Indonesia on 6 August 2020 during an online meeting. "This will be a barometer for the implementation of OSH at workplaces, both during the Covid-19 pandemic and in the future", Trisnur Priyanto, Garment and Textile Trade Union Federation's general secretary, said. 

According to the CCC's recent report on unpaid wages during the pandemic, workers in Indonesia lost over $400 million in wages between March and May.

Laos: Media report that remittances from Lao migrant workers abroad to their home country are projected to decline by about 50% in 2020 as a result of the economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, which could push as many as 214,000 people into poverty. According to government authorities, over 100,000 Lao migrant workers – most of which were working in Thailand, South Korea and Japan – have been forced to return home after losing their jobs and income abroad. 

Lesotho: The Guardian reports on the binding agreement that was reached to fight gender-based violence in garment factories in Lesotho and how its gains are at risk because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "At the beginning of this year we genuinely felt optimistic that what happened in #Lesotho would create real change for women across the global fashion industry. But now the world feels like a very different place", Scott Nova, the executive director of WRC, said.

IndustriALL reports that Bull Clothing, a garment factory in Lesotho, fired 253 workers, accusing them of taking strike action. The company then rehired them, on new contracts, at lower salaries, subject to a three-month trial period. Bull said the workers would be treated as new employees, losing all their accrued benefits, including their packages. The union is concerned that the company has secret plans to close the Lesotho factory and move the operation to South Africa, where owner is currently based. By firing the workers, they are attempted to reduce their liability for severance packages which workers have earned over many years of service. Indeed, an article reports that ever since the government of Lesotho introduced a minimum wage for the sector of M 2,020 (US $117) per month two years ago, companies have attempted to fire and rehire workers to reduce the cost of severance packages. "Bull Clothing has played a dirty trick on its loyal workforce. (...) This is a dishonest manouever engineered to reduce the company’s liability to its workers. We will not accept this, and we will fight until their benefits are restored", Paule Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary, made clear. 

Pakistan: Reuters has published an op-ed by Pakistani labour activist Khalid Mahmood on how brands push COVID-related financial burdens down the supply chain and how factory owners and local governments are complicit. "Fashion brands are responsible for inequalities in supply chains that have left garment workers in destitution, and must take responsibility for their workers", the article reads. The article reports that very few garment workers were paid in full, despite availability of low interest loans to cover the costs, as factory owners know that there is hardly any risk in breaking labour law and felt little legal or moral pressure to pay their workers, especially as their buying brands cancelled orders. Many workers were forced to rely on charity or take out loans, as government support was complicated to apply for and not available to all. 

Philippines: Media report that as many as 30% of garment workers in the Philippines are expected to be laid-off or placed on furlough until the end of the year, as the country's garment industry struggles to pick back up. According to the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines, most factories are running at only 40-50% of their production capacity.

19 August 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that all workers who had been working at a factory in the Sagorika industrial area in Chattogram, which produces for Kohl's have been laid off because work orders have decreased and buyers, such as Kohl's, cancelled orders. "Because of COVID-19, work orders decreased, so the factory doesn’t need that many workers. Some buyers didn’t pay bills on time. Others are asking for discounts while thousands of workers like myself are going to bed without food", Ajisa Binte Sima, one of the workers, explained. Kohl's alone has canceled $150 million in orders, around $50 million from Bangladeshi factories, weeks before paying out $109 million in dividends to shareholders. In the same article, a garment worker who asked to remain anonymous, said that, at their factory, which primarily makes clothes for Puma, has not called back workers with less than one year of seniority, along with several pregnant workers and has failed to pay workers for the month of June. The worker also said that, throughout the pandemic, social distancing has not been practiced and that workers suffer verbal abuse from supervisors if they show any tiredness or make any small mistakes. 

Meanwhile, media report that Bangladesh's textile sector is breathing a sigh of relief with the rebound of apparel export orders, as the sale of yarn and fabrics of export-oriented spinning and weaving mills is on the rise due to a higher inflow of work orders from buyers. Both textile millers and garment exporters have said that more and more of the production capacity of their factories was coming to use for the higher inflow of work orders from retailers. 

Media report that the government of Bangladesh has decided to reduce COVID-19 test fees in a bid to increase the number of tests in the country. "We have learnt from our sources and media reports that the poor are facing problems for undergoing COVID-19 test due to financial reasons. I talked to the prime minister about the matter and she has also agreed to reduce the rates. We want that most of the people in the country get testing facilities for mitigating COVID-19", Zahid Maleque, Health Minister, said. 

Media report that around 64,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers have returned home from 23 countries amidst the coronavirus pandemic. According to a source in the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, 59% of migrant workers returned after losing their jobs abroad. Meanwhile, ministry officials said that diplomatic efforts are being made in order to find new labor markets and re-employment for migrant workers whose job contracts have expired or who lost their jobs during the pandemic. 

Indonesia: Labour Start reports that workers and workers' organisations are opposing attempts by the Government of Indonesia to introduce the Omnibus Bill on Job Creation, which seeks to exploit the present COVID-19 crisis in order to reduce wages, remove entitlements and erode workers' rights in Indonesia. The bill aims to rewrite 79 laws, which, according to the Government, will deliver greater foreign direct investment, support economic growth and create job opportunities for Indonesians. According to workers and workers' organisations, however, the Omnibus Bill will only harm working people and the environment and must be stopped. A petition to support workers in Indonesia can be found here.

Philippines: The Labor NGO Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) reports that 
murders of rights defenders continue in the Philippines amidst the coronavirus pandemic. According to EILER, rampant harassment and terroristic acts by the state towards the people made it clear that the Duterte administration does not aim to resolve all the crises brought out by the pandemic. Since 10 August, Randall "Ka Randy" Echanis, 72, Reken Remasog, 24, and Zara Alvarez, 39, have been brutally murdered and Reken's younger brother, Reniel, 17, was illegally arrested with two other minors namely Meriam Benero, 17, and Mary Ann Pesculado, 15. "Using the pandemic as a guise to attack critics, activists and ordinary people is the main response of the Duterte Administration", Rochelle Porras, EILER Executive Director, said. 

Sri Lanka: Media report that new figures show that Sri Lanka’s textile and garment exports dropped nearly 30% in the first half of the year, contributing to an overall decline in exports. From January to June 2020, textile and garments exports declined by 29.6%. Garment exports, in particular, were down by 32.5%, while textile exports fell by 23.2%.

Thailand: Media report that as many as 1.76 million workers risk losing their jobs if factories that used Section 75 of the Labour Protection Act, which allows factories to temporarily suspend part or all of their operations due to financial hardship, fail to restart their operations. Under Section 75, factories have to pay workers 75% of their regular daily wages during the suspension period. "If their factories are permanently shut down, we're afraid those workers will be jobless", Thosaporn Sirisamphand, secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), said. 

United Kingdom: Human Rights Pulse has shared an article expressing the working conditions in Leicester's garment factories, as exposed by Labour Behind the Label (LBL) and the Sunday Times, and shows how these conditions reflect industry norms. "Widening the lens to look at the global garment industry indicates that these are not just issues in the microcosm of Leicester. In fact, extremely low wages, workplace threats and harassment, and a lack of formal employment contracts all arise as industry standards in most countries with large garment industries", the article reads. 

Vietnam: Media report that many factories in Vietnam who switched their production to personal protective equipment (PPE) are now struggling because the demand for PPE is shrinking, which has led to oversupply. Manufacturers are calling on the government to support them by giving access to cheap credit and deferred tax payment. 

18 August 2020

Asia: Based on findings from ten countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam), Business and Human Rights Research Centre (BHRRC) reports that, across all ten countries, garment workers have not been paid wages due to brands not honouring contracts and committing to #PayUp. The study also found that workers' unions fighting for wages and labour rights have faced intimidation, threats and violence in seven of the 10 countries. BHRRC found evidence of intimidation in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Furthermore, BHRRC has found evidence of forced labour in two countries, India and Vietnam. 

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to the findings of a survey, until June, over 15% of internal migrant workers have left Dhaka due to the COVID-19 fallout. Overall, migration from cities such as Dhaka has been found to be connected to four types of expenditure burdens: house rent, cost for health, transport and utilities. The survey also found workers' incomes declined on by an average of 42% in July. 

Media report that Bangladeshi garment factories are losing nearly $100 a day due to lack of orders and that about a quarter of garment workers are living below the poverty line. "If the pandemic continues for more than a year, job losses and subsequent business shutdowns will have multiple severe effects on the economy", the op-ed reads. 

Media report that a local alliance consisting of the Free Workers’ Union (FAU) Hamburg, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Hamburg and Libertäre H-Burg held a rally in front of a Lidl store in Hamburg in solidarity with workers from the Dragon Sweater factory, in Bangladesh, who were illegally laid off and haven't been paid their wages or compensation. Another rally is being planned for 29 August in front of a New Yorker store in the city. 

Media report that Vietnam has surpassed Bangladesh as the second-largest apparel exporter. According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam and the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) of Bangladesh, between July 2019 and June 2020, Vietnamese apparels earned $30.94 billion, whereas Bangladesh earned $28.82 billion.

Cambodia: Central Cambodia reports that civil society groups have published a statement condemning the Cambodian authorities' use of violence against peaceful demonstrators and the recent arrests of more than a dozen activists. "It is not a crime to call for your family to be released from prison. It is not a crime to speak out against your friends’ arrest. It is not a crime to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with people in your community and demand justice", the statement reads. The organisations called on Cambodian authorities to immediately release those who have been imprisoned for exercising their constitutional rights, drop charges against them and stop all violence against protesters. Meanwhile, media report that Cambodian campaigners, authorities remain at loggerheads, reporting on the arrests mentioned above. 

Media report that the Prime Minister of Cambodia has called on financial institutions not to take tough actions against debtors as many are facing difficulties repaying loans amidst the coronavirus pandemic. "Now I plead with the banks as well as the micro-finance institutions to understand the difficulties debtors are facing  in repaying the debts. I am urging for further loan restructuring", he said in a speech in Phnom Penh". He also urged banks and micro-finance institutions, however, to confiscate the collaterals of debtors who refuse to repay loans.

India: Media report on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected India’s garment industry and what can be learned from it. Focusing on the “unseen and forgotten” informal migrant workers, usually women, at the very end of the supply chain, who mostly work from home, the op-ed points out that workers need social protection. Indeed, the Indian government announced a number of relief measures for workers amidst the coronavirus pandemic, but there are concerns regarding if these measures are enough or reach those most in need. Home-based garment workers, for example, were the first to lose employment and, with no unemployment benefits in place, did not receive any government aid. “The apparel industry as a whole can no longer accept that what is out of sight, is out of mind”, the op-ed reads.

Myanmar: Media report that three pregnant migrant workers from Myanmar who were arrested in Thailand on their way back to their home country for not having the proper documents and staying in the country have been turned over to Myanmar authorities. They had been in jail for over two months. According to U Moe Wai, from the migrant aid group Foundation of Education and Development, many pregnant Myanmar migrant workers are trapped in Thailand due to COVID-19. “Some had to deliver their babies there but can’t return to the country”, he added.

Sri Lanka: Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) reports that 224 Sri Lankan garment workers who have been stranded in Jordon since April with limited food and water are finally returning to Sri Lanka today. As previously reported, workers and labour rights organisations had been calling on the government of Sri Lanka to arrange repatriation flights for workers for many months.

According to Clean Clothes Campaign's recent report, garment workers in Sri Lanka lost over 80% of their wages in April, which has had devastating effects not only for workers themselves, but also for their extended families and even the national economy. 

United Kingdom: Media report that Marks and Spencer, the British food and clothes retailer, announced that it will cut around 7000 jobs as the coronavirus pandemic increasingly pushes customers to shop online. The job cuts, to be implemented over the next three months, include losses from its central support centre, in regional management and across its UK stores. Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak, Minister of Finance, plans to end the government's furlough scheme that is paying up to 80% of wages for around 10 million workers during the pandemic in October. 

United States: Media report that Ayesha Barenblat, founder of Remake, has published a documentary called "Made in America", which raises awareness around the working conditions that garment workers face in LA's garment factories. The short film shows the inside of multiple LA clothing factories, talking to local garment makers, designers, and a labour conditions inspector, about "what's really going on behind closed doors".

17 August 2020

Global: Business and Human Rights Research Centre (BHRRC) reports that up to 16 million garment workers in ten countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam) have lost their jobs. BHRRC further reports that in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan and the Philippines, garment workers' protests over unpaid wages have been met with violent crackdowns. The BHRRC's COVID-19 tracker can be found here

Bangladesh: Media report that Industrial Workers’ of the World (IWW) Ireland arranged pickets in front of Lidl and Asda (Walmart) stores in support of garment workers from the Dragon Sweater Group, who supply these brands, and have been illegally terminated amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Later, the Federação de Organizações Sindicalistas Revolucionária do Brasil (FOB) Goiás carried out an international solidarity action at the entrance of the BIG hypermarket that represents the Walmart Network in Brazil. The objective of the action was to denounce the illegal dismissal of 6000 workers from the Dragon Sweater factory in Bangladesh, who weren't paid their wages nor compensations.

India: Media report that India's garment industry has been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic, as a new report shows that 68% of units are running at less tan 25% of their production capacity. According to a recent survey, around 95% garment factories are operating below 50% of their capacity. 

Media report that NGOs in India have organised an India-wide signature campaign demanding a monthly assistance of Rs 6000 for workers affected by COVID-19. Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) reports that, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a spike in bonded labour and child labour in India, including in the garment industry. 

Malaysia: Media report that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated migrant workers' vulnerability of to forced-labour trafficking in Malaysia. As work dries up during the pandemic, desperation among migrant workers grows. Working conditions can quickly deteriorate at the hands of unscrupulous employers, resulting in an increase in human trafficking and forced labour situations. Priya Sharma
Lecturer at Monash University Malaysia, argues that "[t]he law has to keep up with the times", pointing out that concepts such as "human trafficking" and "forced labour" must be "clarified, unmistakably identified, illustrated and explicated if they’re to have significant impact on the trafficking of migrant workers for forced labour in Malaysia." 

Myanmar: Media report that, according to a Myanmar aid group, Thai authorities have arrested 40 Myanmar migrant workers who were trying to enter Thailand, as Thai troops have stepped up border patrols as part of the government’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ko Ye Min, from the Aid Alliance Committee, explained that migrants were lured into entering Thailand by human traffickers with promises of safe passage. According to those arrested, around 1000 people are waiting in Myanmar to enter Thailand through human traffickers.

Media report that, according to the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), more businesses from outside Yangon are applying for COVID-19 loans. Authorities have, so far, received over 7600 applications for other regions and states, and said that the loans will be granted to some of the applicants within one month.

Media report that 465 Myanmar migrant workers have returned to Myanmar from various districts and regions in Thailand under own arrangement through Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge-2 in Myawady today. Workers are now in quarantine centres in their respective regions. 

Nepal: Media report that the government of Nepal's plan to repatriate only 500 migrant workers a day has come "under fire", as hundreds of thousands of migrant workers want to return home - a number that number that is growing with the expiry of more visas. Barun Ghimire, a human rights lawyer, said that the decision shows the government carries no sense of urgency towards destitute and stranded migrant workers. "Initially, the government failed to maintain the transparency in the repatriation process and prioritise on who needs to return home first, so the whole process has been ineffective and delayed. Now, the decision to only bring 500 workers every day is concerning also because the government has not even given a satisfactory reason behind doing so", Ghimire said. According to the article, the government's decision to further cut down the number of Nepalis to be brought home has left migrants' rights activists perplexed, who have warned that delaying migrant workers' return will only worsen their already-dire situation. 

Russia: Media report that thousands of migrant workers from Central Asia are stuck in Russia because of travel bans, leading some to rely on money from home in a painful reversal of one of the biggest remittance flows in the world. "We're up to our ears in debt. We have to pay for rent, food and travel, and we have nothing to live on", Tolib, who's still in Russia, explained. A World Bank survey conducted in May found that more than 40% of households in Tajikistan have cut down on food consumption as a result of the decline in remittances, while Kyrgyzstan is receiving emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund. 

Vietnam: Media report that the Hue Phong company, a footwear company in Vietnam which produces for Gap Inc. and GU, has laid-off a further 1577 workers, including 198 pregnant women. This is the third time that the company lays off workers amidst the coronavirus pandemic, explaining that the reason behind layoffs is the impact of the pandemic, as the company's main buyers, who are based in Europe and the US, have suffered heavy losses and cancelled orders. 

Media report that around 120,000 employees from 4000 businesses in Ho Chi Minh City are likely to be laid-off from now until September due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, the majority of workers who are likely to lose their jobs are from the tourism, construction, transportation and textiles and footwear sectors. The article further reports that, in June and July, at least 54,000 employees in the city were laid off due to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. The recent new wave, with 421 COVID-19 infections reported since 25 July, has been a setback for businesses that were already hit hard by the first outbreak. Over 327,000 employees in Ho Chi Minh lost their jobs in the first half of this year as a result of the pandemic, the highest number in the last four years.

16 August 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to a report titled "Cost and Cost Negotiation and the Need for New Practices" conducted by the Better Buying Institute, global apparel buyers adopted a strategy of offloading their COVID-19-induced financial troubles onto suppliers by placing small volumes of orders and asking for lower prices from previous orders. According to the report, the reduced volume of orders and lower prices reflected the ongoing uncertainty around how phased re-openings and emergence of new outbreaks across the globe will impact consumer demand. The actions of global buyers but pressure on supplier businesses, which then overflew onto workers and the environment. 

The Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar (FGWM) and the Federação de Organizações Sindicalistas Revolucionária do Brasil (FOB) have joined call for the Global Month of Solidarity with garment workers at Dragon Sweater in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

Myanmar: Media report that, according to the Mandalay Region Chamber of Commerce and industry (MRCCI), over 600 businesses in Mandalay, Myanmar, have applied for the second tranche of COVID-19 loans. The same article reports that, since April, loans of K100 billion have been issued to over 3300 businesses.

Vietnam: Media report that Vietnam Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex), one of the largest apparel companies in Vietnam, forecasts that Vietnam's textile and garment exports will continue to decrease by 14-18% in the next six months. The same article reports that apparel production decreased by 4.6% in the first seven months of 2020 compared to the same period last year. 

15 August 2020

Global: Remake estimates that $22 billion have been provided by fashion companies worldwide as a result of the #PayUp campaign, which amounts to about half of the $40 billion owed to garment factories. Media report that 19 fashion companies have currently promised to pay suppliers for all orders that have been cancelled or paused due to the coronavirus. According to the NGOs list, the following companies have not yet publicly committed to #PayUp: Arcadia, Bestseller, C&A, Edinburgh Woolen Mill, Fashion Nova, Forever 21, JCPenney, Kohl's, Li & Fung/Global Brands Group, Mothercare, Primark, Ross Stores, Sears, The Children's Place, TJX, URBN, Walmart/Asda.

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to the Department for International Development (DfID), M&S and Care will work together through the recently announced DfID scheme in order to improve health services for 80,000 garment factory workers in Bangladesh. "The programme will strengthen community health care systems and deliver targeted health messaging in factories to help employees keep themselves and their families safe. This is expected to have knock-on benefits for a further 300,000 people in Bangladesh’s poorest communities", a DfID press release read.

Cambodia: Media report that representatives of unions, federations, associations and civil society organisations working on the promotion of labour rights in Cambodia have launched a social media campaign to demand that the government hold garment factory owners accountable for paying benefits owed to workers. Khun Tharo, from Central, said that the campaign is urging the government to push employers to pay seniority indemnity, notice, and damage pay owed to workers. The campaign, being held under the slogan "Say No to Workers' Hunger", also aims to push the Ministry of Labour to cancel two of its recent letters regarding the matter. The first one, which allows employers to delay notice and damage benefits to workers if they are unable to afford it due the COVID-19-induced economic downturn, and the second, which allows employers to delay seniority indemnity payments until 2021. After the press conference, unions delivered a petition to the Labor Ministry for this effect. Unions made clear that, at a time during which garment workers are struggling, the government has decided to side with employers, having issued two statements to support them. Meanwhile, the same article reports that Khun Tharo shared that, according to recent data, about 450 factories are currently suspended and 30 have permanently closed, affecting thousands of workers.

Media report that Kong Atith, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said that unions are currently negotiating with nearly 30 retailers asking that they provide $76 of additional financial support to laid-off garment workers, who are currently receiving a total of $70 per month, paid by the government and their formal employer. 

Media report that, on Friday night (14/08), 29 migrant workers were arrested while attempting to cross the border into Thailand. Cambodian migrant workers are still trying to cross the border into Thailand in order to work, as they struggle to find jobs in Cambodia. Meanwhile, Thailand continues to heavily crackdown on border security due to coronavirus fears. 

Malaysia: Media report that the Malaysian government is continuing its persecution of broadcaster Al Jazeera for producing a short documentary film that exposed the brutal treatment of migrant workers by authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic. This journalist's persecution has come after a series of government attacks on journalists and activists in recent months. The article further reports that more than 2000 migrant workers have so far been arrested and sent to detention centres, that are fast becoming hotspots for the virus. 

United Kingdom: Media report that the UK government has launched a new initiative in collaboration with retailers including Marks & Spencer, Primark and Tesco, through which capital will be made available to those in clothing and food supply chains across Africa and Asia. According to the International Development Secretary, funding of more than £6.5 million will be made available to kick-start projects addressing the delivery of healthcare and coronavirus preparedness in workplaces, amongst other things. The scheme will focus primarily on supply chains and workers in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that this same scheme has been accused of 'putting UK aid in pockets of wealthy companies', as the programme places emphasis on benefit to businesses rather than protecting workers in global supply chains. Companies that will benefit from the scheme include M&S, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Morrisons, Co-op and Waitrose. Labour MP Kate Osamor, a member of the Commons International Development Committee, exclaimed that "It is a disgrace that the government is funnelling the aid budget into the pockets of wealthy businesses like Morrisons and Primark (...) [that] have an obligation to ensure their workers operate in safe Covid-secure environments and make hundreds of millions in profit each year; the UK taxpayer should not be picking up the bill when they finally decide it’s time to improve conditions for their workforce."

United States: Media report that low-wage workers in Los Angeles are facing retaliation for demanding COVID-19 safety measures at work. Many who are reluctant to speak up are low-wage workers in the country illegally, who don't qualify for unemployment benefits. They worry that if they are fired, they may not find another job in a hard-hit economy and won’t have a safety net. California law protects workers against retaliation for voicing safety concerns or refusing to engage in hazardous work. Those who feel they have been targeted can file a lawsuit or submit a claim with the state labor commissioner’s office. Since the beginning of March, the office's Retaliation Complaint Investigation Unit has received over 300 claims that mentioned the coronavirus. Of those, at least 95 are under investigation for health and safety issues. 

14 August 2020

Global: The Global Labour University (GLU) is launching a new open online course on the 25th of August titled "Global Supply Chains in times of COVID-19". More details on the course can be found here

Asia: NGOs fighting for justice for migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic, including Solidarity Center and Migrant Forum in Asia, have released a statement, 'COVID-19: A Time for Businesses to Act Responsibly in Ensuring Justice for Migrant Workers', with 14 new recommendations to companies, covering how employers should prevent wage theft and the role of business in preventing labour abuse. They made clear that the pandemic has severely impacted millions of migrant workers in destination countries, many of whom have faced job loss or non-payment of wages, been forced to take unpaid leave or accept reduced wages, or been confined in poor living conditions. 

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to a new survey by BRAC University and C&A Foundation, garment factories who are not affiliated with the BGMEA or the BKMEA, the majority of whom are subcontracting factories, kept operating at 50% of their capacity throughout the month of June. The report also pointed out that non-member factories did not receive government funding amidst the pandemic, which impacted wage payments. It argues that there should be no difference among the export-oriented factories, irrespective of their affiliation with associations.

The Global Labour University (GLU), a network of universities, trade unions, research institutes, NGOs and foundations, reports that Bangladesh may lose 45% of its garment order volume by the end of the year and 2 million workers could lose their jobs due to COVID-19. 

The BBC has published a video report on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected garment workers in Bangladesh, while also showing that garment workers have been affected in other countries, such as Cambodia, Ethiopia and Pakistan. It explains how cancelled orders and delayed payments have affected workers' lives - many of whom are now jobless and without income. The BBC contacted brands, but many failed to respond. In the video, workers asked for job security. 

Cambodia: Global Labor Justice expressed that garment workers in Cambodia, the majority of whom are women, have long had to go into debt in order to cover basic living expenses for their families because they are paid poverty wages. Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, tens of thousands of garment workers in Cambodia are out of work and millions are at risk of defaulting on MFI loans and losing everything they have, an economic catastrophe on top of a public health crisis. Garment workers are at risk of losing their land because they are unable to pay off their debt, after having lost their jobs and income amidst the pandemic. 

Media report that at least 12 people have been arrested over the past two weeks in relation to union leader Rong Chhun's arrest over comments regarding Cambodia's border with Vietnam. Today, Suong Sophorn, president of the minor Khmer Win Party, was arrested over "exaggerations" related to Chhun's arrest.

Media report that, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), Forever Fug Garment Co., Ltd., a garment company, will invest over $10 million in building a garment factory in Cambodia, which is expected to generate 2263 jobs for locals. According to the CDC, "[s]uch investment demonstrates confidence of foreign investors in Cambodia’s macroeconomic, political and social stability, especially during this COVID-19 crisis."

China: Media report that Chinese migrant workers stranded abroad are desperate to return home as their savings dry up amidst the coronavirus pandemic. With no income, no job and little hope of returning home due to lack of (particularly affordable) international flights, some overseas Chinese workers feel like they are "languishing in prison".  "Many Chinese workers want to go home, mainly because they feel like they’ve been sitting in jail. If there were work here, then they might want to stay. The food is not good, they can’t move freely, and they feel very depressed", Xiong Gang, who moved to Singapore 20 years ago, explained. 

Gulf: Media report that migrant workers who worked in the Gulf are facing a crisis of unpaid wages amidst the coronavirus pandemic, as many Gulf businesses try to pass the cost of the COVID-19-induced recession on to vulnerable workers by unilaterally imposing pay cuts. Moreover, migrant workers find themselves unable to defend their rights in the Gulf's courts of justice after returning home, most embassies are refusing to document grievances before repatriation and low-income workers cannot afford the judicial process and fear reprisal if they speak out. 

Haiti: Solidarity Center reports that garment workers in Haiti are calling for action after Sandra René, a garment worker at the Palm Apparel factory, died due to pregnancy complications in early August. René was turned away from the hospital where she sought medical care because the factory had not paid the health insurance system for occupational injury, sickness and maternity (OFATMA) on her behalf, as legally required. Workers affiliated with the Association of Textile Workers Unions for Re-importation (GOSTTRA) and Workers Struggle (Batay Ouvriye) are demanding that employers meet their legal obligations so Haitian workers can access health care, particularly critical during the coronavirus pandemic. According to Better Work Haiti (BWH), over 80% of factories were noncompliant with such legal requirements regarding health insurance between April 2019 and March 2020. Having returned to factories in April, garment workers have expressed fear that they will not have access to healthcare if they become ill because employers are not paying health insurance. 

Pakistan: According to the Clean Clothes Campaign's (CCC) report, garment workers in Pakistan lost 75% of their wages in April, which, for the vast majority of garment workers, meant that they were unable to afford basic necessities such as food and rent. 

South Asia: Media report that the coronavirus pandemic has left subcontracted home-workers & self-employed home-based workers without work, wages, unemployment benefits or any form of government social protection. 

United Kingdom: Media report that, following findings of worker exploitation, a multi-agency operation led by Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) has been conducting unannounced visits in Leicester garment factories in order to ensure sites are complying with workplace safety standards. GLAA's head of enforcement, Ian Waterfield, said: "No one should have to work in an unsafe environment, feel forced or coerced into doing so, nor have their labour exploited. Exploiting vulnerable workers for commercial gain will not be tolerated and there is a concerted multi-agency drive to tackle it robustly."

13 August 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that many small and medium-sized enterprises in Bangladesh that worked as subcontractors for big factories and factories that announced layoffs were unable to qualify for government funding and, as a result, were unable to pay their workers. According to the CCC's report, it is most likely that, due to the government's regulation in April, most workers in closed factories received no wages at all, workers in factories under lockdown received 65% and workers in factories without government support, as mentioned above, received nothing. Citing data, the report showed that wage payments increased substantially in May. In May, workers that reported to work received 80% of their average wages and bonuses, although not in full.

Cambodia: Media report that the EU has partially withdrawn its preferential trade agreement with Cambodia. Phil Hogan, the EU commissioner for Trade, made clear that: "We stand by their side also now in the difficult circumstances caused by the pandemic. Nonetheless, our continued support does not diminish the urgent need for Cambodia to respect human rights and labour rights. I stand ready to continue our engagement and to restore fully free access to the EU market for products from Cambodia provided we see substantial improvement in that respect". Meanwhile, media report that stakeholders in Cambodia's garment industry have expressed fear that Prime Minister Hun Sen's reluctance to comply with the EU's recommendations regarding systemic human rights violations in the country could severely impact the sector. 

Media report that the Ministry of Labour announced that it has distributed out out-of-work allowances to 15,484 workers in the garment and tourism sectors.

Media report that six global brands (H&M, Adidas, Puma, Gap, Nike, and Specialized) sent a letter to Economy Minister Aun Pornmoniroth raising serious concerns over Cambodia’s embrace of coal power plants, which they say is out of step with their environmental commitments and could risk future investments. In the letter, brands warned that Cambodia's continued investment in coal energy would likely negatively impact Cambodia's prospects of attracting future investment. 

Media report that six youth activists have been arrested after rallying for detained unionist Rong Chhun, including a young woman dragged by her hair into a vehicle from outside a cafe. "They grabbed her hair and beat her up. The authorities beat … people without mercy", an anonymous shared. According to an activist, five of the six activists arrested were members of Khmer Thavrak, a youth group that has been central to many of the recent protests against the detention of Chhun, as well as environmental and social causes. The arrests came after authorities and protesters clashed outside the municipal court as Chhun, the union leader, was questioned inside over charges of incitement. 

Media report that Cambodia and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have launched a project that aims to protect Cambodian migrant workers and legalise their services during the COVID-19 crisis. The intervention aims to better facilitate Cambodian migrant workers, providing them with more security and better protection and manage the border pass, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

India: Media report that a new survey based on face-to-face interviews with 25,300 migrant workers highlights the COVID-19 lockdown's impact on India's migrant workers. The survey found that:

  • 23% of migrant workers returned home walking;
  • 78% of respondents saw their work coming to a 'complete standstill' or 'a standstill to a large extent' during lockdown;
  • 23% of respondents had to borrow money during lockdown;
  • 75% of poor families suffered a fall in income during the lockdown.

Kenya: Media report that over 100 Kenyan garment factories have temporarily closed, sending hundreds of workers home because due to a sharp decline in demand in export markets, primarily in the United States. According to official figures, the affected units are mostly from the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Machakos. According to the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), at least 30,000 garment workers had lost their jobs by June.

Myanmar: Media report that garment workers in Myanmar who lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic will continue to receive financial assistance through a €5 million (7.9 billion MMK) EU emergency cash fund 'Myan Ku'. Between 1 May and 3 August, halfway through the initiative, the fund has distributed emergency cash payments worth €2.5 million to over 45 thousand workers. The fund aims to provide cash support for around 50,000 garment workers, compile data and research on the impact of COVID-19 on the garment sector in Myanmar and, in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, offer technical guidance in the set-up and refinement of future unemployment insurance schemes.

Media report that thousands of Myanmar migrant workers have been returning to the country after losing their jobs in Thailand amidst the coronavirus pandemic. According to health officials, authorities have found no cases of COVID-19 among more than 100,000 Myanmar migrant workers who returned through the Myawady border crossing since 21 March.Overall, among thousands of returnees from 14 different countries, only 170 have tested positive for COVID-19.

Philippines: Media report that the garment sector, which employs over 180,000 workers, has urged the government to develop a "clear-cut" national agenda amidst the pandemic, as many garment factories are currently struggling to stay afloat. According to manufacturers, most factories are operating at 50% capacity. Meanwhile, they have to pay for workers' transport and for COVID-19 testing, which are frequent and expensive. Manufacturers have expressed that, due to these costs and low production, many factories, particularly MSMEs, are struggling to remain open. It is within this context that they have called on the government to support them. 

Turkey: Media report that, according to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute, garment exports from Turkey decreased by over 20% in the first half of 2020. 

United States: Media report that authorities in LA have issued a subpoena to Los Angeles Apparel regarding its pay and sick leave policies, after the factory became a hotbed for COVID-19 with more than 300 cases registered amongst staff, leading to the deaths of four workers. The Department of Public Health has pinned the outbreak on the company's owner's unwillingness to provide a completed list of factory employees, whilst also failing to establish proper social distancing mechanisms.

Vietnam: Media report that Vietnam's export orders are continuing to fall sharply. According to the HCM City Textile and Garment-Embroidery Association, orders in Ho Chi Minh's garment factories continuously declined to 40% compared to the same period last year. In order to stay afloat, many garment factories have turned to the domestic market. The domestic market, however, is also weak because consumers are, overall, spending less.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that almost 1 in 4 garment workers in Vietnam have lost their jobs amidst the coronavirus pandemic. According to the ILO, social distancing, followed by cancelled orders and delayed payments, have caused major disruptions in the sector. Many firms had to take measure to stay afloat, including reductions in working hours, benefits cuts and lay-offs. According to VITAS (Viet Nam Textile and Apparel Association) and Lefaso (Viet Nam Leather, Footwear and Handbag Association), more than 1 million garment, footwear and handbags workers have lost their jobs, while others have had their income reduced by 40%. As a result, a rash of strikes have broken out in factories because workers are not happy with management's handling of the crisis. 

12 August 2020

Global: Media report that, according to Remake, $18 billion in wages are still outstanding due to cancelled orders and delayed payments by global brands. "Many are asking for discounts and pushing payment terms out, resulting in factories being unable to make payroll and leaving workers starving on the streets", Ayesha Barenblat, from Remake, said. Since the beginning of the outbreak, 19 fashion companies have promised to pay suppliers for all orders that have been cancelled or paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, which Remake estimates amounts to $22 billion being paid to suppliers. 

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to a study by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), nearly 70% of surveyed migrant workers who returned to Bangladesh between February and June have remained unemployed. According to the report, returnee migrant workers experienced reintegration challenges such as difficulties in securing employment, lack of income, accumulating debt and health-related issues. The study further found that:

  • 64% of international migrant workers they struggled to access information and health services in the countries where they were working;
  • 55% of the respondents who had returned from abroad had accumulated unpaid debt;
  • Almost 75% of respondents reported that they want to re-migrate.

Media report that countless families who have lived in urban cities for years are leaving to their rural homes after losing their jobs and income in urban areas amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Workers explained that they are now unable to afford to live in Dhaka as they have lost their jobs or a substantial portion of their income, while expenses are going up. "I tried my best to stay back in Dhaka but I could not find any alternative livelihood", one worker explained. 

Cambodia: Media report that garment workers from the Timeless Fashion Clothing factory in Phnom Penh's are demanding unpaid wages and benefits. On Tuesday night, around 150 workers prevented a company truck from leaving the premise, as they feared that it carried equipment which would be sold by management before workers are paid. Workers have demanded to be paid $100 and benefits on 15 August if the factory suspends operations or shuts down. Following negotiations with workers' representative, the company promised to pay, although no specific date has been set. Meanwhile, media report that Ith Samheng, Minister of Labour, has urged Kandal provincial authorities, following continuing protests in the region, to resolve all issues regarding garment workers. In response, the governor said that provincial authorities are currently mediating a dispute between over a thousand factory workers and the Dignity Knitter garment factory over outstanding wages, with the company having been closed for seven months. In May, the governor reported that, of the 164 factories located in the province, 44 have suspended operations, affecting around 18,991 garment workers.

Media report that the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) launched a programme which seeks to support migrant workers who were forced to return to the Cambodia amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The programme aims to support migrant workers in accessing COVID-19 information, essential healthcare services such as mental health support and anti-gender-based violence measures. The article further reports that, so far, over 100,000 Cambodian migrant workers have returned from Thailand following the Thai government’s decision to close the country's borders.

Media report that Cambodia's garment and textile sector will see the partial loss of a preferential zero-tax trade deal provided by the European Union (EU) from today, as the EU noted that the government failed to make political reforms in order to avoid penalties. 

China: Labour Action China (LAC), a labour rights NGO based in Hong Kong, has summarised two researches regarding workers' based in Guangdong and Henan conditions amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The reports show that less than 30% of workers received their normal wage payment during the delayed work resumption period, that women workers suffered more from wage arrears and that many workers lost their jobs due to factory closures caused by bankruptcy. Overall, the studies show that workers are being paid less and are working more. 

Ethiopia: Decent Work Check has published a survey report on the impact of COVID-19 in Ethiopia's garment factories. The organisation surveyed 50 factories which account for over 30,000 workers. The report found that:

  • Most surveyed factories provided workers with PPE, implemented health and safety measures and said that they had procedures in place in case workers were found to be infected with COVID-19. The most reported procedure (45 out of 50 factories) was to report the case to the authorities;
  • Over 50% of factories said that the coronavirus pandemic has affected staffing levels at the factory;
  • Operating hours have been reduced by around 10 hours per week;
  • 90% of surveyed factories reported that the coronavirus pandemic has affected their business for the worse, regarding both supply and demand;
  • Most surveyed factories expect to suspend operations or shut down in the near future.

India: Media report that the Tirupur garment industry, one of the country's main textile hubs, is currently working at 30% of its production capacity, as a result of the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, according to the CCC's report, garment workers in Tirupur did not receive any wages during the month of April and lost around $115 million of regular wages.

Indonesia: Decent Work Check has published a survey report on the impact of COVID-19 in Indonesia's garment factories. The organisation surveyed 133 factories which account for over 280,000 workers and found that:

  • Most surveyed factories provided workers with PPE and implemented health and safety measures;
  • Only 50% of factories had procedures in place in case workers were found to be infected with COVID-19; 
  • Over 70% of factories reported that the coronavirus pandemic has affected staffing numbers;
  • Operating hours have been reduced by around 15.5 hours per week;
  • Only 25% of surveyed factories said that they paid wages in full for workers who are dismissed or sent home amidst the pandemic;
  • 90% of surveyed factories reported that the coronavirus pandemic has affected their business for the worse, regarding both supply and demand;
  • Some of the surveyed factories expect to suspend operations or shut down in the near future.

Myanmar: Media report that the intervention of unions has led to the reinstatement of 168 garment workers who had been laid off by two companies, Kamcaine Manufacturing and the Futeli garment factory, during the COVID-19 lockdown in March and April. As per an agreement reached between the union and Kamcaine Manufacturing, 57 workers who were union members, including seven local union leaders, will be reinstated at their previous positions with full pay and benefits. The Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) also secured the reinstatement with full compensation for 111 workers of the Futeli garment factory. According to the same post, since February, 44 garment factories have shut down in Myanmar, resulting in approximately 22,000 workers losing their jobs.

Media report that small businesses in Myanmar, particularly those in the manufacturing and tourism sectors, have been severely hit by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and are struggling to stay afloat. According to a survey conducted by the Asia Foundation, nearly one third of companies in Myanmar have temporarily closed and the vast majority are operating at low capacity.

North Macedonia: Media report that hundreds of companies in North Macedonia received state subsidies in order to pay their workers the minimum monthly wage during the coronavirus pandemic but failed to do so. They now risk being prosecuted for failing to pay, or only partially paying, minimum wages to their workers after receiving government subsidies for that purpose. According to findings, up to 55,000 workers - half the total number of workers supposed to benefit from the subsidies - might have been victims of this abuse. Unions and activists are demanding thorough investigations and allocations of responsibility. As a result, the government has published the names of some of the companies under suspicion and said thorough checks designed to reveal the full scope of the wrongdoing are under way.

Thailand/Cambodia: Media report that Thai authorities prevented over 400 migrant workers coming from Cambodia from crossing the border between February and early August. Most migrants attempted to cross the border in order to work in Thailand, as there are no jobs in Cambodia available to them. Khun Tharo, from the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central), explained that Cambodian migrant workers are still risking migration through small corridors, despite tight patrols by Thai and Cambodian authorities. He further states that some migrants were aware of the consequences of Covid-19 but decided to take the risk of travelling to Thailand for financial reasons. “The government should find a way to open the border to a certain extent so that people along it can resume their businesses for a living. In addition, it should create more jobs in the country, such as in factories or industrial parks in the provinces, as well as continue to disseminate information on safe migration", Tharo said. 

11 August 2020

Asia: Reuters has published an article on how, according to the CCC's report, garment workers supplying global fashion brands have been underpaid or not paid at all during the coronavirus crisis, with lost wages potentially amounting to nearly $6 billion. The Foundation interviewed, Shorifa Begum, a Bangladeshi garment worker, who explained that she was sacked by text message in May after fellow workers protested over unpaid wages. Begum, whose husband is too ill to work, said her former boss owed her 60,000 taka ($708), mostly in unpaid overtime - a sum equivalent to more than a third of her annual income. "I've been living on loans since May. I owe money for rice and lentils to many shops and I don't know when I can pay them back", she said. In desperation, Begum has joined another factory which pays 6000 taka a month, less than half what she used to be paid after overtime. "It obviously won't be enough, but I need to survive", she made clear. 

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to the CCC's report, garment workers in Bangladesh lost wages worth around $501 million (about Tk 4,250 crore) between March and May 2020. The report estimated that 1.47 lakh RMG workers in Bangladesh did not receive any wages in March as 150 factories closed at least temporarily during that month. 

Media report that the continuation of the pandemic beyond four months will force the majority of small businesses - a sector which employs over 50 million people - in Bangladesh to close down. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the hardest hit sector is likely to be the Small Business Sector, which contributes to over 20% percent of Bangladesh's GDP Growth and accounts for 35-40% of employment.

Ethiopia: Media report that the Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) nonprofit will be carrying out an ongoing study on female garment workers in Ethiopia's largest industrial park in the city of Hawassa. The research aims to interview around 5000 garment workers on a bi-weekly basis for the duration of six months in order to document how their lives are changing during the coronavirus pandemic.

India: Media report that workers took to the streets on Sunday to protest against government policies which they claim benefit the corporate sector in detriment of workers. The protest was coordinated by Left-affiliates All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and a motley group of around 200 organisations that are a part of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC). "Denial of employment and wage reduction have to be unitedly combated. The MSMEs themselves are reporting that 30% to 35% units may not be in a position to start their activities. The unemployment rate is high and job losses continue. Malnutrition will increase, hunger deaths will become a daily reality, and there is real threat of depression resulting in suicides amongst workers, say eminent scientists and medical experts. All these issues are enraging workers", the organisations said in a statement. Workers and unions protested for the suspension of labour laws for a period of time by some states such as Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh to be revoked, as the changes will lead to exploitation of workers and are against the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Media report that one of the worst-hit sectors in India amidst the coronavirus pandemic is the textile sector, particularly garment exports. As demand for garments fell sharply amidst the pandemic, the ready-made garments industry suffered heavy losses. 

Indonesia: Media report that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting textile and garment exporters in Indonesia, which has affected many people, as the sector is a large source of employment in the country. In May 2020, Indonesia's textile and textile product exports dropped by a massive 52% compared to the same month last year. The substantial slump in both export and domestic markets may induce factory closures and put millions of people out of work, sending millions of people into poverty. The article explains that, in the particular case of the coronavirus pandemic, the sector has been affected by both supply and demand. In response, manufacturers have urged the government to remove existing raw material import restrictions and fight the push from interest groups to implement new ones. 

Pakistan: Media report that the textiles sector in Pakistan has been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic due to the decrease in demand for products and order cancellations. Many factories had to stop production because they lacked the financial means to pay workers their wages, even for work already done. The situation emanating from this scenario is that millions of workers, most of whom are women in the informal sector, are without income and job security. Most of these workers do not have access to social security and work on 'piece rate', which means that they are paid according to the quantity of the products they produce. Right now, in Pakistan, a large number of informal sector women workers have lost their jobs and the few who still have some work are getting reduced wages. 

South Africa: Media report that informal women workers in South Africa have been disproportionately affected by the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, as recent data suggests that, under the strict lockdown conditions imposed in April, two-thirds of the 3 million people who lost their jobs were women. 

Thailand: Media report that 400 migrant workers in Thailand have been left high and dry as the Cortina Eiger company, a garment company, extended its shutdown for two more moths. Around 400 workers protested in front of the factory when the announcement was made. 

United Kingdom: The Labour Abuse Authority reports that, following concerns around allegations of unsafe working conditions and exploitation of workers that arose during Leicester's recent localised lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, more garment factories across Leicester have been visited by enforcement agencies in order to ensure workers are being treated correctly and businesses are following regulations. According to inspectors, all the factories visited as part of this latest activity were compliant with the regulations and there was evidence of good practice by the businesses in taking proactive steps to protect their workers from COVID-19. 

10 August 2020

Global: Vogue reports that Michael Kors, Tory Burch and Kate Spade are among brands linked to nine factories that have targeted more than 4,870 union members with unfair dismissals. H&M, Primark, Zara, Levi's, Mango and  Bestseller are also named in the BHRRC's report. With the exception of Michael Kors, Tapestry and Tory Burch, all brands have responded to the allegations, acknowledging their link to one or more of the suppliers and varying levels of engagement with unions, suppliers and workers. 

Asia: The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) has published a report today on how millions of garment workers around the world have not received their regular wages, or have not been paid at all, for months since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The report "Un(der)paid in the pandemic" 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 pandemic. Based on a review of news reports and information from worker organisations, with the support of the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), the CCC estimates 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. Reporting on these findings, the Financial Times reports that millions of garment workers in Asia have been deprived of $6bn in wages after the world's biggest fashion brands cancelled or delayed orders and withheld payments amidst the pandemic. H&M and Gap declined to comment on allegations that workers in their supply chain have had wages slashed and Arcadia (Topshop) did not respond to a request for comment.

Bangladesh: Media report that, although garment factories are starting to receive orders from buyers, shrinking prices are causing a slow recovery. According to manufacturers, almost all buyers are placing orders, but the prices are very low - between 5 to 15% lower than the price offered in normal times. In some cases, the offered price is lower than the production cost. In July, most garment manufacturers in Bangladesh were booked for about 75-80% of their capacity. For August and September, known as the lean period, they have orders for about 50-60% of their production capacity. From September onwards, factories seem to have orders for about 50% of their capacity, but are hopeful that the situation will improve with time. Meanwhile, media report that cotton imports are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, as garment exports have started to go up again. Imports crashed from February onwards as most garment factories were shut down after the government declared a two-month 'general holiday' on 26 March. As a result, most spinning and weaving mills were also shuttered during the March-June period. According to the BTMA, as most garment factories in Bangladesh are now running at 75% of their total production capacity, work orders are coming back.

Media report that, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the coronavirus pandemic has triggered huge job losses, especially for women, in the garment sector in Bangladesh. The organisation made clear that this was not unique to Bangladesh, as garment workers in countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam have also been severely affected. "The global garment and textile industry, which employs a large number of women, has been heavily impacted by a large number of order cancellations and the temporary closure of retail shops resulting in many factory shutdowns in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Viet Nam", the report reads. 

Media report that, following the BHRRC's report on union-busting, the BGMEA has reiterated that the case of Windy Group factories, studied in the report, is no union-busting case, as it was the result of "lack of business". "As per our knowledge, there is no case of union-busting in Bangladesh. Particularly, the case of Windy Group factories was a lack of business", Md Rezwan Selim, director at the BGMEA, said. However, as Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation, made clear in the report: "[t]argeting three factories out of eight of Windy Group and retrenching 3000 workers of these three factories is purposeful and similar to destruction of union". 

Cambodia: Media report that the National Trade Unions Coalition (NTUC) sent a letter to the Minister of Labour requesting to hold a meeting this Wednesday in order to raise the plight of workers during the pandemic. NTUC council chamber leader and Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union president, Ath Thorn, said that the letter contained a detailed account of the difficulties currently faced by garment workers and a nine-point recommendation on how to ease such burdens. Among the recommendations is a request for a higher minimum wage for workers in the garment, footwear, construction and service sectors.

Globe has published the first of a five-part series, "Cambodia in Quarantine", that will investigate the impact of the global pandemic on the four pillars of Cambodia's economy – garments, construction, tourism and agriculture. According to official figures, 130,000 workers in Cambodia's garment and footwear industry have lost their jobs due to the global economic downturn amidst the coronavirus pandemic. According to unions, however, estimate that around 200,000 workers have lost their jobs in the industry.  "The sociopolitical effects of the loss of income and export wealth is already rippling out into Cambodian society", Globe wrote. Laid-off garment workers are struggling to find new jobs and, according to workers, it is almost impossible to find a job within the sector, as it has been severely affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Media report that at least seven people have been arrested in Phnom Penh over protests to demand the release of union leader Rong Chhun, who was charged over statements about the Cambodia-Vietnam border. Three have been charged with "incitement" and sent to pretrial detention at Prey Sar prison. 

India: Media report that tailors in West Bengal have seen "no sign of revival", as they continue to struggle to stay afloat. "We are passing through the worst phase in our 17 years old enterprise (...) and we have no clue when we will see the first signs of revival", one worker explained. The most affected enterprises have been MSME (micro, small & medium enterprise). In some cases, production has as low as 70%. 

Sri Lanka: Media report that the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) estimates that close to 100,000 people engaged in the Sri Lanka garment industry will be unemployed as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The apparel industry fears job losses will be far worse than expected, as order books beyond August are bleak. Manufacturers reiterated that everything is uncertain. "The situation is unknown now. We are 100% dependent on the US and EU markets. If these two markets get affected again then we are in real trouble", JAAF's Chief said. 

9 August 2020

Global: Oh So Ethical and No Sweat will be mobilising on social media, on Tuesday, 11 August, from 4-8PM (GMT), to demand that Peacocks pay up and stop silencing calls for justice, as the brand has spent the past few months refusing to pay garment workers their wages and blocking/deleting those who criticise their actions.

Ethiopia: Media report that researchers and academics have published a paper on the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of women in the garment industry in Ethiopia. Their research, based on the answers of 5000 workers, found that:

  • 56% of respondents are still working and 24% are on paid leave. Of those working, 42% are working the same number of hours;
  • Of those who are not currently working, almost no one has been able to find another job;
  • 81% of laid-off workers would like to return to their jobs;
  • Overall levels of food insecurity are high with 40 to 60 percent of respondents saying they have worried they do not have enough food in the last seven days. Rates are higher for those who have not returned to rural areas;
  • Workers are well informed about COVID-19 and false beliefs or myths appear to be extremely uncommon. 

Nepal: Media report that thousands of migrant workers have returned to Nepal since mid-March and many are currently facing starvation, as the government remains unclear on how to provide help. "My family was already struggling while I stayed in a quarantine facility on return to Nepal for three weeks. My wife and I have spent many nights hungry to keep our children fed. There is no one we can seek help from", Raje BK, a migrant worker who returned from India, explained. 

Turkey: Media report that the Turkish textile and garment industry has urged the government for financial support, such as tax exemptions and debt delays. According to the Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporters Association (ITKIB), the industry witnessed a 16.5% year-on-year (YoY) contraction in exports between January and July. The sector recorded an upward trend in July, however, posting a 25% increase in exports due to the gradual reopening of economies. 

8 August 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to an estimate by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), around 1.4 million Bangladeshis have lost their jobs. In an attempt to revert these figures, the government has announced stimulus packages of Tk1.03 trillion for different sectors, including garment and agriculture, in order to keep up the high economic growth and create more jobs. 

Media report that, according to a survey, Bangladeshi firms are reporting low "business confidence" for the period of July-September 2020, although the level of confidence has increased compared to that of the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic. The survey was conducted by the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling and the Asia Foundation, surveying 303 micro, small, medium and large sector firms from 15-23 July. 

Cambodia: The Los Angeles Times published an article on how garment workers in Cambodia are being severely affected by an ever-growing debt crisis amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Khun Tharo, program manager for the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights, explained that the unpaid debt looms over Cambodians who face the prospect of many more months without salaries, health insurance or unemployment benefits. "It was easy to fall into poverty even before COVID - now the situation is much worse", he said. "We’re seeing workers sleeping outside of factories. Many have no choice but to sell their homes or take on even more loans from informal lenders just to get by, not [to] mention any health or family emergency." Indeed, the pandemic has plunged more Cambodians, even those with access to banks, into a downward spiral of debt. Cambodia's political leaders have shown little sympathy. After opposition leader Sam Rainsy called on Cambodians to refuse to pay their debts to the banks, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged banks to seize the property of those who fail to pay. The article further reports that, although the government has promised subsidies to laid-off garment workers, many workers have not received any assistance and find themselves in a very dire situation, as they struggle to find new jobs. "The only way out of this is to get a new job, whatever job I can find,” she said. “We can’t go on living like this", Sambath, a garment worker who was laid-off from her factory in Phnom Penh, said. 

Meanwhile, media report that Prime Minister Hun Sen encouraged factory workers to grow a variety of vegetables to earn extra income to support their families amidst the coronavirus pandemic. "With the outbreak of COVID-19, some workers turned to vegetable growing at homeland to cope with family's demand and to supply the market which has improved their living standard", he wrote on Facebook. 

China: Media report that many of the tens of thousands of companies across China that changed their production to mask-making at the start of the coronavirus pandemic are now struggling to survive as they face stricter quality control measures and falling domestic demand. More than 73,000 companies registered as mask makers in the first half of the year, including over 36,000 new companies in April alone. The influx of new companies, however, led to a 'dilution in quality and a surge in scams', as firms from car makers to diaper producers converted production lines to masks. As a result, some of the companies that piled into the industry are now backing out. According to the China Labour Bulletin, which tracks worker unrest in the mainland, there have been a number of protests in recent months due to some mask factories closing abruptly and leaving staff unpaid.

Morocco: Solidarity Center reports garment workers from the Miroglio Maroc factory are standing strong against union-busting, as 14 co-workers were fired for speaking out against the lack of sufficient safety gear and other protective measures at the workplace amidst the coronavirus pandemic. At this factory, 3 workers recently tested positive for COVID-19. In response, 14 now-fired workers alerted authorities to the unsafe working conditions at the plant, with around 250 workers. The employer says that he fired the workers, eight of whom are union members, for "defamation". The Moroccan Labor Union (UMT) pointed out, however, that the owner also fired workers who took part in forming the factory union in April. Meanwhile, the employer is refusing to pay the fired workers for May and June and demanded they sign a statement saying they will not strike, a move prohibited by the country's labour law. In addition, union representatives have said that the general manager has sexually harassed women garment workers who requested safety and health protections. 

Myanmar: Union organiser reports that the San Yuan factory garment workers, who produce for Bershka, have won a union agreement with all their demands, after unified actions day after day inside the factory (no strike). 

Media report that Myanmar’s garment workers have received over MMMK4 billion ($2.9 billion) in payments through the EU funded Myan Ku ‘Quick Assistance Fund’, which was launched in April to support garment workers across Myanmar who lost their jobs amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In total, 26,578 workers from about 230 factories in the garment, textile and footwear industries have been enrolled and supported since the programme started.

United Kingdom: Media report that ASOS is asking UK-manufactured brands stocked on its platform to sign up to additional commitments to ensure their garments are ethically produced. Brands will have to

  • Sign the Transparency Pledge, which means having to regularly and publicly disclose a list of manufacturing sites in their supply chain; 
  • Map all parts of their UK garment manufacturing supply chain;
  • Identify risks within their supply base and strategies to mitigate this risk;
  • Join the Fast Forward auditing programme and committing to tackle any issues identified through this process.

United States: CGTN has filmed and published a video on the situation garment workers in the LA garment industry producing PPE are facing amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Factories have become hotbeds for coronavirus spreading among hundreds of garment workers, many of whom are undocumented and underpaid. Workers explained that the factories have not provided them with masks, although they produce them, and that social distancing measures are impossible to maintain. As a result, workers are risking their lives, as many have already contracted the coronavirus. 

7 August 2020

Asia: The Guardian reports on how, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRCC)'s report, the coronavirus pandemic has led to "brutal crackdown" on garment workers' rights. According to activists, some of Europe's biggest retailers, such as Primark, Zara and H&M, are failing to stop COVID-19 being used as a pretext for union busting. "Workers face a brutal crackdown when exercising their most fundamental rights, and brands aren’t stepping up enough to ensure workers in their supply chains are protected", Thulsi Narayanasamy, senior labour rights lead at BHRRC, made clear.

Bangladesh: Media report that the police violently attacked garment workers who were protesting unpaid wages and allowances, injuring 12 workers. This took place in Dhaka, on the 25th of July, when thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers from Viyellatex and Shofi Tex blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway to demand wages for July, festival allowances and a 12-day festival holiday. Police violently attacked the protesters using batons, gunshots, teargas and sound grenades.

Media report that orders for apparel items from international retailers are coming back. "My factories are fully booked until the end of September and my customers have also booked 60 per cent of my capacity from October towards the end of December", Mostafa Sobhan Rubel, managing director of Dragon Sweaters, said, adding that they have been able to completely reinstate more than 90 per cent of the cancelled orders. Although some factories are running at above 50% capacity, the BGMEA made clear that many are still struggling. "It's too early to make a positive remark on the inflow of new orders since many factories are still struggling to survive due to financial hardships", Arshad Jamal Dipu, vice-president of the BGMEA, said. 

Cambodia: Media report that the Justice Ministry has warned that it would act against activists who defy a ban on holding protests to demand the release of union leader Rong Chhun, who, as previously reported, was arrested over statements about the Cambodia-Vietnam border demarcation. According to the Ministry, those who continue to protest and demand the release of Chhun could face legal action from authorities. Meanwhile, another article reports that yesterday's protests were met with violence from the authorities, as guards were seen pushing, dragging and kicking protesters. Ny Sokha, from human rights group Adhoc, made clear that authorities were violating protesters' constitutionally-guaranteed rights by using violence against a crowd that was peacefully protesting. 

India: Media report that the Telangana cabinet announced that it will form a special welfare scheme for migrant workers in light of the problems they faced during the lockdown period. The main goal of this policy is to create employment. 

According to reports from the CCC network and Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), 134 more children have been rescued from a spinning mill in Tiruppur, India. Following an inspection in which authorities rescued 40 minors, sources shared that there were more children in the spinning mill. Based on this information, a new inspection that took place yesterday night rescued 134 children - including 119 girls between the ages of 13 and 18. Inside the mill, no one was wearing masks or following social distancing measures. "The purchasing practices of brands, which forces suppliers to find cheaper sources of labour, has led to continued employment of child labour", the AFWA wrote in their post. 

Indonesia: Media report that the World Bank criticised Indonesia's planned reforms to make environmental and labour rules more business friendly, warning that they could have adverse effects, especially amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The planned exemptions of minimum wage and reforms to phase out severance pay “could weaken the protection of workers and increase income equality”, especially during heightened unemployment due to the coronavirus crisis, the Bank wrote in the report. According to the article, green activists and labour groups have raised similar concerns. In a joint statement, labour unions complained that their views had not been incorporated in the parliamentary debate and accused lawmakers of siding with companies.

Myanmar: The Guardian interviewed Soe Min Thu, a member of Amber Stone factory's union, who was attacked by men who, he believes, were hired by factory management to send a warning. "We do not like you much in the factory, we’ve been watching you", he recalled them saying. "If you keep working with the union … then next time you’ll die." He was left with his arm in a cast and gashes on his head and leg. Soe Min Thu reported his attackers to the police, but says he doubts they will be caught. Workers from this factory also told the Guardian that factory supervisors were abusive in their language, particularly to female workers, and that lax fire safety at the factory.

OCHA Myanmar (The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Myanmar) reports that around 142,000 migrant workers have, so far, returned to Myanmar. Most are returning from Thailand and have humanitarian needs, especially during the quarantine period. 

Media report that garment workers' rights campaigners have praised Inditex (Zara), but criticised Bestseller, after a trade union claimed victory following a two month dispute with a supplier in Myanmar. The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) says Inditex was instrumental in persuading the Huabo Times factory to reinstate 26 union members, including four union leaders, and 81 co-workers sympathetic to the union, but that there was a lack of transparency concerning Bestseller's involvement in resolving the case. 

SMART Textile & Garments reports that the EU Myan Ku Fund has disbursed over 45,000 payments during the first three months, which amounts to €2.5 million in support of laid-off garment workers. According to the EU-funded project, most workers are women, including hundreds of pregnant workers and thousands of internal migrants from conflict affected regions. SMART further reports that the EU Myan Ku Fund cash transfer programme has been extended until 30 November. In this sense, cash transfers will continue to be provided to garment, textile and footwear industry workers who have lost their jobs until this date. 

Spain: IndustriALL reports that Inditex, the company that owns Zara and other high street brands, and IndustriALL Global Union, have signed an agreement to cooperate on a recovery plan for the global garment industry amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The organisations pledged to do this in a joint declaration signed on 4 August. "The COVID-19 pandemic caused a crisis in the textile and garment industry that led unions to experience mass job losses, unsafe working conditions and attacks on workers' rights. Many of our members saw their livelihoods collapse entirely. The manufacturing suppliers need stability and predictability so that employment and income can be preserved. That’s what this commitment entails. We are working together to help the industry to develop the resilience to recover from the crisis, saving jobs and preserving the rights and income of workers", Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary, said. 

Sri Lanka: Media report that hundreds of migrant workers from Sri Lanka are still stranded in the Middle East, where at least 44 have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Thousands of migrant workers have lost their jobs and have no feasible way of returning to Sri Lanka, particularly as those who wish to return must face the barrier of paying for a mandatory PCR test, which many do not have the funds to afford. According to the article, around 1700 migrant workers from Sri Lanka are still stranded abroad.

Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) reports that the Ceylon Mercantile Industrial and General Workers’ Union (CMU) has written to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment with regard to the over 500 Sri Lankan migrant workers who have lost their jobs at two garment factories (Vega Textile Co., Ltd. and Camel Textile International Corporation) and have been stranded in Jordan, with no income, since April. The Union urged the Bureau to advice the Sri Lankan Embassy to actively provide adequate support for the workers while they remain stranded in Jordan.

This is the content of our ongoing coverage from August 2020.


For the latest news go to https://cleanclothes.org/covid19

Our blog archive:

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

published 2020-09-01