December 2020 Covid blog
31 December 2020
Bangladesh: Media reports that H&M fired 101 workers in its Bangladesh office amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Media reports that around 400,000 migrant workers returned to Bangladesh this year, which is four times higher than the usual annual figure. Many of the returnees are yet to receive any aid and have been without jobs or incomes for months. NGOs call for migrant workers who returned to Bangladesh to be employed or for the government to ensure a "decent livelihood" for them.
Cambodia: Media reports that at least two migrant workers who returned to Cambodia following the COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand have since tested positive for COVID-19. Workers are currently undergoing mandatory quarantine.
Media reports that the government of Cambodia will make new payments to garment workers who were laid-off amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Ministry, 4838 workers from 28 factories will receive payments. According to the same source, the government has disbursed payments to nearly 330,000 since it started. According to a report from Labour Minister, there are currently 43 factory closures in the country, which have affected 14,578 workers.
Vietnam: Media reports that, according to a new report by the General Statistics Office, 101,700 businesses closed in Vietnam amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these, 46,600 have temporarily suspended operations, while the others permanently closed. The GSO report says a survey on business sentiment in the manufacturing sector found that businesses are "hopeful" that things will get better in the next quarter. During the last months of 2020, nearly 25% said that they were still facing difficulties amidst the pandemic.
30 December 2020
Global: Reuters published an op-ed by the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) which highlights how the dire situation in which millions of garment workers find themselves amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is the product of longstanding poverty wages in global brands' supply chains. CCC and WRC report that, on average, garment workers around the world make less than a third of what it takes to support a family’s basic needs. "That is why, on the eve of the crisis, most garment workers not only lacked any savings but were in debt", the article reads. This, of course, is also related to the ruthlessness of brands' response to the COVID-19 crisis. As previously reported on the live-blog, brands and retailers responded to the crisis by immediately reneging on billions of dollars in financial obligations to suppliers. Many are yet to pay up. Indeed, brands have done very little to help garment workers in their supply chain amidst the pandemic. "Some brands point to initiatives ostensibly designed to mobilize resources, but the output of these projects ranges from anemic to nonexistent", CCC and WRC make clear. The authors make clear that "fundamental reform of supply chains is required" to make sure that garment workers will never again be left in such extreme vulnerability, calling on brands to pay a small price premium to fund unemployment protection for workers. The WRC and CCC estimate that it would cost apparel brands less than ten cents on a t-shirt to provide the economic relief garment workers need to survive the crisis and to strengthen unemployment protection in the future. "Any brand CEO that won't authorize that expenditure should hang their head in shame", they conclude.
Cambodia: Media reports that the Kandal Provincial Court has delayed the auction of Dignity Knitter and ECO Base factories, meaning that over 1000 garment workers are still waiting for their due wages, bonuses and compensation. The auction was supposed to take place yesterday (29 December), but no bids were made. "Workers will be disappointed that there was no bidding. About 80% of us are in debt", Prum Chamroeun, one of the workers, said. Seang Yot, a legal officer with the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU), said that authorities had failed in their efforts to raise sufficient interest in the auction, with procedures remaining unclear. Once again, Phin Sophea, a representative for the CCAWDU at Dignity Knitter, called on authorities to "speed up the case for the sake of workers who are falling into debt they might never escape." The article further reports that at least 110 factories shut down amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in Cambodia.
Media reports that over 2100 Cambodian migrant workers have returned home following the COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand's Samut Sakhon Province. All workers will have to undergo mandatory quarantine. The article further reports that as of 28 December 1455 COVID-19 cases had been found in the Samut Sakhon cluster.
El Salvador: Media reports that over 100 garment workers from Florenzi Industries have been occupying its building in Soyapango since July, when the factory closed its doors due to COVID-19. The owner of Florenzi, Sergio Pineda, has refused to pay workers their due wages and compensation. The company even failed to pay workers during the four-month shutdown of garment factories ordered by the President in March. Workers say that Florenzi used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to declare bankruptcy, while offering workers an old sewing machine with an approximate value of US$100 instead of their legally owed compensation.
India: Media reports that, according to local unions, female garment workers are "the worst-hit among the working class in Karnataka". According to the Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU)'s estimate, about 36,000 workers, representing nearly 40% of Karnataka's garment sector, lost their jobs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As previously reported on the live-blog, among these workers are garment workers from Euro Clothing Company II (ECC II) of Gokaldas Exports Ltd. In June, the factory, which mainly produced for H&M, shut down and abruptly laid off about 1300 workers. After a continuous protest of nearly two months, management agreed to pay the pending gratuity amount, pending salaries and wages for the notice period. The same article reports that in Andhra Pradesh, around 15,000 garment workers lost their jobs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, representing about 50% of the workforce, according to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). CITU reports that, in the last few months, female workers in several garment factories in this area have staged protests by boycotting work, protesting low wages, harassment, intimidation and harmful working conditions. As previously reported on the live-blog, among these protests was the eight day-long protest of nearly 4000 garment workers from Texport Industries Private Ltd, who demanded an increase in minimum wages and better working conditions. After negotiations, management agreed to increase the minimum wage by Rs 1000, but in instalment from the present salary of about Rs 6000. The negotiations also ensured that female workers will be protected from all kinds of harassment by supervisors and management. Another protest, organised by thousands of garment workers from India Designs and Nisha Designs garment companies, who also demanded an increase in minimum wages and protested harassment by male supervisors, also had some positive outcomes. Management agreed to increase lunch hours from 15 to 30 minutes, shifted the reporting time from 8:50 AM to 9:30 AM and ensured that harassment cases would be addressed.
Media reports that, as part of a national protest day called by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), workers, both organised and unorganised, employed in various sectors, protested at their workpalces today. Public meetings and rallies were also organised. While reiterating the demands of the protesting farmers, workers also called on the government to repeal the newly-passed labour codes – Code on Wages, Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, Code on Industrial Relations, and Code on Social Security.
Myanmar: Media reports that Myanmar has extended COVID-19 preventive measures across the country until the end of January 2021. Mandalay Region, where a considerable number of garment factories are located, has seen a rise in the number of positive cases since the beginning of November, reporting over 200 cases daily.
29 December 2020
Bangladesh: Media reports that the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), representing over 2300 knitwear factories, requested the Labour Ministry to suspend the legal provision of 5% annual wage hike for garment workers for the next two years. The Association says that brands' deferred and cancelled orders, coupled with decreasing prices, have made it hard for factories to pay workers. Labour leaders called the BKMEA's request "inhuman and unacceptable", particularly as many of its member-factories received aid from the government amidst the pandemic, which they failed to share with workers. "Workers are the worst sufferers of COVID-19 and the proposal made by factory owners to hold the yearly increment for two years is absolutely an anti-labour bid", Babul Akhter, from IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, made clear. In response to the request, labour leaders made clear that tougher movements would take place to protect the lawful rights of workers if needed be and urged the government not to grant the proposal.
Media reports that, according to the BGMEA, around 300 small and medium garment factories have shut down in Dhaka and Narayanganj, affecting the jobs of roughly 48,000 workers. Of the closed factories, not a single one has reopened yet, Md Rezwan Selim, BGMEA Director, made clear. The article reports that around 1200 SMEs across the country are in "big trouble" as they either lack the work orders or financial strength to deal with the lower price pressure from buyers.
Myanmar: Media reports that around 100 garment factories have closed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA). Of the Association's 700 member-factories, 50 closed during the COVID-19 first wave, while another 50 shut down during the second wave. According to Khin Maung Oo, representative of MGMA, closures were mainly due to lack of orders or other "order difficulties". The article further reports that, for many factories, new orders are yet to come in, meaning that more factories are likely to close.
Thailand: Media reports that Thailand will allow undocumented migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to access work permits until February 2023. The measure comes in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 across the country, as workers and employers avoid COVID-19 testing in fear of arrest or deportation. The Migrant Working Group (MWG), a network of civil society organisations, estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 migrants should be eligible to register under the new measures. NGOs welcomed the resolution but made clear that access to healthcare and COVID-19 testing for migrants "without discrimination" is crucial to containing the outbreak. In order to get the work permit, migrant workers will first have to undergo health checks at a cost of about 7200 baht ($240). Civil society organisations also called on the Thai government to allow the 100,000 workers who have already secured work permits to enter Thailand as soon as possible, as workers are stranded abroad and in debt, after having paid brokers or employers various fees to secure jobs. Also today, The Irrawaddy published an op-ed highlighting that the health of migrant workers is pivotal for Thailand's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. "Thai people are not safe until all migrant workers are safe. This is not the time to play the blame and shame game", the article reads. The article reports that an earlier study on migrant workers' working conditions in Thailand amidst the pandemic found that workers weren't provided proper PPE, social distancing wasn't enforced and there was no regular monitoring of body temperature.
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'.
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.
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.
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.
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"
ECCHR-WRC paper "Force majeure"
COVID-19 Report by Decent Work Check: Indonesia and Ethiopia garment industry.
UN Special Rapporteur report "Looking back to look ahead"
WRC and Penn State University paper "Unpaid Billions"
WRC and Penn State University paper "Apparel Brands' Purchasing Practices during COVID-19"
ILO research brief "The supply chain ripple effect"
WRC research report "Hunger in the Apparel Supply Chain" & Spanish version
Basic health information
Hesperian Health Guides' COVID-19 Fact Sheet
28 December 2020
Bangladesh: Dhaka Tribune reports that "the year 2020 will most likely go down as the worst in Bangladesh's 40-year-old garment industry". In the words of Rubana Huq, president of the BGMEA, "It was a year of trepidation and angst". As previously reported on the live-blog, hundreds of factories faced order cancellations or deferred shipments worth billions of US dollars. While no data is available yet on order cancellations or deferred shipments amidst the second wave, the picture seems dire. Manufacturers say that, if the situation does not improve and buyers keep deferring orders and failing to place new ones, many more workers will lose their jobs. According to BGMEA data, at least 70,000 garment workers in Bangladesh have already become unemployed amidst the pandemic. NGOs and trade unions say the real figure is much higher.
The Daily Star has published an op-ed by Dr Fahmida Khatun, Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue. Here, Khatun reflects on how effective the stimulus packages have been and what more should be done. She makes clear that not all sectors have been able to access the allocated funds with the same success, with SMEs and migrant workers amongst the most affected despite being "in dire need of support". If Bangladesh ends up providing a second round of stimulus packages, Khatun calls for them to support those who remained outside the first round but are suffering financially, such as informal sector workers, the urban poor and women.
Media reports that the European Union and Germany have transferred €80 million to Bangladesh's government to strengthen key areas of its social security system and build resilience to COVID-19, with a particular focus on affected workers in export-oriented industries. This is the first joint disbursement from the €113-million EU-Germany grant as part of Team Europe's response to fight COVID-19 and its consequences in Bangladesh. The article further reports that some garment workers who lost their job amidst the pandemic received a first monthly cash transfer of BDT 3000 (US$35) on 22 December.
Malaysia: Media reports that Top Glove employees are considering going on strike if their concerns regarding forced relocation and poor accommodation quality are not addressed. According to Andy Hall, a migrant worker and labour rights activist and researcher, workers' current accommodation is too far from the factories, leaving them with long hours of travel and little rest time. "Instead of addressing their concerns, Top Glove had told them to just take rest in the bus during their travel to work 'instead of chit-chatting'", Hall said.
Sri Lanka: Media reports that hundreds of workers in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone, hit by a COVID-19 outbreak in October, are without wages and annual bonuses, on which workers and their families depend. "We have been starving more than ever", one worker expressed. Some workers have been paid their wages, but not even in full. Some were paid as low as 3000 to 5000 rupees (US$15-26) for one month's work. They are yet to get any relief from the government. The article further reports that workers who were unable to report to work due to the COVID-19 outbreak (mandatory unpaid quarantine) have been cut off from their right to annual bonuses, as factory owners claim that they did not provide "continuous service".
According to reports from the CCC network, nearly 1000 garment workers from Esquel garment factory won't be paid their festival and end-of-the-year bonus. Workers are already in a desperate financial situation after many weeks of reduced wages amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of that, the virus is now spreading in Sri Lanka, especially in garment-producing areas, and workers with children have been told to buy digital education tools (smartphones) following school closures. In response, the union at Esquel has started a fundraising campaign to help workers keep their children in school. The donation page can be accessed here.
Vietnam: Media reports that MOLISA has recently fined a number of companies for labour export violations. Two companies were fined for administrative violations, such as failing to inform authorities of which workers were sent abroad, the fees paid by workers, and the companies' addresses. A third company, Hue Tuan, was fined for taking advantage of its position to take money from workers wishing to work in Poland, and not repaying them when they were unable to go abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It then tried to hide these violations. In addition to the fine, this company has been banned from labour export activities for one year.
27 December 2020
Cambodia: Media reports that workers in the informal sector - who mostly work with no contracts and no social security - report having been ignored during the COVID-19 pandemic and plead for financial assistance from the government. To describe their struggle, workers released a song titled "No One Left Behind", which describes new challenges for those working in informal jobs. Workers report that the money provided by the government is not even enough to make loan repayments. Many are falling deeper into unsustainable debt.
Media reports that 11 undocumented Cambodian migrant workers were arrested during a raid on a medical glove factory in Lam Luk Ka District, Thailand.
Malaysia: Media reports that, according to Andy Hall, a migrant worker and labour rights activist and researcher, after a raid at a glove factory's dormitories in Klang (reported on yesterday's live-blog update), most of the workers were "suddenly moved back to their accommodation, after being allegedly forced to relocate for around one and half days in poor conditions." The article further reports that government authorities confirmed that the factory was tipped-off before the raid. "Before we arrived at the factory, the employer moved the workers out from their cramped rooms to a nearby hotel, in order to evade authorities", Saravanan, Human Resource Minister (MOHR), said. In response to these findings, Andy Hall urged the Malaysian Government to keep the recently raided glove maker in Klang under its radar, to ensure no abuses ever happen again.
26 December 2020
Cambodia: Better Work reports that most workers in Cambodia's garment and footwear industry are at risk on a daily basis, as commuting to and from work is one of the most dangerous parts of working in the sector. Road crashes are frequent and crowded vehicles are a risk zone for COVID-19 infections amidst the pandemic.
Media reports that the Cambodian Embassy in Thailand is distributing food to Cambodian migrant workers in Samut Sakhon province, where Thailand's most recent COVID-19 outbreak took place. Nearly 200 families in the area have so far received this aid.
Malaysia: Media reports that a Klang glove factory reportedly was alerted ahead of a raid conducted by the Klang City Council & Labour Department on workers' dormitories. Sources shared that the dorms were rearranged to have 26 workers per room instead of the usual 70.
Myanmar: Media reports that Myanmar is lifting COVID-19 bans to "boost its economic recovery". The same source reports that the Ayeyarwady Regional Investment Committee approved a clothing manufacturing investment earlier this week. There is no information on the number of jobs expected to be created by this investment.
Pakistan: Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) reports that the registration of home-based workers is in progress in different districts of Sindh, Pakistan.
Thailand: Media reports that Chachoengsao, Chumphon and Nakhon Ratchasima provinces have announced restrictions on the entry and exit of migrant workers across their borders, whom authorities have blamed for the resurgence of COVID-19 in the country. Indeed, a social media post shows the order of the Governor of Nakhon Ratchasima which bans migrant workers from Myanmar, Lao, Cambodia and Malaysia from entering the province. According to the statement, this is done "in order to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 to Nakhon Ratchasima".
25 December 2020
Bangladesh: Media report that nearly 3000 to 4000 workers from Stylecraft Ltd, which is a Uniqlo, H&M, Next, New Look and River Island supplier, demonstrated in Gazipur city today demanding payment of their arrears and allowance. Workers are demanding 35% of their wages and arrears for September and October, full pay for November, overtime pay and other allowances. The article further reports that authorities announced that the factory would be open from Saturday, tomorrow.
Media report that factory activity in Bangladesh is on a "slow recovery path". While it rose in August, it plummeted once again in the last months of the year. Despite this, overall figures show slight year-on-year increases. In the particular case of knitwear manufacturing, activity decreased by over 22% in August from July but rose about 10% year-on-year.
Media report that, while the deadline for the disbursement of the stimulus package announced for SMEs ends on 31 December, over half of disbursements remain largely unimplemented. In the meantime, SMEs continue to struggle amidst the pandemic.
Cambodia: Media report that factory workers in the garment, footwear and travel-good sector who lost their jobs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to receive monthly support until the end of March 2021. This is the seventh round of support from the government. Laid-off garment workers will continue to receive $40 per month from the government, to which factory owners are expected to pay an additional $30 per worker. As previously reported on the live-blog, workers and NGOs have made clear that this monthly allowance is far from enough. In addition, many are yet to receive any financial support, particularly from factory owners. Indeed, in another article on the same topic, Khun Tharo, program coordinator at the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights, reports that some garment workers in Cambodia did not receive the monthly support they were supposed to get or received it late, losing months of payments in the process. This article further reports that the government will also allow factories and businesses in all sectors to delay payments of employee seniority bonuses from prior 2019 through the end of 2022. This, however, as Khun Tharo made clear, will only benefit employers, not workers.
Myanmar/Thailand: Media report that two migrant workers groups have urged the Myanmar and Thai governments to address rising discrimination against Myanmar migrant workers after the COVID-19 outbreak is Samut Sakhon Province. The Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN) and Aid Alliance Committee (AAC) requested that the governments work together to ensure the wellbeing of Myanmar workers who have been dismissed and abandoned by Thai employers and face rising discrimination. The article reports cases of factory owners firing Myanmar migrant workers following the outbreak. According to Ko Ye Min, from AAC, Myanmar workers have been prohibited from entering shops, using public transport and are being discriminated against in their workplaces. The labour groups also asked authorities to address concerns regarding workers not being properly isolated despite having tested positive for COVID-19. Indeed, in a social media post, a Burmese migrant reports having been kicked off a bus because of his nationality.
24 December 2020
Asia: Media report that migrant workers in Asia are being locked up and abandoned by employers, according to human rights groups which are calling for better housing and changes to visa laws. "It is clear that these governments - and employers - really treat migrant workers as second-class citizens", Phil Robertson, deputy director of global non-profit Human Rights Watch in Asia, said. The article takes a closer look at the particular cases of Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia - all of which have witnessed COVID-19 outbreaks in migrant workers' dormitories.
Cambodia: Media report that, following the recent COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand, Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand's Samut Sakhon province report that they are getting tested or being asked not to leave from their workplaces and dormitories. Migrant workers are only allowed to commute from their workplace to their respective accommodation. They report not being allowed to go anywhere else. "I am afraid too but don't know what to do. We've come to live in another country to work. If we can't work, we will have nothing to eat", one worker expressed. Another worker, who works at a factory in the area, said that workers have been told not to travel to crowded places, including to buy food at markets, for at least two weeks. "If any of our workers disobey the discipline imposed by the factory, they will be put in quarantine without getting wages", Thy Muntha, the worker in question, expressed. Meanwhile, another article reports that the government of Cambodia announced that migrant workers who ignore COVID-19 protocols when returning from Thailand will face legal action.
India: Media report that new lockdowns in the UK and other European countries to curb the spread of a new COVID-19 strain are once again negatively impacting India's garment sector. Garment exporters report that their businesses have been hit once again by these closures and that many garment units in Gautam Budh Nagar are struggling. "The second round lockdown is going to hit us. We were just hoping things would take a good turn when this has come around", Rajiv Bansal, national secretary of the IIA, said. In Gautam Budh Nagar, most factories have cut their workforce to about a third due to loss of orders amidst the first wave. Over the past few months, some had managed to pick up orders, but the situation is deteriorating once again. Thousands of workers are still unemployed.
Media report that the COVID-19 crisis' impact on jobs and incomes has been "unprecedented." India lost more jobs due to coronavirus lockdown than the US did during the Great Depression and reports show that nearly 400 million informal workers in India could find themselves in poverty. Taking a closer look at the textile and garment industry, the article reports that Sadly, women interstate migrant workers in this sector have been "harder than most other workers". In response, the authors call for primary stakeholders of the garment sector supply chain - governments, suppliers and brands - to "adopt measures both individually as well as collaboratively."
Indonesia: Better Work has published data on the estimated impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business continuity and jobs in the garment sector. Looking at over 130,000 workers, the study finds that, as of 16 September, most garment workers had either been terminated or found themselves in a "No Work No Pay" system, where workers aren't paid during work suspensions. The data further shows that, compared to August and September, there was a large increase in terminations of non-permanent workers in BWI garment factories. Just this month, 2326 workers were terminated.
Philippines: Media report that workers from First Glory Apparel, J.Crew supplier, are set to hold a strike. As previously reported, the factory has dismissed over 300 garment workers since November. Some accepted the termination pay package, while 103 workers did not. These workers are now preparing the strike to demand reinstatement.
Thailand: Media report that Anti-Myanmar hate speech is growing online in Thailand amidst the most recent COVID-19 cluster in Samut Sakhon province. "Myanmar people are being labelled for transmitting COVID-19", Sompong Srakaew of the Labor Protection Network, expressed. Migrant workers' rights groups are concerned that growing "online discrimination could translate into further discrimination and even lead to real-world violence."
23 December 2020
Bangladesh: Media report that 1794 workers from the garment, leather and footwear sectors who lost their jobs amidst the pandemic are about to finally receive Tk 3000 per month as financial assistance. This is the first phase of disbursement. In total, the government aims to disburse Tk 3000 per month for a three-month period to about 10 hundred thousand workers over the next two fiscal years. The article further reports that most garment workers who lost their jobs are unlikely to find new ones amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cambodia: Media report that Cambodia has suspended travel of migrant workers to Thailand after a surge in COVID-19 infections in Samut Sakhon province, around 300 km away from the border between the two countries.
Central Cambodia reports that unions, communities, youth and CSOs held a meeting to discuss human rights' issues in Cambodia, with particular focus on the informal sector.
Jordan: Media report that Jordanian garment factories are expected to hire 12,000 new migrant workers from Bangladesh over the course of 2021, according to Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen. The article describes the news as "new opportunities [for] Bangladeshi garment workers whose livelihoods have been compromised" amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Myanmar: SMART Textile & Garments reports that around 5 million euros have been disbursed to nearly 60,000 laid-off and furloughed garment workers in Myanmar.
Philippines: Partido Manggagawa (PM) reports that workers from First Glory Philippines, a garment factory in the Mactan Economic Zone in Cebu, have voted to go on strike. Workers demand that the factory reinstate all 300 workers that were unfairly dismissed in a clear act of union-busting. "The labour dispute at First Glory is symptomatic of the epidemic of labour rights violations during the COVID-19 pandemic", Cristito Pangan, president of this factory's union, expressed. The unionist reports that the shutdown of Arcya Glass factory in Laguna was also an act of union-busting.
Southeast Asia: Media report that supply chain disruptions, factory closures and export losses were observed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines.
South Korea: Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that at least 522 migrant workers from Thailand have died in South Korea since 2015. The Asan Migrant Workers Center (AMWC) said there were concerns that undocumented workers from other countries such as Nepal, Indonesia and Vietnam were also dying of "unknown causes." According to the newly-revealed data from the Thai embassy, the number of Thai worker deaths was highest this year - 122 as of mid-December. According to workers and activists, tens of thousands of undocumented migrant workers in South Korea are overworked, unable to access healthcare, and unlikely to report exploitation for fear of being deported. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, workers are at an even greater risk of exploitation. The article reports that the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was "concerned" about the data uncovered and was monitoring the situation.
Thailand: Media report that around 1300 new infections have been recorded in Thailand since Sunday, mostly from migrant workers at shrimp farms in Samut Sakhon, just outside Bangkok. The article reports that, in response, authorities have imposed a "Singapore-style model" of restricting migrant workers from entering or leaving their dormitories. Meanwhile, NGOs, civil society organisations and activists call for empathy instead of discrimination. "There really is no use for pointing fingers. It's not going to solve any problems", Sompong Sakkaew, director of an NGO based in the fishing communities of Samut Sakhon, made clear. Also today, the Mekong Migration Network issued a statement against the Prime Minister's Tuesday (22 Dec) comments that the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Samut Sakhon was the fault of migrant workers. "It's counterproductive to point the finger at migrants or scapegoat them as the 'source' of the outbreak since the current public health emergency requires collective action that is only possible when no one is left behind", the Network wrote.
United Kingdom: Media report that Boohoo has suspended a supplier in Pakistan following an investigation that uncovered that garment workers making Boohoo clothes are working in "appalling conditions" and being paid well below the legal minimum wage. Another article reports that Boohoo cut ties with more than 60 Leicester suppliers following the investigation into working conditions in its supply chain.
22 December 2020
Global: Media report that Remake has launched a new campaign called #ShareYourProfits, which urges brands and retailers that made huge profits amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, including Adidas, Gap, H&M, Zara, Levi, Nike and Primark, to share some of the proceeds with the workers who make their clothes. More concretely, the campaign calls on these companies to donate 1% of their revenue, plus 10 US cents for each garment sourced, to garment workers in their supply chains.
Bangladesh: Media report that only Tk 9 crore from the Tk 200-crore special loan for returnee migrants workers' reintegration amidst the pandemic have been disbursed so far.
Cambodia: Media report that Cambodia has issued a high alert and tightened its border following Thailand's most recent COVID-19 outbreak. The government implemented 14-day quarantine for Cambodian migrant workers returning home and other nationals crossing the borders. Since the measure was implemented, over 540 Cambodian migrant workers have been placed under quarantine.
UNFPA has published a report on the social and health impact of COVID-19 among returning migrant workers in Cambodia. They report that, since March, approximately 115,000 Cambodian migrant workers have returned to Cambodia. The rapid assessment, commissioned by the IOM, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF and UNWOMEN, was undertaken in August 2020. Based on interviews with 1108 returnee migrant workers (RMW), the study finds that:
- Nearly one out of three RMW households have no income at all;
- More than half of RMW (58%) currently have no source of income. Women (66%) have been more affected than men (48%);
- More than half (56%) of respondents currently have debts. RMW mostly took loans to buy food and for health care;
- Only one in five RMW has benefited from the government's Cash Transfer Programme for Poor and Vulnerable Households;
- Mental health issues have become worse for 41% of RMW;
- Nearly all RMW (96%) have received information about COVID-19 since they returned from Thailand;
- 19% of respondents said that they have experienced discrimination inside their community since their return.
China: Media report that China's manufacturing recovery has "soared past expectations" this year, so much so that factories are now struggling with labour shortage to clear mounting orders. After laying off migrant workers at the beginning of the pandemic, factories are now looking to rehire these workers. Many factories are temporary workers to finish orders.
Ethiopia: Media report that Ethiopia's garment workers have suffered pay cuts and forced overtime amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Factory bosses eager to recover lost business have been forcing the garment workers who are still working in the sector to "pick up the slack", enforcing pay cuts and imposing overtime without workers' consent. Workers explain that many workers did not return to work amidst the pandemic due to fear of infection and that they "had to work (more) to fill in the gap." One worker, for example, explained that, since coming back from furlough, she has been working an extra six hours per week - work for which she has not been paid, instead being given occasional $0.13 top-up cards for her mobile phone. The article reports that at least five other women garment workers, who work for manufacturers including KGG Garments PLC and Indochine Apparel PLC, which supply big brands such as The Children's Place and Levi Strauss & Co., reported similar experiences. Neither of the brands responded to requests for comment.
Myanmar: Media report that COVID-19 cases have increased at 29 factories in Bago Region that were allowed to reopen on 15 October after meeting government safety standards. Over 50 workers have so far tested positive and more than 800 workers have been quarantined. In the last few days (16-19 December), 25 workers tested positive.
As previously reported on the live-blog, garment factories in Myanmar are using COVID-19 as an excuse to fire unionised workers and workers say the country’s main labour arbitration council is letting them get away with it. In an article for the China Labour Bulletin, Kyaw Ye Lynn describes how unionists in Myanmar are fighting back.
Thailand/Myanmar: Media report that 427 new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Thailand today, most of whom are migrant workers from Myanmar. Following the outbreak, The Irrawaddy reports that worrying signs that Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand will be targeted and discriminated against are emerging. Meanwhile, another article in the same newspaper calls for better welfare protection for Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand, during the pandemic and beyond.
United Kingdom: The Guardian reports that Boohoo is selling clothes made by garment workers in Pakistan who say they face "appalling conditions" and earn as little as 29p per hour. In interviews in the industrial city of Faisalabad, Pakistan, workers at two factories claimed they were paid 10,000PKR (£47) per month, which is well below the legal monthly minimum wage. The article further reports that the investigation found that workers would sometimes do 24-hour shifts to finish orders for the brand.
21 December 2020
Global: Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) has published a translation of the report "Hunger in the Apparel Supply Chain" in Spanish, which can be accessed here.
Bangladesh: Media report that a new study has found that garments factories are reverting to cash to pay wages and salaries to workers just months after they embraced digital payments amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found that there was a massive shift towards paying workers digitally in May, followed by a slow decline in the share of digital payments in subsequent months.
Belgium: Media report that research conducted by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) found that face masks produced by Uyghur forced labour in China are being sold on the Belgian market. The masks (disposable surgical in packs of 50) are sold online under the brand name Hubei Haixin.
Cambodia: According to reports from the CCC network, the verdict on whether Soy Sros' case will be formally withdrawn from the court will be announced on 30 December. As previously reported on the live-blog, Soy Sros, a worker and unionist in a garment factory in Cambodia, spent two months in jail for calling out her employer on Facebook for dismissing a pregnant worker amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The factory produces for Michael Kors and Kate Spade, which the CCC has called on to "step in and make sure workers aren't criminalised for standing up for their rights."
Media report that, following the recent COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand, the Prime Minister of Cambodia has asked Cambodian migrant workers to remain calm and stay in Thailand, or to prepare for 14 days of quarantine on return.
The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) has published a new report titled "The Fight for Freedom: Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, 2018-2020", which documents attacks on activists between 2018 and 2020, including those which took place amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. "The arrest & imprisonment of over 12 human rights defenders in the second half of 2020 has capped off 3 years of increasing repression of peaceful advocacy and activism", the report makes clear.
Myanmar/Thailand: Media report that around 600 Myanmar migrants working in Thailand's Samut Sakhon province are among the over 800 confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to the Talay Thai wholesale shrimp market. Since then, reports of people in Thailand, including the country's Prime Minister, blaming low-paid migrant workers from neighbouring countries for the COVID-19 outbreak have started to emerge.
Philippines: As previously reported on the COVID-19 live-blog, 300 garment workers were fired from First Glory Apparel, a factory which supplies J.Crew in the Philippines, last month. BHRRC reports that, according to union leader Cristito Pangan, the factory used COVID-19 and the bankruptcy of its main client J.Crew as "an alibi to bust the union." Pangan was arrested weeks later along with four other union leaders after workers protested to assert their right to unionise, bargain collectively, seek redress for grievances and assemble peacefully. BHRRC invited the brand to respond to these findings, to which J.Crew responded that it had addressed the issue with the factory and committed to ensuring union elections will take place, as required by local law.
Sri Lanka: Media report that women's rights activists in Sri Lanka report that nearly 11,000 garment workers across the country have lost their jobs thus far. According to the same source, at least four large garment factories have permanently closed. In FTZs, about 1800 workers have lost their jobs in the Katunayake Zone and about 975 people in the Biyagama zone. The article further reports that a new study published on 17 December found that existing labour laws are not being respected and that garment factories are failing to provide proper healthcare for workers. The report further highlighted inactive trade unions and civil society organizations in FTZs and found a lack of interaction between government agencies, civil society organizations and trade unions. Activists and researchers urged that 10,000 rupees (US$53) be provided for FTZ workers who lost their jobs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thailand: Media report that confirmed COVID-19 cases in Thailand rose by 382 today. Of these, 360 are migrant workers from Myanmar linked to a wholesale shrimp market in Samut Sakhon.
Vietnam: Media reports that My Tu Co., Ltd, a garment factory in Tan Uyen, Binh Duong province, laid-off around 800 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. When workers tried to claim social security payments and complete social security administrative procedures in order to get new jobs, they discovered that the company has not been paying social security contributions since May, despite the fact that contributions were still deducted from workers' salaries. On 11 December, workers went on strike to demand social security payments and commitments that salaries and bonuses will be paid. Four days later, on the evening of 15 December, workers occupied the factory overnight. Since then, the company has promised to resolve "all social security payments this month", but workers do not believe the promise. Meanwhile, media reports that Daeseung Vina, a garment factory in Phu Ninh district, has reduced its workforce from 1000 to 300 workers amidst the pandemic. Now, all the remaining workers, except office and machine maintenance staff, have submitted their resignations. The company has no orders and owes workers a total of 20 billion dong (around US$870,000) in unpaid wages and other benefits.
Media reports that Le Dinh Quang, deputy head of the VGCL labour relations department, has expressed concerns about employers exploiting the new labour code to avoid paying Tet bonuses. According to VGCL, some companies are trying to exploit the law by giving cheap goods to workers as Tet bonuses, even though they are not facing difficulties amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
20 December 2020
Thailand: Media report that about 100,000 migrant workers from Myanmar are waiting to return to Thailand for work. Many simply expected to return to Myanmar for a few weeks in February/March and have been stranded on the other side of the border ever since. Closed borders, lack of job opportunities in Myanmar and labour shortage in Thailand have pushed some workers to cross the border amidst the pandemic through informal routes.
Meanwhile, media report that Thailand plans to test more than 10,000 people after a record daily surge in coronavirus cases to over 500, most of which were among migrant workers linked to a shrimp market near the capital. An additional 146 COVID-19 cases have been reported today in Samut Sakhon, 90% of which are migrant workers from Myanmar. The province currently reports 694 cases.
19 December 2020
Cambodia: Media report that Cambodia's government has reduced import taxes on products used in the textiles manufacturing industry and others used by small and medium enterprises, which have been disproportionately hit amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The article further reports that unemployed workers in the garment sector are still receiving small cash payments, which workers say are insufficient, as previously reported on the live-blog.
Jordan: Media report that Jordan's garment, footwear and jewellery sector continue to be severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as orders fail to pick up ahead of the Holidays. According to As'ad Qawasmi, the sector's representative at the Jordan Chamber of Commerce, retailers usually start to stock up in anticipation of a strong buyer turnout, but this year "this activity has stopped and retreated to its lowest levels." Qawasmi says that the sector is experiencing a "real crisis", which has been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Nepal: Media report that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 1.6 to 2 million jobs have been disrupted in Nepal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pakistan: According to reports from the CCC network, Santoosh Odh, a machine operator at Denim Clothing Unit 4 (H&M supplier), died from a heart attack earlier today after being denied medical treatment by factory management.
Saudi Arabia: Media report that Human Rights Watch (HRW) finds that migrant workers in Saudi Arabia's "deportation centres" are being kept in unsanitary rooms where they are repeatedly beaten by guards. Six out of nine of HRW's interviewees said that they witnessed guards beat migrants so severely that they were taken from the detention room but never returned. One migrant told researchers that he had seen three detainees killed by guards.
South/Southeast Asia: Media report that the National Human Rights Institution of the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines have called on these respective governments to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of migrant workers and their families. The Institutions called on government's to commit to solving wage theft and other human rights abuses against migrant workers.
United Kingdom: Media report that the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) found that a garment factory in Leicester had five workers sleeping on mattresses inside. GLAA checked 172 factories in the city. "That's not an environment where people should be overnight - it's not a residential place, it's full of paint, chemicals [and] screen-printing equipment", Daniel Scully, GLAA director, said. GLAA further reports that its investigation has uncovered allegations of suppressed earnings, where workers are actually doing more hours than the books would show. Scully reports that there were "definitely exploitative practices" in the inspected factories. He added that, while no businesses have yet been shut down by the GLAA, criminal proceedings might be brought against some owners.
18 December 2020
Cambodia: Media report that hard-won labour rights have been rolled back this year in Cambodia's garment industry, as factories use COVID-19 to cover union-busting and, for those still working, wages and conditions have decreased. According to Ken Loo, from GMAC, at least 110 factories have permanently shut down amidst the pandemic due to loss of orders. He adds that the real figure will be made clear when 2021 membership fees are due. As a result of layoffs and closures, thousands of workers have lost their jobs and, while Cambodia has rolled out some assistance for laid-off garment workers, workers and advocates say that it has been insufficient and difficult to access. For those who are still working, unions report that working conditions have worsened and that unionists continue to be targeted. "Last month alone, we organised two new local unions in factories and our leaders at both have already been subject to either threat of or actual dismissal", Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions.
Haiti: Media report that, according to a new study, garment manufacturers in Haiti expect a loss in revenues of at least 30% as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Based on a survey of 33 garment factories, which together employ more than 50,000 workers, the study found that:
- By June, half of the orders were reduced or cancelled and a third of the jobs were lost;
- By August, businesses were still operating at 75% of their capacity, often with reduced workdays per week;
- At the time of the survey [June], only 22% of respondents were producing at least 60% of their previous capacity;
- All but one factory reported reductions and cancellations of orders and 52% of all firms saw reductions or cancellations of more than 50%.
India: Media report that a report jointly published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Aajeevika Bureau and the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development has noted that there is an urgent need to develop an inclusive policy framework to mitigate the vulnerabilities faced by internal migrants in India. The article further reports that, based on the answers of internal migrants from 10 states across India, a study found that 95% of respondents lost all their means of livelihood and that only 7% benefited from the MGNREGS.
Nepal: Media report that Amnesty International Nepal is going to launch a new audio series titled "A journey of thousand miles" which highlights the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent government responses to it on Nepali migrant workers. Each episode tackles a different aspect of the migrant workers' experience post the COVID-19 crisis and will feature interviews with migrant workers, government officials, migration reporters and migrant rights activists.
Pakistan: Media report that unions and civil society organisations in Pakistan report that, while factories are receiving benefits from the government due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, factory owners are failing to transfer this aid to workers. The article further reports that Nasir Mansoor, from the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), says that workers are not being paid proper overtime and other benefits amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Singapore: Media report that, while Singapore moves to its final phase of reopening, migrant workers will remain locked in dormitories. Migrant workers have borne the brunt of Singapore's COVID-19 cases, making up over 93% of all infections as of December. So far, only workers who have immunity or tested negative for the coronavirus will be allowed to go outside. Even in these cases, workers will have to apply for approval and can only leave the dormitories for three hours at a time. The government says that it will revoke the visas of migrant workers who breach the stay-home requirements. In the next phase of reopening, starting in the first quarter of 2021, the government says that migrant workers will be allowed "to access the community once a month", subject to wearing contact-tracing devices and being tested routinely.
Thailand: Media report that NGOs have warned that hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in Thailand became undocumented amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, after losing their jobs and not finding new employment to maintain their legal status. According to the Migrant Working Group, many of the 592,450 migrant workers who disappeared from the government’s employment database from August 2019 to October this year are likely to be in this situation. They say that at least 345,072 of the 592,450 workers lost their jobs during that 14-month period. In response, NGOs are calling for the extension of the visas of migrant workers who lost their jobs in Thailand amidst the pandemic.
17 December 2020
Bangladesh: Media report that, according to a new survey conducted by the Transparency International Bangladesh, about 42% of garment workers in Bangladesh are yet to get benefits from the government's stimulus package, which was created to pay workers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found that, while over 98% of total incentives have been disbursed, only 16% of the total government fund was allocated to pay workers wages. The remaining 84% were paid to "address business interests of factory owners." The report makes clear that, like many factory owners, apparel brands and buyers have also ignored the health safety of workers in their supply chain amidst the pandemic.
In an article published by Vogue Business, Mark Anner, director of the Center for Global Workers' Rights, explains that brands are splitting up large-volume orders into multiple segments in order to protect themselves from the impacts of the pandemic. This, however, has created a very unpredictable situation for suppliers in Bangladesh, who determine how many workers to hire and supplies to order based on volume. "All that volatility means the factory owner doesn't know how to plan", Anner said. This then creates a very unpredictable situation for workers, who do not know when - or even if - they will be working. Meanwhile, media report that lockdowns and tightening of coronavirus restrictions ahead of Christmas in several European countries to tackle the second wave of COVID-19 infections have started adding to the woes of garment exporters in Bangladesh. In the words of Rubana Huq, president of the BGMEA, "With a slight pause, the recurrence of COVID-19 has appeared as decapitating the already dead." In the particular case of Bangladesh, however, manufacturers reiterate that, while the situation is getting harder, the impact of the first wave is still "undoubtedly incomparable."
Cambodia: Media report that the government of Cambodia has announced that the COVID-19 pandemic cash support will continue for another three months, until March 2021.
Myanmar: Media report that the Myanmar migrant aid group urged the government to talk with the Thai government to allow the entry of around 60,000 Burmese migrant workers who are stranded in Myanmar amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. If Thailand does not allow them to enter, the group calls for workers' expenses in the processing of their employment abroad be refunded. The group further reports that many migrant workers are not receiving their wages and that many are being furloughed.
Serbia: Media report that, while the situation for garment factories in Serbia seems to be improving, Ištvan Huđi, president of the local office of Conference of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia, worries that factories will start closing down and/or laying off workers from the beginning of 2021, as this is when the obligation to keep the workforce for companies that received help from the government expires.
United Kingdom: Media report that while Mahmud Kamani, executive chairman of the Boohoo Group, told the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) in a hearing which took place yesterday that the company is being "very transparent", Boohoo is yet to publish its supplier list.
16 December 2020
Asia Pacific: Media report that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has published a new report titled "Asia-Pacific Employment and Social Outlook 2020: Navigating the crisis towards a human-centred future of work", in which it estimates that about 81 million jobs have been lost amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. According to their findings, unemployment in the region could reach up to 5.7% by the end of 2020, a considerable increase from the pre-pandemic levels of 4.4% in 2019. In terms of working hours, the study found that they have decreased by an estimated 15% in the second quarter and by nearly 11% in the third. "COVID-19 has inflicted a hammer-blow on the region's labour markets, one that few governments in the region stood ready to handle", the article reads, pointing to low levels of social security, which have "made it difficult to help enterprises and workers back on their feet." The ILO report found, in line with what has been previously reported on the live-blog, that women workers have been disproportionately affected in terms of declines in working hours and overall unemployment. "Millions of women have paid a high price and it could take years for those who have exited the labour force to return to full employment", Sara Elder, senior economist at the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and lead author of the report, said.
Cambodia: Media report that the Kandal Provincial Court has announced that the remaining assets of Dignity Knitter and Eco Base factories will be auctioned on 29 December with a minimum bidding price of US$1,777,000. As previously reported on the live-blog, over 1000 garment workers from these two factories, which share the same owner, have been waiting for their wages for almost a year and compensation since April, when the factory permanently shut down. The Court said the auction would help repay the money owed by the factories, without specifying the creditors. According to the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, the 1226 workers are owed a total of $1.91 million for their final salaries, annual pay, lack of notice, damages and seniority remuneration. They hope that there will be enough money raised to compensate all workers and said that they would monitor the auction to make sure it is transparent. "If the auction of the company’s equipment cannot compensate all workers, I will continue to protest", Suor Socheat, who worked at Dignity Knitter for 16 years, made clear.
Media report that Cambodia's exports in clothes, footwear and travel goods were down 9% for the first 10 months of the year, compared to the same time last year. Broken down by sub-category, clothing exports dropped nearly 11% and footwear declined by nearly 7%.
Myanmar: Media report that the World Bank forecasts that Myanmar's economy will start a slow recovery in March next year, but warns the country's poverty rate could increase due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. In response to the findings, the Bank suggested that the government focus on relief measures that slow the spread of the virus while also protecting the most vulnerable. As previously reported on the live-blog, recent data shows that Myanmar's economy has been more affected amidst the second wave than in the first.
Media report that order cancellations in Myanmar have resulted in jobs becoming rarer and workers are being laid-off. So far, as many as 64 garment factories have closed amidst the pandemic, resulting in over 25,000 workers losing their jobs. However, ACTED Myanmar reports that over 60,000 garment workers have lost their jobs in the country amidst the pandemic.
Philippines: Partido Manggagawa and Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) report that a group of workers at the FPF Corporation Factory in the Freeport Economic Zone of Bataan in the Philippines are facing constructive dismissal. Workers at the factory were not reinstated after over six months of 'floating status' furlough, despite the fact that the Philippines labour law requires that workers be reinstated or paid severance after a six-month period if they do not agree to an extension. Workers are calling on Fossil Group, Brahmin, Michael Kors and Tapestry, brands which source from the factory, to assist in their reinstatement. Brahmin and Michael Kors are yet to respond.
The same sources report that fifty garment workers from Rainbow 21 factory (formerly Dong Han Philippines Inc) are owed wages, overtime, severance, holiday pay and social security contributions. Workers have filed cases of illegal closure, illegal dismissal and labour rights violations against the factory after it closed during the lockdown. Workers report that instead of reopening, the factory has since relocated in an attempt to avoid accountability to workers. They are urging Byer California, By & By and BCX Apparel, suppliers from this factory, to support them in their efforts to be reinstated. Byer California is yet to respond.
Singapore: Media report that while authorities in Singapore have just announced a further easing of restrictions for the "general population", migrant workers in the country - typically low-wage workers from South Asia who largely work in the construction and manufacturing sectors - still face restrictions on their freedom of movement which will only be gradually lifted next year. "There is no justification for Singapore to treat migrant workers like prisoners. Many have been locked in for eight months", Alex Au of the charity Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) said.
Thailand: Activist reports that migrant workers from Myanmar in Thailand are struggling to access healthcare and other public services in Thailand due to language barriers.
United Kingdom: Claudia Webbe, Labour MP for Leicester East, has published an article in the Morning Star which focuses on garment workers in Leicester. "Despite the extended media focus, as the year draws to a close, the central questions remain unanswered when it comes to vulnerable and exploited workers - what progress has been made this year, and who is protecting workers in Leicester’s garment industry?", she writes. Webbe makes clear that, until this day, it is unclear what action BooHoo has taken to end exploitation in their supply chains. "Beyond Boohoo, the government and regulatory institutions are not doing nearly enough to protect and recompense underpaid workers", she adds. The article reports that there are still grave concerns regarding the illegal use of furlough, double record-keeping and unsafe and dangerous work environments in Leicester's garment industry. "Private companies like Boohoo, regulatory bodies and - ultimately - the government must start approaching this crisis with the ambition and urgency it demands", Claudia Webbe concludes.
15 December 2020
Global: Media report that campaigners have warned that nine out of ten people in 70 low-income countries are unlikely to be vaccinated against COVID-19 next year because the majority of vaccines coming on-stream have already been bought up by Western countries.
Bangladesh: Media report that apparel makers in Bangladesh are once again facing "trying times", as the flow of new orders for shipment has fallen and many buyers are deferring placement of new orders amidst the COVID-19 second wave. Ahmed F Rahman (Kappa Fashions), for example, said that 50% of his production capacity was sufficing as buyers were delaying placement of work orders. Only last week, one of his Korean buyers slashed orders to US$100,000 from the original commitment of US$150,000 as part of its "go-slow policy". Struggling to stay afloat, leading manufacturers of apparels are appealing to the government for a fresh stimulus to pay workers' wages. "We need a supporting hand from the government to cope with the second wave of coronavirus infections", Md Fazlul Hoque, managing director of Plummy Fashions, expressed. According to manufacturers, buyers and retailers are being "extra cautious in placing orders and are waiting for Christmas sales and the arrival of vaccines." Manufacturers further pointed out that the situation is even worse for small and medium enterprises, who are yet to receive adequate support from the government's stimulus packages. Also in this article, the former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry reports that American company JC Penney still owes his factory US$1.4 million. The factory supplied the brand with items worth $1.9 million, of which it has only paid $500,000.
The Daily Star has published an op-ed by Mostafiz Uddin, Director of Denim Expert Limited, in which he expressed that "[o]ne only needs to follow the local news in Bangladesh to see that the past nine months have been incredibly difficult for garment workers."
Myanmar: Media report that the Mandalay Region government has extended COVID-19 preventive measures until the end of the year. While cases of factory workers testing positive for COVID-19 have started to emerge, factories that were allowed to resume operations remain open. Meanwhile, another article reports that in Bango region 47 workers from 29 factories have tested positive for COVID-19 since the government allowed them to reopen after receiving a grade A rating from the ministry. At least 70 factories, employing a total of over 40,000, have been allowed to reopen thus far.
The Sourcing Journal has published an interview with Phyo Sandar Soe, assistant general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar (CTUM), about some of the hard issues faced by the 600,000 workers in the country's garment industry. She reports that manufacturers have been using COVID-19 as an excuse to shut down, and open instead at a new location, with fewer workers, blocking out trade unions. The general secretary further reports that it is unlikely that the minimum wage will be increased this year, mainly due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Regarding the current moment, Phyo Sandar Soe explains that, while COVID-19 cases in factories are increasing day by day, workers don't have many options besides reporting to work. "Our social security scheme is very weak and workers cannot afford not to have any earnings, even though infections are increasing", she said.
Malaysia: Media report that former human resources minister M Kula Segaran says that migrant workers are not getting enough medical attention, adding that the death of the migrant worker from Top Glove who died could have been avoided if he had been treated earlier.
Media report that the new regulations imposed by the Government on hiring migrant workers are too restrictive and will affect employers who are struggling financially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly small and medium enterprises. According to manufacturers, these regulations will only allow big companies to hire migrant workers.
14 December 2020
India: Media report that a new study by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), based on interviews with 200 migrant workers across 17 villages in 4 states, found that 1 in 4 migrant workers faced police brutality while returning to their home state during the COVID-19 lockdown. The study further found that:
65% of respondents said that they did not find any employment in their home state;
50% still want to return to the cities. "How will my family survive if I don't go back? Everyone is scared of the virus, even I am. But if I stay, my family will go hungry", Kamlesh Kumar, one of the workers interviewed, expressed.
Respondents further expressed that, during lockdown:
- 80% did not get their rent waived (despite the fact that many lost their jobs and incomes);
- 74% of respondents did not get paid by their employers during lockdown;
- 45% did not find a government quarantine facility.
Malaysia: Media report that one Top Glove worker has died from COVID-19. The worker had been employed at Top Glove's manufacturing facility in Klang. Despite this, Malaysian authorities decided to lift a month-long lockdown on dormitories housing Top Glove workers yesterday. As previously reported on the live-blog, over 5000 workers have tested positive for COVID-19. The same article reports that 35 workers from Hartalega Holdings, which is also based in Malaysia, have tested positive for COVID-19. In response, the company said it had temporarily shut some production lines.
Myanmar: SMART Textile & Garments reports that 7156 garment workers received emergency support payments today from the EU Myan Ku Fund, receiving around 60,779 MMK (US$40) each. Altogether, there have now been 104,277 payments issued, totalling 7.8 billion MMK (US$5.6 million). According to the same source, around 52,500 laid-off and furloughed garment workers have received this financial aid thus far.
Media report that Myanmar's Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of COVID-19 has announced that domestic flights will be allowed to resume from Wednesday (15 Dec). The article further reports that the government is planning to resume international commercial flights. While daily cases are decreasing in Yangon, Myanmar has been seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases in Mandalay, Bago, Ayeyarwady and Sagaing regions. Both Mandalay and Bago regions have reported cases in garment factories.
Media report that, according to Myanmar's Ministry of Commerce, garment exports dropped by half in the last two months due to a sharp reduction in demand by European brands and retailers. The Myanmar Manufacturers Association says that the garment business is expected to recover if the COVID-19 vaccine succeeds. For now, however, the article reports that the garment sector, which contributes to 30% of Myanmar's exports, is "bracing for downward trend owing to cancel of order from European countries and suspension of trade."
Pakistan: Guernica has published an article on how garment workers, including home-based garment workers, have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting on several protests which took place since March. The article makes clear that the "exploitation has roots that run deeper than the COVID-19 crisis" and that "[t]heir state was only made worse by the pandemic." It also reports, however, that workers have started to organise in ever greater numbers this year, according to Nasir Mansoor, the general secretary of the NTUF. "Workers are not just fighting against abusive factories and a government that fails to ensure their protection; they are fighting the industry's leading brands and all of the power they represent", the article reads.
Singapore: Media report that almost half (47%) of migrant workers living in Singapore's dormitories have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to government data, over 150,000 migrant workers in dorms have tested positive in PCR or serology tests or both.
Vietnam: Media report that there is still uncertainty regarding bonuses for the upcoming Tet holiday, according to the labour relations department. They report that many enterprises, despite being affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, are trying to provide bonuses to workers and that the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) is trying to find sources of funding for workers at enterprises which cannot pay bonuses, and for people who are unemployed or without income.
Media report that Quang Ninh provincial social security office has established an inter-agency group to demand unpaid social security contributions from enterprises, as many companies continue to take advantage of social security exemptions which are only supposed to be for those facing difficulties due to the impacts of COVID-19
13 December 2020
Bangladesh: Media report that Tipu Munshi, Commerce Minister of Bangladesh, announced that the government would consider a fresh stimulus package for the country's garment sector if the business situation of the sector deteriorated amidst the COVID-19 second wave.
Malaysia: Media report that Top Glove fired whistleblower before its Klang factories and dormitories became Malaysia's biggest coronavirus cluster. On 9 December, Top Glove reported that, so far, a total of 5147 workers had tested positive for COVID-19. Most workers are migrant workers from South Asian countries. In May, Yubaraj Khadka, a worker in Malaysia for Top Glove, took two photos showing dozens of workers lined up less than a metre apart to have their temperatures checked before starting the night shift. The company required everyone to wear masks and gloves, but workers told Reuters that social distancing was not enforced or followed outside the factory. At the end of September, Top Glove sent Khadka a letter terminating his employment for sharing the photos. Fast-forward almost three months, Top Glove's complex of factories and dormitories in Klang has become Malaysia's biggest coronavirus cluster. On 23 November, as previously reported on the live-blog, Malaysia's government ordered Top Glove to begin shutting its factories in stages, so workers could be tested. Since then, the country's Labour Department announced that it would file charges against Top Glove over its worker accommodation, which it found to be cramped and poorly ventilated. In addition, workers reported that canteens and entrances to the factories were often crowded, as were the buses to workers' dormitories, where up to 20 people live in one room. To conclude, the article highlights: "On Wednesday, Top Glove posted a record quarterly net profit. The day before, Reuters witnessed hundreds of workers lining up closely to exit one of the factories in Klang, using two fingerprint readers to mark their exit. There was no social distancing in effect and no hand sanitizer next to the fingerprint reader." Indeed, another article reports that workers made clear that Top Glove did not do enough to protect them despite repeated warnings. "The company, its investors and its buyers have prioritised the delivery of more gloves, more quickly and at higher profitability over the welfare of its mainly migrant worker labour force", Andy Hall, a migrant labour specialist who focuses on Asia, made clear.
Myanmar: Media report that the Myanmar government has further extended COVID-19 preventive measures until the end of the year. The article further reports, however, that the government is preparing to allow domestic and international airlines to resume commercial flights. Meanwhile, another article reports that Mandalay has decided to allow factories with Grade-A health and safety scores to reopen. "If a factory receives a Grade B or C score, we have to give them instructions on how to prepare to meet Grade A. Then they have to report to us, and we inspect them again before reopening", U Khin Maung Hla, chair of the Industry Zone Management Committee, said. According to the same source, surprise checks are being conducted in factories and workshops across Mandalay Region. Also today, another article reports that, despite a surge in COVID-19 cases at factories in Bago Industrial Zone (factories that had scored Grade-A), no factory has faced legal action. "If the number of COVID-19 cases among workers increases, factories may face action, including being shut down. We are now seeing one or two cases [per factory]. If the number exceeds 10, the factory will be shut down", U Nyunt Shwe, regional hluttaw MP for constituency 1, said. According to the same source, factories seemed to be following regulations, but workers were still travelling in crowded company trucks. Meanwhile, Bango Industrial Zone has set up a quarantine centre for workers who test positive for COVID-19. So far, over 40 workers have tested positive.
12 December 2020
Cambodia: Media report that, according to the findings of a report published by Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), women in Cambodia witnessed a rise in rights' abuse and violence amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. According to CCHR, one in five women in Cambodia reported having suffered gender-based violence, which was mostly perpetrated by partners, family members, colleagues, acquaintances or public officials.
Myanmar: Media report that Myanmar's Ministry of Health and Sports has ordered Yangon to shut down small shops and businesses which are not following COVID-19 regulations and guidelines.
United States: Media report that the latest COVID-19 surge continues to "shine a harsh light on inequality", with garment workers, most of whom are migrant workers, amidst the worse hit. Indeed, California has seen record levels of unemployment and countless businesses have been permanently closed. Latinos in LA county are contracting the virus at more than double the rate of white residents. The toll in working-class neighbourhoods has been especially devastating for undocumented migrant workers, who have been unable to access aid. "It's really dire for our folks. They have a right to paid sick days, but that doesn't mean that right is respected", Marissa Nuncio, an advocate for garment workers in LA, where there have been several COVID-19 outbreaks in factories, expressed. Nine months into the pandemic, Marissa Nuncio is still getting calls from infected garment workers who are struggling to access COVID-19 tests and are afraid to go to the hospital. "They just say, 'I hope I’m able to recover from this at home'", she added.
11 December 2020
Global: Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) has published a new report titled "'I Can Hardly Sustain My Family': Understanding the Human Cost of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Workers in the Supply Chain", which presents findings on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on supply chain workers, focusing on physical and mental health, finances, and gender-based violence. The study found that even workers who have retained their jobs continue to struggle to manage the uncertainty and stress of work and report that their personal lives have been deeply disrupted. Based on interviews with over 1000 workers in garment factories in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Kenya, and Vietnam, as well as flower and tea farms in Kenya, BSR reports that:
- Workers' health and well-being have been affected by COVID-19 and related work disruptions;
- Workers reported cutting back on meals due to reduced working hours and income:
- In Bangladesh, 54% of men and 40% of women reported limiting food expenses;
- Some workers, struggling to cover basic necessities such as food and rent, reported resorting to using savings or taking out loans;
- Workers expressed a constant fear of contracting COVID-19 and fear for their family's health;
- Additional stress caused by COVID-19 has resulted in higher levels of anxiety and strains on mental health;
- There has been an alarming rise in gender-based violence:
- In Kenya, more than half of female respondents reported an increase in violence against women.
The New York Times has published an op-ed by Imran Amed, chief executive of The Business of Fashion. Here, Amed makes that "the economic pressures created by the pandemic have demonstrated just how dependent fashion is on the exploitation of cheap labour and how devastating this interdependence can be in times of calamity" and concludes that "[t]he industry must take greater responsibility for overhauling a business model that is fundamentally rooted in unfairness."
Bangladesh: Media report that the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is partnering with Quizrr to help twenty Bangladesh garment factories supplying retailers including Primark, New Look and Marks & Spencer, to follow COVID-19 preventive measures. According to the article, the project aims to reach 30,000 workers and 1000 supervisors and managers in selected factories in Dhaka.
Cambodia: Media report that about 67 civil society organizations, trade unions, NGOs and communities called upon the government to do more to uphold people's basic and fundamental rights. The statement pointed to the string of arrests that have been made throughout the year. The article reports that, despite complaints by the UN and foreign ambassadors, Cambodia's crackdown on dissent has continued unabated. This year, Human Rights Day celebrations were moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "The impact of COVID-19 has changed the way that we operate as civil rights groups who prominently work to advocate for the improvement of the human rights situation in Cambodia", Khun Tharo, from labour rights group Central, explained. Indeed, civil society groups expressed that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been used as an excuse for the government to target vulnerable groups.
India: According to reports from the CCC network, SAVE, a Tirupur-based NGO, conducted the human rights day programme on a theme that relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on the need to build back better human rights.
Malaysia: Media report that the Malaysian government has decided to implement the Undocumented Migrants Recalibration Plan, allowing undocumented migrant workers to continue to work in certain industries and sectors. Civil society groups have warned, however, that most migrant workers will not be able to afford the deposit and "penalty fee", as many have lost their jobs and income amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Philippines: The Council of Global Unions Philippine Affiliates has issued a statement demanding the release of trade union organisers Dennise Velasco, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Jaymie Gregorio Jr., Joel Demate, Rodrigo Esparago and journalist Lady Ann Salem. The Council reports that activists' residences were raided on 10 December, International Human Rights Day, which were followed by activists' arrests. According to the statement, they have been arrested by "made-up charges". "Just a few days before, Jose Bernardino of Workers Alliance in Region III, an organizer of workers in industrial zones and jeepney drivers, (...) was also arrested on the same made-up criminal charges", the statement reads. "This is yet another blow to the trade union movement in the Philippines. Trade union activists are being criminalized, illegally arrested and detained", it adds. The Council further reports that the intensified crackdown is aimed at "stifling dissent and organised action" In this sense, they call for the immediate release of HRD7 workers and journalist and that all charges against them be dropped. They also called on international bodies - the UN Human Rights Council and the International Labor Organization (ILO) - to consider the "deteriorating human rights condition in the Philippines" an "emergency" and send missions to investigate human rights and trade union repression in the country. Finally, the Council called on "trade unions and freedom-loving people all over the world to continue the fight for trade union and human rights in the Philippines." "Together we shall continue our struggle for justice, for our rights and freedoms", they conclude.
United Kingdom: Following the collapse of Arcadia Group and the ongoing debate about who will buy up the pieces, Labour Behind the Label have issued a joint statement with War on Want about the obscene wealth extracted from failing businesses by multi-millionaire garment brand owners, at the expense of garment workers in vulnerable supply chains who ultimately pay the price.
10 December 2020
Global: Media report that, as garment factories limit third party access to their facilities - including inspectors, regulators and auditors - concerns regarding fair labour practices and safe workplaces rise. The article reports that while civil society organisations and networks have warned that child labour is likely to increase amidst the pandemic and factory owners will be tempted to eschew safety to increase profits, "[t]here is growing concern no one would find out if they did." One of the main reasons for this is that, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, labour inspections and day-long visits by audits have been replaced by virtual tours and online questionnaires. Labour rights groups have long questioned the efficacy of audits, arguing that a new system is needed to drastically overall current practises within the supply chain. An increasingly digital auditing system is even less likely to find and act on malpractices. Indeed, the article reports that activists worry this could be a permanent solution that would provide companies reputational safeguard with even less oversight than before.
Bangladesh: Media report that, according to industry insiders, leather goods and footwear exporters are likely to continue facing serious hardships amidst the ongoing pandemic, as figures show that export orders for these goods may plunge by more than 50% this year. After facing losses for the last eight months, many companies and factories will struggle to stay afloat. "Now, I do not have any orders from abroad. I even had to terminate some staff due to a capital shortage", Rubina Akhter Munni, owner of Design by Rubina, said. As brands and retailers cease to place new orders amidst the pandemic and considering that most factory owners related to this sector were unable to avail financial support from the government's stimulus packages, many factories are likely to shut down. Factory owners interviewed for the article report that they are paying workers their due salaries.
Media report that the first payments from the EU's fund for garment workers who were laid-off amidst the pandemic should take place before the end of the year. However, the total number of potential beneficiaries is not yet known, as the authorities concerned are yet to deliver the list of recipients. As previously reported on the live-blog, the BGMEA estimates that at least 70,000 garment workers have lost their jobs amidst the pandemic, but unions think the true figure is likely far higher. While unions have welcomed the financial aid, they pointed out the need for long-term state policies centred on workers' protection. "What's going to happen when you don't have any donors? We need a proper system to support workers", Kalpona Akter said while urging the EU to prioritise workers at small factories.
The Guardian has published an article on A-One Ltd garment workers' struggle. The factory, which produces for companies such as Arcadia (Topshop, Top Man, etc.), closed after brands and retailers cancelled orders amidst the pandemic. Workers haven't been paid since. "Our factory closed during the lockdown and when we came back they told us there was no new order at the moment and sent us home. We went back and demanded payment for our previous work. But they closed the factory gate. We couldn't go in. We haven't been paid what we are owed since", one worker explained. On Monday (7 December), while workers were sleeping in front of the Dhaka Press Club, where they had been staging a sit-in, they were attacked by the police. "We have been protesting for our wages multiple times. We were beaten by the factory-backed goons, water cannoned by the police, been promised 19 different dates to settle what we are owed. But nothing materialised", the same worker exclaimed. Workers say that they will continue to protest until they receive their due wages. "We have to continue with our demands. We're planning more protests locally", another worker reported. "Either open the factory, clear our dues and let's get back to work. Or give us our salaries and the money we saved in the pension funds (...) We are behind on paying rent, we are buying groceries on credit, we’re rationing our meals. I can’t go home empty-handed", Salma Begum, a machine operator who worked at the factory for more than 10 years, made clear.
Cambodia: Media report that the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) say that it has been disseminating COVID-19 prevention measures set by authorities to factories, enterprises and workers - translating the guidelines into different languages. According to the Association, workers have been wearing masks and temperatures are checked upon arrival at the factory. Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, however, called on employers to buy more masks, sanitiser and PPE, as the existing ones are insufficient and some workers still have to buy their own PPE. In addition, Thorn urged factory owners to build more bathrooms and dining facilities in order to make sure that social distancing measures are respected. He further called on the Labour Ministry to issue a guideline for drivers who transport factory workers to reduce the maximum number of passengers from 30 to 20.
El Salvador: Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) reports that female garment workers in El Salvador are protesting after their employer Industrias Florenzi S.A. de C.V dismissed 200 workers without compensation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The PPE-producing factory is accused of abuses including unpaid wages and lack of health precautions. Instead of compensation for losing their jobs, workers were offered old sewing machines. They began a legal battle for wages and organised an ongoing protest at the factory site. They are owed up to half a million dollars in wages and compensation. The company is yet to respond.
Myanmar: Media report that COVID-19 clusters are being detected in factories across Bago region. So far, COVID-19 positive cases have been detected in 27 out of 32 factories that were allowed to reopen after passing health inspections. Since then, over 40 workers have tested positive. Despite rising cases, many of these factories are still operating.
United States: Media report that workers' rights organisations and advocates have launched a new campaign to pass the Garment Workers Protection Act (SB 62) next year, after the proposals failed to come up for a vote before this year's deadline in September. "There is never an excuse to deny working people basic rights under the law, but it's especially important to protect workers now as a pandemic and recession create the perfect storm for widespread exploitation", Mitch Steiger, CLC's legislative advocate, made clear.
9 December 2020
Global: Media report that, according to data from the World Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food prices rose in November for the sixth consecutive month - hitting their highest level since December 2014. Rising food prices coupled with dismissals and pay cuts have left many workers starving amidst the pandemic. Indeed, as the article reports: "[h]igher food prices combined with unemployment and declining incomes are already plunging working-class into poverty and food insecurity."
Bangladesh: The Daily Star has published an op-ed condemning Monday's (7 December) attacks on several groups of peaceful protesters at the Jatiya Press Club. "The government must answer for what happened on Monday and find a way to responsibly engage and meet the demands of the protesters. Police brutality on peaceful protesters must stop", the editorial reads.
Cambodia: IOM Cambodia reports that it has been organising a training on how to develop small businesses to migrant workers who returned from Thailand amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ethiopia: Media report that garment factories in Tigray region are struggling to continue operations amidst the war. The article reports, however, that many factories were already struggling before, mainly due to cancelled orders or lack of new orders amidst the pandemic. "Some factories did not survive the collapse in orders while others slashed wages or laid off staff", the article reads.
India: Media report that, according to the findings of a survey based on the answers of 3994 persons belonging to vulnerable and marginalised communities from 11 states across India, conducted by the Right to Food Campaign and other networks in September, a large number of households reported:
- Lower levels of income;
- Reduced intake of cereals, pulses, vegetables and eggs/non-vegetarian items;
- Worsened nutritional quality;
- Increased need to borrow money to buy food.
Indeed, according to the preliminary report of the survey, "People continue to have depressed incomes and are yet to reach pre-lockdown levels. For about one in four respondents, the income in September-October was half of what it was before lockdown. Over two-thirds say nutritional quality has worsened and quantity has reduced (in September-October) compared to pre-lockdown." In more concrete numbers:
- About 43% of respondents reported having no income in April-May;
- 56% of those who had no income in April-May continued to have no income in September-October as well;
- 62% of respondents said that their income reduced compared to before lockdown;
- 64% of the respondents reported that their consumption of lentils decreased during the lockdown, and 28% reported that it "decreased a lot";
- About 27% of the respondents reported that they sometimes went to bed without eating in September-October.
Media report that the Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed the state government to draw a definite plan to rehabilitate migrant workers who returned to the state after losing their jobs and incomes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Southeast Asia: Media report that migrant workers remittances continue to fall amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, in what the report by Asean+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (Amro) calls "a worrying sign for household incomes and local economies." The article highlights the cases of Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, where remittances shrank year on year in the second quarter of 2020, reversing the previous year's growth. According to the report and in accordance to what has been previously reported on the live-blog, migrant workers have been hard-hit by layoffs and forced repatriations.
8 December 2020
Global: Reporting on the WRC's report "Hunger in the Apparel Supply Chain", Sourcing Journal reports that the brands and retailers most frequently cited by surveyed workers were Adidas, The Children's Place, Express, Gap, H&M, JCPenney, Nike, PVH Corp, Gildan and Walmart. The article points out that a garment worker who used to make clothes for Primark and Mango expressed that eggs are a luxurious food now. "Before the pandemic, I bought fruit for my child regularly. But after losing my job, I cannot buy even fish or meat. An egg is a luxurious food for us now", the worker, from Bangladesh, said. Another worker, who was fired from a factory that produces for Kmart, Target and Walmart, said that she and her family have had to skip breakfast every day for the past two months. In response to the survey's findings, Adidas, Nike and Gap have issued statements. JCPenney, however, declined to give a statement and other brands failed to respond to requests for comment.
Bangladesh: Media report that garment manufacturers yesterday reiterated their demand for another round of stimulus package from the government, in a bid to secure more financial aid to help the industry withstand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The BGMEA, who reiterated the call for further support in a virtual press conference, says that the COVID-19 second wave lockdowns are now threatening factory owners' ability to survive the pandemic. According to the Association, brands and retailers have placed 30% fewer orders for December-March season due to lockdowns. This time, the BGMEA clarifies, brands have not cancelled work orders, but they are deferring orders. "Considering the situation, the sector needs a new package to save the business and livelihood of workers", Rubana Huq, president of the BGMEA, said. Also today, The Daily Star published an op-ed by Rubana Huq, in which she expresses that "the emergence of the second wave of COVID-19 is extremely worrying for the industry." She adds that the slowdown in exports since October could be "early signs of a resurgence of the situation from earlier this year."
Media report that around 54 of over 300 workers and teachers who had been staging sit-ins in front of the Jatiya Press Club were injured in yesterday's attack by the police. According to Jorina Begum, 18 of the former Tazreen Fashions workers had to take treatment from the Mitford Hospital. "We couldn't even take our medical certificates and documents, phones and the few belongings we had left", she added. Among the more than 300 garment workers from A-One BD Ltd, 25 were injured.
Ethiopia: Academics have published a new study based on a survey of garment workers who work(ed) in Ethiopia's largest industrial park before/amidst the pandemic. Among other findings, the study reports that:
- The employment of female workers in Ethiopia's garment industry has changed dramatically due to a sharp drop in demand amidst the COVID-19 pandemic;
- 41% of respondents employed in January 2020 were put on leave or terminated by the time of their survey a few months later;
- Migration appears to be a major coping mechanism, but many respondents report barriers. Most who have left the city desire to return if possible;
- Levels of food insecurity are high; rates are higher for those currently still in the city where garment industry jobs are located;
- Respondents are well informed about COVID-19; false beliefs or myths appear to be extremely uncommon.
India: Media report that 45 workers from Gilwood Fashions tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday. The factory is located in the Somanahalli Industrial Area and, according to their website, produces for brands such as American Eagle Outfitters, Celio, Hurley, Chaps (Ralph Lauren) and Rigs & Rags. After being asked by authorities to continue to work, workers staged a protest and, following the action, management announced a 2-day holiday. Factory management agreed to increase safety measures, including extending 10-days paid leave for workers who test positive for COVID-19, and said that all workers would be tested before restarting production. The article further reports that, as over 7000 people are employed in different garment factories in the area, fear of the entire industrial area becoming a COVID-19 hotspot rise. A decision regarding the potential shut down of the industrial area should be announced soon.
Myanmar: Media report that the World Bank's latest survey on Myanmar has revealed that nearly half of all businesses in the manufacturing sector do not expect to recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the findings, the proportion of firms not expecting to recover reached 41% in October, up from 29% in May. Based on these results, the Bank says that the economic impact of the COVID-19 second wave has been more severe on businesses than the first wave. The survey further found that the proportion of manufacturing firms reporting temporary closures rose to 19% in October from 12% in September and that large and medium-sized firms were the most affected by these closures.
Media report that Mingcheng Footwear Factory, located in Yangon, made a recruitment announcement despite not having been given permission to reopen after failing to pass COVID-19 inspections. Following the announcement, around 800 people gathered around factory premises to collect job application forms.
Nepal: Media report that Nepal's garment industry is yet to recover from the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the restriction of international flights amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, garment manufacturers have had to pay much higher transportation fares. Ashok Agrawal, general secretary of the Garment Association of Nepal, reports that exporters are facing many problems due to high transportation charge, which is yet to decrease.
Sweden: Swedish watchdog Fair Action has published a new report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on leather workers in China and India, including a survey on how some shoe brands in Sweden (Nilson Group, Eurosko, Vagabond Shoemakers and Scorett) have responded to the crisis. The report found that leather workers in both countries have been severely impacted by the setbacks, having been left to bear a large part of the financial burden of the pandemic. According to the findings, many factories abruptly closed, leaving workers without jobs and, in many cases, without due wages or compensation. "The shutdowns came as a shock to people. Even before the crisis, wages were extremely low, which meant that workers had no savings when they were left without pay", Pradeepan Ravi, from Cividep India, said. The report further states that, while all brands claimed that they paid the agreed price for placed orders and reported confidence that salaries had been paid to the great majority of workers throughout the pandemic, none report having had discussions with trade unions or labour rights organisations on this topic. "In order to be able to verify that salaries have been paid during periods of lockdown and to find relevant solutions to the current challenges, companies must listen to those who know what the situation looks like on the factory floor", Nina Wertholz, author of the report at Fair Action, made clear.
7 December 2020
Bangladesh: Media report that police charged baton, fired tear gas shells and used water cannon on over 300 garment workers, including wounded former workers of Tazreen Fashions, to vacate the sidewalk in front of the Jatiya Press Club earlier today. As previously reported on the live-blog, around 42 former Tazreen workers have been staging a sit-in in front of the Press Club for the past 80 days, demanding proper compensation, rehabilitation and treatment. In addition, around 300 workers from A-One Garment factory also joined them, demanding their due wages. Workers report that this started at around 4:30 AM, while workers were sleeping. "They beat us like animals", Nasima Akter, one of the demonstrating injured workers of Tazreen, said.
The Daily Star has published an op-ed by Mostafiz Uddin, director of Denim Expert Ltd, on why change is needed in the global garment industry. Focusing on the fall of Debenhams and Arcadia (which owns Topshop, Top Man and Burton and is a supplier from Uddin's factory), Uddin makes clear that the potential bankruptcy of these two companies will hit hundreds of garment suppliers and workers in Bangladesh, as they will be way down on the list of creditors. "When a brand goes bust - as several have during this pandemic - it is always the suppliers and their workers who suffer the most", he writes.
Cambodia: IOM Cambodia reports that it is distributing food packages, hygiene kits and sleeping materials to returning migrant workers in Cham Sor and Phor Khnar communes in the Sotnikum district, Seim Reap province.
Myanmar: Media report that, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the COVID-19 second wave in Myanmar has had a significant impact on incomes, with a rising number of households now living below the poverty line. In September, nearly 60% of 1000 surveyed households in Yangon and around 66% in the dry zone were earning less than US$1.90 a day. The survey further found that income losses were more pronounced among urban households due to higher number of COVID-19 cases in Yangon and, therefore, stricter preventive measures. Indeed, 38% of urban households surveyed reported earning no income. The most frequently cited explanations for changes in income in October were job losses, reduction in daily labour opportunities and inability to report to work due to movement restrictions. To cope, the survey found that the households affected were reducing non-food spending, borrowing or using savings to purchase food. The IFPRI points out that these results are despite over half the households surveyed having received K20,000 in cash assistance under the government's COVID-19 fund.
Media report that employers who failed to pay Social Security Board (SSB) contributions will have to compensate workers who did not receive social security COVID-19 subsidies (equivalent to 40% of workers' salaries).
Vietnam: Media report that 121 strikes have been organised in Vietnam in the first 10 months of the year, which is as many as the total number of strikes of the whole of 2019. The main causes, according to the VGCL, are workers not agreeing with enterprises' wage policies, especially around Tet bonuses, and not agreeing with company policies regarding COVID-19.
6 December 2020
Bangladesh: Media report that buyers and retailers are unwilling to open letters of credit to import garment products from Bangladesh amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and are instead resorting to deferred payments, which could put Bangladeshi exporters at risk of losing proceeds. Manufacturers report that, although doing business under open accounts or sales contracts is quite risky, many have had to accept these proposals in order to keep operating.
Philippines: Media report that five protesters from Partido Manggagawa were arrested amidst a protest against the retrenchment of 300 workers from a garment factory in Cebu, which came after the layoff of around 6000 workers in the last three months. They were arrested due to alleged quarantine protocol violation of not carrying quarantine passes. Partido Manggagawa has demanded the release of unionists Dennis Derige, Myra Opada, Joksan Branzuela, Jonel Labrador, and Cristito Pangan.
5 December 2020
Global: Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) reports that suppliers are still waiting for German brand Colloseum to pay for orders completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The delays in payment present a serious threat to continued factory operations and, therefore, to workers' incomes and livelihoods. Colloseum told suppliers that it wanted to accept only 50% of orders, which would cause enormous losses for suppliers and was, therefore, rejected. "Suppliers have refused to accept the proposed settlement, instead insisting, appropriately, that they be paid in full for the work they have done", WRC writes. In their update, WRC further reports that it sought to clarify Colloseum's COVID-19 sourcing practices in a letter sent on 26 October, but that no response has been shared thus far.
Meanwhile, WRC reports that American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) imposed a 20% price reduction on certain categories of apparel which suppliers had already produced or were in the process of producing. While the brand says that it accelerated payments to suppliers to make up for the discount, WRC writes that "it is virtually certain that affected suppliers were left considerably worse off than if AEO has paid its bills in the agreed amount on the agreed schedule." At the end of the update, WRC calls on AEO to pay back the discounts to suppliers.
India: Media report that protests against government policies continue in India. Over 250 million Indians have taken to the streets nationwide over the past week to protest government policies, including the new labour laws. "We will continue our protest unless our demands are met", Chanda Singh, a farmer and protest organiser, made clear.
Malaysia: Media report that, between March and October, 49 migrant workers have committed suicide in Malaysia. According to the article, workers faced financial, emotional and mental pressures amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. "The number indicated by the police is worrying and troubling. Indeed, there might be cases which are not reported, as they may be undocumented", Glorene Das, executive director of Tenaganita Malaysia.
Media report that the Top Glove-linked coronavirus cluster, called the Teratai cluster after the street where many of the company's factories and dormitories are located, has recorded over 5000 positive cases. In the article, workers report that conditions in company dormitories are "terrible". "Each room has about eight to 12 workers, and we share one bathroom", one migrant worker shared with the news outlet. They added that, at times, water is not available to clean the bathrooms.
Myanmar: Media report that Myanmar has relaxed some COVID-19 restrictions this week as businesses struggle for survival amidst the pandemic. The same article further reports that Myanmar's Central Committee for Prevention, Control and Treatment of COVID-19 has extended the suspension of international flights until the end of December.
Pakistan: According to reports from the CCC network, Rauf Textile Mill workers received one month worth of wages yesterday night. The same source reports that workers will receive another pending salary by 12-15 December and that it was also agreed with the employer that, in the future, workers will receive their wages by the 20th of each month.
4 December 2020
Global: Reuters has published an article covering WRC's report, which was published yesterday, on how garment workers are going hungry and taking out loans to feed their families due to pay cuts imposed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Reuters interviewed Proum Sovuthy, a garment worker in Cambodia who has been doing ad-hoc shifts at different factories since her factory shutdown. She reports that meat has become "a rare treat for her and her two children." "Some days I can buy rice, some days I can't. People are kind, and they often share with me, but I don't want to be a beggar - it affects my dignity", she added.
Cambodia: Media report that the Ministry of Labour has issued additional guidelines on COVID-19 preventive measures for garment factories and vehicles transporting workers in response to the "November 28 community incident". According to the statement, only people who work in the factory should be allowed inside, everyone must wear a mask and wash their hands regularly and temperatures must be checked. Vehicles transporting workers must also follow these regulations.
Media report that more than 1000 workers from Dignity Knitter and Eco Base garment factories have yet to receive compensation nearly a year after the factories' owner first withheld their pay and subsequently shut down the factories. As previously reported on the live-blog, the owner of these two factories failed to pay workers' wages for December 2019 and, after three months of work suspensions starting in March, permanently closed the units in June. Workers are still standing guard outside the factory in order to make sure that the equipment and material are not sold before workers are paid what they are owed. The case is being followed by the Kandal provincial court and other relevant authorities and, according to them, is taking longer because a number of creditors made court claims. Workers urge authorities to help solve the case before the end of the year. "I appeal to Kandal provincial governor, Kandal provincial court and relevant authorities to help finish this case in December 2020 because we are finding it difficult to live", Phin Sophea, who was employed at Dignity Knitter for 14 years, said. The article reports that Kong Sophorn, Kandal Provincial Governor, said that the case would be resolved soon. Meanwhile, workers make clear that they are struggling to make ends meet since they have not received compensation for nearly a year.
Jordan: Vani Saraswathi, Associate Editor & Director of Projects at Migrant Rights, reports that 40 migrant garment workers who work at New Century factory, located in the Al Tajamount Industrial Zone of Sahab, have been cheated of their wages and entitlements. In response, workers sent an appeal to the Minister of Labour, Mr. Maen Qatamin, requesting the Minister’s intervention to protect their rights. According to the appeal, workers migrated to Jordan in November 2019 to work at Aseel factory. When they arrived, however, workers were sent to New Century factory. Until today, none of them received their resident permits, which are mandatory according to Jordanian labour law. Whenever workers asked about the permits, they were reprimanded. In addition to this, workers’ wages have been repeatedly delayed and often unfairly deducted. Overtime hours have never been paid fairly and medical care isn’t provided. In September, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, factory management said that they did not have enough money and invited workers to submit their resignation. On 13 October, management said that they did not have enough orders and told workers to wait at their dormitories until orders came in. On 14 and 15 October, workers tried to report to work, but the factory was locked. After that, workers were told by their employers to return to India, where most workers migrated from, "since there is no work". In response, workers asked for their social security entitlement, annual leave payment and for the wages corresponding to the 12 days they worked in October. The employer refused to pay all of them and threatened to vacant the dormitories within a week. Their case is yet to be resolved. Earlier today, the Labour Minister replied to the social media post which shared the appeal saying that "the Ministry of Labour will act on their appeal and conduct a thorough and immediate investigation."
Myanmar: Media report that 14 garment workers staged a protest in front of the Myanmar Investment Commission's Office (MIC) against the owner of Young Clothing Garment Factory, located in Shwelinban Industrial Zone. Workers demanded that their salaries and compensation be paid and that their rights be respected. In addition, they demanded that action be taken against the factory owner. While the factory closed on 15 September, workers have not been paid their due compensation.
Media report that the governments of Myanmar and Germany are working on the development of a communication campaign focused on informing garment factory owners and workers in Myanmar about COVID-19 risks and preventive measures.
United Kingdom: The Guardian has published an op-ed by Meg Lewis, head of campaigns at CCC network member organisation Labour Behind the Label, on Arcadia's collapse and its billionaire owner, Philip Green. The article reports that Arcadia's collapse will send further shockwaves throughout the fashion industry, reiterating that Arcadia is yet to reinstate around £100m worth of existing orders with suppliers. "Arcadia has remained immovable, its failure to engage with labour rights advocates showing complete disregard for workers' livelihoods", the article reads. In addition to this, Meg Lewis points out that, "if Arcadia enters liquidation, it is unlikely there will be enough money to pay off the debt owed to creditors in full. As unsecured creditors, suppliers are likely to be paid only after secured creditors (one of whom is likely to be Green himself) and costs of liquidation are covered."
3 December 2020
Global: Media report that Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) has published a new research report on garment workers' access to nutrition during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on nearly 400 in nine countries (Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Lesotho, Haiti, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Cambodia and Bangladesh), WRC found alarming data on how garment workers are increasingly unable to obtain adequate food and nutrition as a result of falling income and job loss due to the pandemic. The study found that:
- 77% of workers surveyed reported that they or a member of their household have gone hungry amidst the pandemic;
- 80% of respondents with dependent children said they are now forced to skip meals or reduce the amount or quality of food they eat in order to feed their children;
- 80% anticipate that they will need to further reduce the amount of food they eat or purchase for their family if the situation does not improve;
75% of workers said they had to take out loans or go into debt in order to continue feeding their children amidst the pandemic.
In addition to these findings, the survey also found that, across all nine countries, workers who managed to keep their jobs (about 60% of respondents) had experienced an average 21% drop in wages since the beginning of the year. As a result, many have had to take out loans in order to buy food. According to Prof Genevieve LeBaron, co-author of the report, the debt workers were running up is one of the most alarming aspects of the research. The article further reports that, according to Penelope Kyritsis, director of strategic research at WRC, brands are currently demanding lower prices and slower payment schedules, which will increase the downward pressure on wages and make more job losses inevitable.
Bangladesh: Media report that, while Bangladesh's overall export earnings grew (by 0.76%) in November, garment exports fell for the second consecutive month. Garment export declined by nearly 3% year on year which, according to exporters, is due to new lockdowns in Europe, amidst the COVID-19 second wave. In reaction to this figure, Rubana Huq, president of the BGMEA, said: "Such trend in retail is obviously alarming for the industry (...) The solid recovery may still be far away." The article further reports that, while knitwear exports grew by nearly 5%, woven garment and leather goods exports declined by about 10 and 8%, respectively.
Media report that, according to the ILO's new report on wages, the largest decline in real minimum wages over the last nine years were witnessed in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - Bangladesh witnessing the sharpest fall in Asia and the Pacific. According to ILO representatives, Bangladesh's rank can be explained by the fact that minimum wages haven't been changed in accordance with inflation, which has "always been positive".
Brazil: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has published a new report on how migrant workers in São Paulo's apparel industry have been impacted amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the answers of 146 migrant workers in São Paulo's fashion industry, the study found that:
- 78% of respondents reported a decrease in the price of the products they make;
- 87% of respondents saw their income change drastically amidst the pandemic;
- 61% of respondents had difficulty accessing food during the pandemic;
- 84% of respondents sewed masks during the pandemic;
- 93% of respondents said that they had been unable to send money back home due to new economic challenges;
- 22% of respondents reported difficulty paying bills and avoiding debt.
Media coverage of the report in Portuguese can be accessed here.
Cambodia: Media report that trade unions warn that garment factories across Cambodia are still failing to implement preventive COVID-19 measures. According to Ath Thon, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, health guidelines and measures are not being implemented across the board, putting workers at serious risk. "Workplaces such as garment factories, which is the most susceptible place for virus transmission, are not included, there is no social distancing, and workers are loaded together in crowded trucks", he said.
Pakistan: According to reports from the CCC network, Rauf Textile Mill workers are on strike inside the factory, demanding their due salaries. Workers haven't been paid for the last three months.
Serbia: According to reports from the CCC network, fourteen workers from GEOX factory, located in Vranje, have been suspended from work after organising a strike in November. According to workers, management is suspending workers in order to pressure others into silence, as workers have been arbitrarily chosen in order to demonstrate what would happen to others that dare raise their voices.
Media report that labour inspectors found that workers from a factory in Babušnica, which produces for the Slovenian brand Lisca, are being paid below the minimum wage. Despite the evidence, no legal case has been filed against the company, as management justified low pay by saying that workers did not fulfil quotas. According to Serbian labour law experts, however, the company's argument remains illegal.
Tunisia: IndustriALL reports that 24 out of the 56 workers dismissed in February at Tunisian garment factory Gartex have been reinstated, following IndustriALL's intervention which led to dialogue between the employer and the union FGTHCC-UGTT. IndustriALL further reports that the remaining dismissed workers have been referred to the legal system and will be provided legal support by FGTHCC-UGTT.
2 December 2020
Global: Media report that the Internationa Labour Organisation (ILO) has published the "Global Wage Report 2020/21". Based on the study's findings, the ILO reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced global wages down, disproportionately affecting women and low-paid workers, and that the crisis is likely to inflict further massive downward pressure on wages in the near future.
Bangladesh: Media report that A-One BD Limited factory workers continue to protest for their due wages and bonuses. Yesterday, nearly 400 workers attempted to lay siege to the Ministry of Labour and Employment while demanding their dues. Stopped by the Police, workers rallied in front of the building, demanding the payment of eleven months' salary, two Eid bonuses, the reopening of the factory and reinstatement of their jobs. As previously reported on the live-blog, the factory closed on 9 April, leaving around 1100 workers unemployed. According to the owner, the reason behind the closure is lack of orders alongside "other fallouts of the coronavirus pandemic". Workers from this factory produced goods for Arcadia (Topshop, Topman). While workers have been promised payment over 10 times, they haven't been paid. Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) said that they would receive payment but, according to workers, DEPZ failed to pay. The article reports that, instead of keeping its promise of selling off the factory's goods to pay workers, DEPZ rented the factory to another person who has not offered any employment.
Media report that recently laid-off garment workers in Bangladesh will finally receive financial support from the European Union's fund this month. As previously reported on the live-blog, the EU has prepared a €93-million fund for one million Bangladeshi garment, leather goods and footwear workers who lost their jobs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a meeting held last week, employers will provide data on laid-off workers to the EU team by the first half of this month, allowing for the financial aid to be disbursed. According to the article, payments should start on 24 December.
Cambodia: Media report that, following Cambodia's first COVID-19 cluster, garment workers across the country fear both the possibility of contracting the virus and of losing their jobs. "I received a call on 15 November that the factory where I was working would re-open and that made me feel so happy, but now because of the new positive cases inside Cambodia, I am worried again", a migrant garment worker from the Philippines who was laid-off earlier this year explained.
Dissent has published an interview with Soy Sros, who spent nearly two months in prison after criticising her employer's handling of the pandemic in a Facebook post. The article reports that, while Soy Sros has since been released, her imprisonment has had lasting effects on her health. In the interview, Soy Sros reports that she feels surveillance has increased compared to before her arrest and that she is "treated differently" to other workers, having repeatedly received warnings for things that she did not do. Due to her distinct treatment by supervisors and managers, Soy Sros reports that colleagues "seem more timid now", fearing to talk to her about issues in the factory. "I think they fear that if they approach me, they may risk similar treatment", Soy Sros explained.
Media report that, in the Cambodian frontier city of Poipet, many families who depended on cross-border trade with Thailand to earn a living are facing destitution as land crossings remain closed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. "The situation here has completely changed. The city used to thrive on Thai and Chinese business, but now it is so quiet. There are no jobs and we can't afford to feed our families", Chan Srey Neat, Poipet resident, explained. Many workers have had to resort to loans. As described by Din Puthy, head of informal workers support group the Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association, "Those who lost their jobs – they've sold their motos, their jewellery, their land, whatever they had. People are starving. Some returned to their homelands and some stayed and took out loans."
India/Nepal: Media report that, according to a new report titled "Hidden and Vulnerable: The Impact of Covid-19 on Child, Forced and Bonded Labour", informal workers in India and Nepal's apparel supply chains have suffered extreme hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study, based on research conducted in June and July, finds that women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and argues that documented school closures, indebtedness, income loss and migration indicate that there will be an uptick in child, forced and bonded labour.
Malaysia: Media report that, according to a new report, migrant workers in Malaysia are less likely to seek medical care for COVID-19, especially when asymptomatic, due to fear of being detained or deported and because migrants face huge financial barriers in accessing health care services in Malaysia. Indeed, the article reports that an anonymous medical officer from Tawau Hospital explained that many undocumented migrants come in late for treatment for COVID-19 because they will have to pay high hospital bills. Khazanah Research Institute (KRI), who published the report earlier today, made clear that Malaysia's national strategy regarding COVID-19 mustn't exclude migrant workers.
Pakistan: According to reports from the media and the CCC network, workers in Pakistan rallied against government policies on Sunday. The rally was organised jointly by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) and included both formal and informal workers, who marched against inflation, unemployment and low wages.
1 December 2020
Asia: Media report that China's manufacturing sector continues to recover amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, according to a new survey, China's factory activity accelerated at the fastest pace in a decade in November. The article further reports that factory activity also grew in Taiwan and Indonesia.
India: Media report that last Thursday, 26 November, over 200 million workers held a one-day general strike in India. They were joined by farmers in mass actions across the country against government policies. Their demands included:
- The withdrawal of all "anti-farmer laws and anti-worker labour codes";
- The payment of 7500 INR ($100) in the accounts of each non-tax paying family;
- Monthly supply of 10 kg of food to families in need;
- The expansion of the MGNREGS to include 200 workdays each year, higher wages, and the Act's extension to urban industries;
- The reimposition of the earlier pension plan with amendments.
Media report that India's factory recovery stumbled in November as the COVID-19 second wave weighed on demand and output, according to a survey. Millions have already lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts since the pandemic started and, according to findings, factories have cut jobs for the eighth month in a row.
Media report that 66 workers from Arvind Limited's Ramanagar unit are protesting against the factory's illegal lockout for the second consecutive day. According to GATWU, the union representing the workers in question, workers have been working at this unit for 12 to 13 years. After the union filed a complaint with the Labour Department demanding that workers be made permanent, the factory illegally declared a lockout by claiming a loss.
Malaysia: Media report that the government of Malaysia has opened an investigation into Top Glove, after finding that the company failed to comply with health and safety standards in worker accommodations. The government added that it is ready to take legal action against the company. As of yesterday, a total of 3406 Top Glove workers had tested positive for COVID-19.
Pakistan: Media report that home-based workers in Sindh province, Pakistan, are celebrating new social security benefits, as Sindh province prepares to enact a law that will award employment rights to an estimated informal workforce of 3 million people. The article further reports, however, that the delay in registration (delayed by COVID-19 restrictions) meant that home-based workers were not eligible for the government's emergency cash payments programme during the COVID-19 lockdown, severely impacting workers' livelihoods.
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