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

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

5 June 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that thousands of workers - most of whom are garment workers - have lost their jobs in what industry insiders describe as a fall in production and work orders amidst the coronavirus crisis. According to the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), around 60 garment factories have terminated a total of 17,579 workers until the 31st of May. According to the same data, 57 BGMEA-members have dismissed 8364 workers and 10 BKMEA-member factories have dismissed a total of 637 garment workers. Two factories under Bangladesh Textile Mills Association have also cut nine jobs. Labour leaders have alleged, however, that the number of dismissed workers is actually much higher than the available official figures. "Major job losses were witnessed in May despite repeated calls from the government not to do so and its stimulus package for making wage payments during the pandemic", they said. 

Meanwhile, media report that, among the total COVID-19 infected workers in Bangladesh, 73% are from the garment sector. Many workers have been infected since the government allowed factories to reopen on the 26th of April. Until the 23rd of May, data showed that 170 workers had tested positive. Within a week, the infected number rose to 251. The six industrial zones of Asulia, Gazipur, Narayongonj, Chittagong, Khulna and Mymensingh, where most factories produce ready-made garments, are among the most affected. 

The Daily Star reports that, yesterday, three labs that will provide COVID-19 tests for garment workers have been inaugurated in Chandra, Tongi and Narayanganj. "Millions of workers are involved [in the garments sector] so it is our responsibility to protect them. We thank those who have established the lab",  Tipu Munshi, Commerce Minister, said. The article reiterated that, so far, 264 garment workers have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Cambodia: Media report that 34 garment workers were seriously injured in a traffic accident involving a truck that was carrying around 60 workers. Workers were returning from Horizon Outdoor Bags, Golden Apparel and Khai Neng garment Factories in the Kampong Chhnang province.

Guatemala: Media report that reports of a COVID-19 outbreak in a Guatemalan garment factory - in which 200 workers tested positive for COVID-19 - has sent shockwaves across the region, fuelling calls for tougher action to ensure garment workers are provided with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE). 

India: According to the Karnataka Garment Workers Union (KOOGU), the general manager of Arvind Ltd., Mr. Hanumantha Rao, has responded to the Union, promising to consider the demands and sit with the aggrieved workers for dialogue and resolution. "We await a step in this direction by the management", KOOGU made clear. 

Media report that garment manufacturers have sent a letter to the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government stating their need for 200,000 garment workers, citing the shortage of labour as the prime reason for the inability of manufacturing and export units to restart operations. "The readymade garments units in Noida are unable to resume the operations because of absence of manpower, despite government orders allowing restarting of the production units. We are facing a severe problem of shortage of workers/manpower due to the migration to their native places", Lalit Thukal, president of the Noida Apparel Export Cluster (NAEC), said. The UP government said that a comprehensive list of migrant workers who had returned to the state had been prepared and that the names and contact details of registered garment workers would be shared with NAEC, so that they can contact them directly.

Media report that the Supreme Court has said that the Centre and states governments' have 15 days to complete the transportation of all stranded migrant workers to their native places and asked all states to create employment opportunities for migrants returning home. "We propose 15 days’ time so that states can be permitted to effectuate the completion of transport", the Supreme Court said. The Centre reports that, as of 3 June, over 42,00 Shramik Specials had been run to transport 1 crore migrant workers to their homes across the country. Meanwhile, another article reports that, according to the report 'To Leave or Not to Leave: Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and Their Journeys Home', by the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN), 63% of respondents reported having less than Rs 100 left and more than 3/4 reported still not having access to rations. 

Myanmar: Solidarity Center reports that, following a two month fight against the factory’s attempt to use COVID-19 to destroy their union, workers at the Myan Mode garment factory in Myanmar are celebrating the return to the job of many recently fired union members, as they won an agreement that immediately reinstates 25 fired union members and brings back, within two months, 50 workers who joined strikes to protest the employer’s actions. This agreement further guarantees the recall of hundreds of other fired union members when operations return to normal as the pandemic eases. "This was not an easy fight. We wanted all our unfairly dismissed union brothers and sisters to be immediately reinstated", Mg Moe, general secretary of the factory-level union, which is affiliated to the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar (FGWM), made clear. "The central factor in our victory was that our members stood strong", says Moe Sandar Myint, a union leader at FGWM. "Although we could not achieve full justice, the employer and the brands could no longer ignore our demands entirely. Our workplace union fought doggedly to win the survival of our union, and we now live to fight another day."

Media report that, according to data from the IHS Markit, manufacturers in Myanmar are expected to restart production in the coming months after a fall in activity in April and May. "Myanmar’s manufacturing economy remained heavily impacted by lockdown measures in May, with key indicators for output, new orders and employment all signalling further rapid declines" Trevor Balchin, the firm’s economics director, said. He added that, these figures provide "a glimmer of hope that the worst of the disruption has passed."

Netherlands: According to reports from the CCC network, parties to the Dutch Covenant for Garments and Textiles have, in a statement, called upon brands to behave responsibly during the crisis. They call on purchasing companies to:

  • Only implement measures in proper consultation with their partners within the supply chain;
  • Not cancel orders that have already been produced or are in production;
  • Pay for work and materials for orders that have already been produced or are in production;
  • Not stipulate discounts under the threat of cancelling orders. 

United Kingdom: Media report that Boohoo has been breaking social distancing rules in order to shoot new products. During a global pandemic, Boohoo Groups took the decision to continue to shoot with full teams as normal. The company continued to fly in models from different countries as late as the 20th March and then had models travel from London to Manchester during the first week of lockdown. One studio employee explained that "The problem is that we are physically unable to social distance ourselves whilst on set and in this type of environment. The teams have been supplied with antibacterial gel, gloves and masks but that appears to be the extent of what the company is willing to do." 


4 June 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to Industrial Police data, 187 garment and textile sector workers had tested positive for COVID-19 until 1 June. Of the infected workers in the garment sector, 126 are from 51 BGMEA member factories, 58 from 21 BKMEA member factories and three workers from two BTMA factories. Another article, however, reports that, so far, 264 garment workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Indeed, referring to the data from the Industrial Police, trade union leaders have said that they do not agree with the figures and claim that the actual number is higher, as the real picture is not reflected due to the lack of testing facilities. "Low numbers of infections could be better, but I don't believe the figures and it does not reflect the real scenario as the workers are not getting enough testing opportunities", Taslima Akhter, president of Shramik Sanghati Andolon, made clear.

Media report that a COVID-19 testing lab for garment workers with the capacity to test 400 samples daily has been launched today. New Age reports that Tex-Ebo, a Singapore-based multinational company who has operation in Bangladesh, has donated $25,000 to the BGMEA to test garment and textile workers for COVID-19 in order to ensure their health safety during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Meanwhile, media report that Rubana Huq, BGMEA president, has said that, as work in garment factories has decrease by 55%, garment workers will be laid off or trimmed starting from this month. "As factories are running with lesser work orders, it will not be possible to engage all the workers. RMG owners may retrench workers from this month", she said. Another article exposes that, according to trade union representatives, 539 BGMEA-member factories have not paid either April salaries or festival bonuses to their workers. Also regarding the BGMEA, media report that the Association has extended the deadline for blacklisting British clothing retailer Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) by one week. The new deadline for the paying suppliers is 5 June, tomorrow. "We extended the deadline to June 5 from May 29 for paying Bangladeshi suppliers as a response to the retailer's letter", Nafis Ud Doula, RMG Sustainability Council Chairman, said. 

Media report that Abdul Khaleque, the owner of the Rana Plaza building, died of COVID-19 earlier today. For the past seven years, Abdul Khaleque was on bail in a number of cases filed against him following the deaths of 1138 people in Rana Plaza collapse.

Cambodia: According to reports from the CCC network, 52 organizations have now endorsed the Joint Statement on Repatriation of Cambodia Nationals.

Media report that, despite having closed its borders with Cambodia, Thai authorities are sending back hundreds of Cambodian migrant workers through the Banteay Meanchey province. According to Um Reatrey, provincial governor, Thai authorities have been sending around 200 to 300 laid-off migrant workers back to Cambodia through the corridors in the province. Meanwhile, another article reports that the Thai Cabinet has decided to extend the deadline that allows migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to work in Thailand until the 31st of July. Previously, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Labour had allowed migrant workers to stay and work in Thailand until 31 May. 

Media report that, on Tuesday (2 June), 700 workers from the TY Fashion Cambodia in Kandal province protested over the fact that their company and the government are still neglecting to pay their allowances. "After two months of suspension, the company and government have still not paid our out-of-work allowance", Srey Pov, a TY Fashion employee, said. "Some employees have worked there for 10 years. If the company shuts down, the company must pay our seniority indemnity and severance pay", Thea Ry, also a TY Fashion employee, said. 

Media report that the coronavirus crisis' impact is setting the stage for an economic disaster in Cambodia. "There could be a social crisis also, if people don't have income. People need to survive", Tola Moeun, from Central Cambodia, said. Meanwhile, media also report that, as laid off garment workers move to rural areas to work in agriculture in order to survive, the World Bank warns that Cambodia’s agriculture sector is unlikely to be able to substantially absorb all laid-off workers from the garment and tourism sectors. 

Cambodia/Philippines: The Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA) is organising a webinar and Q&A event on Wednesday 20 June at 3PM (AEST) on Union Organising in the Philippines and Cambodia during Covid-19. Speakers will be Elmer Labog, President of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) labour federation in the Philippines, and Thorn Ath, President of the Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC). Registration is essential and can be done here

India: According to the Karnataka Garment Workers Union (KOOGU), around 150 workers, who worked at Arvind Limited, which produces for the likes of H&M, Levis, Gap, Tommy Hilfiger and Old Navy, have been kicked out and are in the process of being replaced in an attempt to avoid paying lockdown wages and mandatory social security benefits to the workers. Workers - most of whom are women - have not been paid for the last two months and are now facing food shortage, hunger, debt traps and evictions. Fast fashion and Arvind Ltd "have destroyed our lives", workers said. After being approached by the union, factory management responded that "there is no role for the union in this matter". In the meantime, KOOGU has filed petitions before the Labour Commissioner and the Women’s Commission regarding job security and wage theft of garment workers. The union is now waiting on Arvind Ltd's response on this matter. 

Media report that, for women workers in the Indian Textile Industry, menstrual hygiene is non-existent. Factories are not even equipped with basic the amenities required for effective menstrual hygiene management. Indeed, there are very few toilets with inadequate facilities and they often left deliberately dirty so that workers are too disgusted to use it. In addition, there is lack of access to cost effective hygiene products, no place to safely dump them, clean water is unavailable and there is no privacy to change pads/menstrual cloth. 

Media report that, as more than nine million workers have deserted industrial towns, industries across western and southern India are now facing an acute shortage of employees as they plan to restart work. Indeed, the Indian industry is struggling to restart factories, restore raw material supply chains, get working capital, and most critically, get workers back on the shop floor. The article further reports that the textile hub Surat, with two-thirds of the workforce made up of migrant workers, is among the worst places affected by the migration. Meanwhile, another article reports that Madras High Court has judged that the Tamil Nadu government must make sure that food, shelter and medical facility are provided to stranded migrant workers in the state, adding that the state cannot be ungrateful to them after making them work as guest labourers.

Myanmar: Today it is one month ago that six labour activists and factory union leaders were arrested and immediately sent to prison for organising a strike camp to demand wages being paid for April and safety measures in their factory, the Rong Son Factory (also known as Blue Diamond). According to reports from the CCC network, the treatment of the imprisoned activists is degrading. They have to clean toilets and are intimidated and harassed by other prisoners and wards. The women union leaders are put together with male prisoners in cramped trucks when transported to court. In addition, trial hearings are not announced to family members  and multiple charges are added to the case sheets, filed both by factory owners and the authorities. Activists and union leaders from other factories in the area are also charged for striking for wages and safety measures. They are released on bail, but facing trials of which the outcome is unsure.

ABFTU Myanmar imprisonment

Frontier Myanmar has published an article that exposes the impact of the coronavirus crisis on Myanmar's garment workers. "Myanmar’s garment workers have seen their demands for a minimum wage increase silenced, their wages cut or unpaid, their concerns about unsafe factory conditions dismissed, their financial and social security insufficient or entirely absent, and their unions oppressed", the article makes clear. It further exposes that workers have faced such difficulties for a long time, as a result of poor governance and economic policies that use low labour costs to encourage investment and that COVID-19 has simply compounded these problems and hardships. As previously reported, COVID-19 has become an excuse to continue union busting and wage cuts without adequate justification. Unionists who tried to stand up to abusive or exploitive employers during the pandemic soon became targets for retaliation and were arrested, charged and imprisoned. "As the government and business community promote hand-washing and competitions for home-made face masks, factory workers are scrambling to protect themselves and each other. They are fighting for their lives, as well as for their rights. Their struggle is not only against COVID-19, but also against the conduct of the government and the business sector that has made an already difficult situation exponentially worse", the author reiterates. 

Pakistan: Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement (HKM), a Pakistan-wide campaign for the enforcement of the fundamental rights, reports that they 60 workers protested in front of one of the outlets of ChenOne as they have not been paid for four months. The factory in question makes clothes for H&M, Mango, Zara and American Apparel. 


Petitions and relief efforts

Labour behind the Label focusing on UK brands.

Oxfam Australia focusing on Australian brands.

Public Eye petition in German and French.

Abiti Puliti petition in Italian.

Traidcraft focusing on UK brands.

Remake focusing on global brands.

Garment worker Covid relief collects relief efforts.

Donate to the CCC relief fund in EUR:

Donate to the CCC relief fund in USD:

Resources

Demands, recommendations, proposals

CCC list of demands upon brand and retailers.

Global union and employer joint call to action.

WRC and MHSSN safety recommendations.

Information trackers

WRC's brand tracker on which brands pay for orders

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

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

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

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

The International Trade Union Confederation collects trade union news on the COVID19 crisis.

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

Retail dive tracks retailers’ response to COVID19.

The US Chamber of Commerce maintains a corporate aid tracker.

Foot Wear News tracks fashion philanthropy.

ICNL has a civic freedom tracker.

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

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

Background and position papers

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

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

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

ECCHR policy paper "Garment Industry in intensive care?"

ECCHR, SOMO and Pax paper on responsible business relationships.

AFWA's paper The emperor has no clothes.

Traidcraft Exchange "Bailing out the supply chain"

Basic health information

Hesperian Health Guides' COVID-19 Fact Sheet

3 June 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that the Sammilita Garments Sramik Federation (SGSF) has submitted a petition to the labour ministry secretary demanding legal actions against 1258 garment factories for not paying wage of April, or Eid festival allowance, or both. "We learned from the industrial police sources that 161 factories did not pay both bonuses and salaries to their workers, 920 factories did not pay salary, when 358 members did not pay the allowance", Nazma Akter, SGSF president, said. Meanwhile, media report that garment exports from Bangladesh to major destinations, such as Europe and the US, have nosedived. "We foresee continued slowdown in exports till the end of this year", Rubana Huq, BGMEA President, said. She added that the sector is still facing many uncertainties. 

Cambodia: Media report that representatives of the garment and footwear sectors and the EU business community in Cambodia have called on the European Commission (EC) to postpone its withdrawal of the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme for 12 months, in order to allow the sector to recover from the impact of the coronavirus crisis. In this effect, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), the Cambodia Footwear Association (CFA) and the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (EuroCham) submitted a joint letter to the EC yesterday, stating that, in the last months, buyers have cancelled orders and failed to place new ones, causing the predicted fall of 50 to 60% of the garment and footwear sectors for the second quarter of 2020. "If the withdrawal goes forward, more orders and jobs will be lost and will never come back. The EU must not ignore the gravity of the situation and the devastating impact of removing EBA benefits in August", Van Sou Ieng, GMAC chairman, explained. "We can hope the EU understands the pain the suspension will cause Cambodia and its low-income workers and reconsider the timing of the decision", Anthony Galliano, the CEO of financial services firm Cambodia Investment Management Co Ltd, added. 

Media report that, according to the Ministry of Labour of Cambodia, a further 25,588 workers from 67 enterprises in the garment and tourism sectors will be paid allowances from the government after facing suspension or unemployment amidst the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, another article reports that the Ministry of Labour also announced that it was postponing the biannual indemnity payments to workers in the garment and footwear sector in order to provide some relief to employers and factory owners affected by the crisis. Workers and trade unions were quick to reject this move, explaining that workers are already facing a loss of salary on account of a large number of factories suspending production and that they need these indemnity payments, ranging between $60 to $200, to try and sustain their households. Khun Tharo, a program coordinator from the labour rights group Central, said that the Ministry's announcement could benefit some employers, but will further hurt the workers who, without government support, will find themselves in a social instability and poverty.

Media report that Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, The Solidarity Centre and US Agency for International Development is set to launch a three-year campaign to facilitate road safety of garment workers from 30 factories in select provinces. The initiative will be advocating for the creation and implementation of a road safety policy and overseeing the enforcement of traffic safety measures for workers. William Conklin, Solidarity Centre country director, said the safety of the workers can only be guaranteed through the commitment of relevant stakeholders, which include factory owners, labour ministry officials, development partners and consumer brands. "Their cooperation is vital to the success and sustainability of road safety measures, which are aimed at reducing traffic accidents involving garment workers", he said.

India: Media report that the Bihar government has closed migrant workers' registration for 14-day institutional quarantine as the movement of people has opened across the country. "Why will anyone be registered and for what when restrictions on the movement of people have been lifted in the country? How do you know who is migrant because now anyone can come either by train, bus, car or any other mode?", Pratyaya Amrit, Principal Secretary of the Disaster Management Departments, said. He asserted, however, that door-to-door health monitoring would continue and that medical facilities would remain the same from primary health centres to level I and level II hospitals. Meanwhile, another article reports that the return of migrant workers and their families to their home-states will constitute a massive shock to states' local labour markets, healthcare infrastructure, and public distribution system (PDS). Moreover, the burden is likely to be felt unevenly within these recipient states, as the Centre has continued to fail to provide support. Today, media report that the Madras High Court judged that the State cannot be ungrateful to the migrant workers having extracted work from them and directed it to provide food and shelter for the stranded labourers "on a war-footing". 

Myanmar: Media report that, according to a senior finance official, the Government is conducting a survey regarding the skills of thousands of migrant workers who have returned after losing their jobs during the coronavirus crisis in a bid to harness their talents for economic development. U Maung Maung Lay, vice president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, praised the government's plan, noting that, if the government can harness the power of the returning workers, the country’s economy can rebound in the post-COVID-19 period. "If we collect data, such as what kinds of skills they have, and create jobs for them, it will be useful in developing the country", he said. 

Pakistan: The Joint Action Committee for People's Rights (JCA) has released a statement demanding that the government ensure universal social security systems for workers from both formal and informal sectors and also immediate economic incentives for labour during the coronavirus crisis. The letter also demanded that federal and provincial governments shift their priorities and spend more on health and universal social security in the next financial year's budget, that wages of workers be announced on fair wage basis and not on minimum wage standards and that workers be able to get their rights ensured in the Constitution of Pakistan and in International Treaties. 

Serbia: According to news from media and the CCC network, labour inspectorate in Serbia has had its budget for travel costs cut down by 70%. This, combined with a recent decrease in their regular control has significantly decreased the ability of labour inspectorate to react in cases of workers' rights violations. Sub-capacitated even in regular circumstances, labour inspectorate is now under increased pressure from employers and the State. Though some of its reactions are questionable according to the same media, moves like this are putting labour inspectorate under significantly more pressure. 

Sri Lanka: The Asia Floor Wage Alliance reports that, five factories of Smart Shirt, which produce mainly for US POLO Assn., have been going against government directives by paying workers only half the basic pay with cuts on Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees' Trust Fund (ETF) for the last three months. When workers gathered outside the factory demanding a meeting with management, only five workers were allowed inside the factory premises to take part in the discussions with management. Meanwhile, workers who had travelled long distances are anxiously waiting outside the factory as they are not allowed to attend the meeting that determines the future of their livelihoods. Workers, gathering near the factories in question, are concerned about potential factory closures and layoffs. 

2 June 2020 

Bangladesh: Media report that the European Union is going to provide a fund to support Bangladesh’s garment workers who will become jobless and lose income due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis. Each of the garment workers will get cash support of Tk3,000 for three months in the first phase, from June to August. The vice-president of the BKMEA said that the support might be extended for a second three-month phase depending on the availability of fund and number of workers. The grant is likely to be extended for a second three-month phase afterwards. Meanwhile, another article reports that Nazma Akhter, president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, reports that, since the end of the Eid vacation, many workers have been dismissed. "Since the end of Eid vacation, I have received many calls every day from fired workers", she said. In addition, The Loadstar reports that Mohammad Hatem, senior vice president of the BKMEA, said that manufacturers were terminating workers because they have no work orders. Even though some factories have started receiving inquiries from buyers, "the flow is very poor", he said. 

Cambodia: Media report that 256 garment, footwear and travel goods factories have suspended their operations, affecting more than 130,000 workers. Heng Sour, Labour Ministry spokesperson, said that factories had not received orders from buyers for both May and June and that that would likely be the norm for the foreseeable future. "We can conclude that exports of garments and footwear will be hit hard in the second quarter this year", he said.

According to reports from the CCC network, Superl management is in the process of applying all procedures for the withdrawal of the legal complaint against Mrs Soy Sros, local union president of the Collective Union of Movement Workers (CUMW). Although this has been received as a step in the right direction, the CUMW reiterates that it is not clear how long this will take. Since being released on bail, there have been at least two negotiation meetings regarding the withdrawal of accusations. Trade unions and labour rights organisations, including CCC, are still fighting for the following demands to be met, by pressure on the factory owners and the buyers, Michael Kors and Kate Spade:

  1.  All charges against Mrs Soy Sros must be dropped;
  2. Mrs Soy Sros to be immediately reinstated in her role at the factory;
  3. Mrs Soy Sros to receive back pay for wages lost during her detention, also accounting for the harm to her reputation;
  4. Ensure that workers' rights and FoA is fully  respected and that Mrs. Soy Sros will not be retaliated against upon reinstatement.

Soy Sros CUMW

India: Media report that garment factories in India are shifting production to PPE as "a matter of survival". Rangaraj K S, head of HR at a garment factory in the Peenya Industrial area, explained that "We have no option". Their factory used to operate will over 3000 workers. Now, the factory is operating with 1200 workers, less than half of its pre-pandemic workforce. "The situation is dire. Workers depend on factory wages, but international orders have dried up", he added. About 50% of factories in the Peenya Industrial area are producing PPE. Srinivas Asranna, president of the Peenya Industrial Association, however, made clear that this will not be a permanent solution for the industry. 

Media report that more than 400 Indian migrant workers are stuck at the Nepal border waiting for a chance to enter India and go back home. The West Bengal government has, however, denied them entry and they have been sleeping at the Kakadvitta bus park or even on the open streets. "We don’t know why the Indian government denied us entry. Nepali workers are coming from India day after day", Jaya Yadav, one of the workers, said. Meanwhile, media report that, according to data complied by the Save LIFE Foundation, a road safety NGO, 198 migrant workers have lost their lives in road accidents during the lockdown period. The report contributes fatigue among bus and truck drivers, hired to transport migrants, combined with over speeding and poor engineering of roads as the top reason for deaths.

Myanmar: SMART Textile & Garments, a European Union funded project working for sustainable manufacturing in Myanmar's garment industry, reports that the EU Myan Ku Fund has now reached 12,913 garment workers with over one billion MMK in emergency cash transfers. Over 11,000 women who have lost their jobs or faced temporary suspension from work as a result of COVID-19 related distress have received these cash transfers. In total, over 20,000 workers from 122 factories in the garment, textile and footwear industries have so far applied. Many applications have been submitted by the factories’ human resources managers who are trying to coordinate support for recently terminated or suspended employees. Trade unions have also gathered applications from their members and hundreds of workers have applied directly to the hotline, which is operated from 8am to 8pm daily, Monday to Friday.

Nepal: Media report that, in response to the government's failure to acknowledge garment factories' struggle in its budget for next fiscal, garment manufacturers have threatened to shut down their businesses, putting thousands of jobs at risk. "he budget did not acknowledge any of our problems and suggestions. Thus, we have come to the conclusion that there is no alternative to shut down the industry now because we are not in a position to run our businesses" Chandi Prasad Aryal, president of the Garment Association Nepal (GAN), said. "The government’s inability to acknowledge the contribution of the garment industry to the economy has threatened the existence of all these factories and put at risk the jobs of thousands of people in the sector", Aryal added. 

Sri Lanka: According to reports from the CCC network, Sri Lankan trade unions have sent a letter to the Commissioner General of Labour exposing problems - such as unpaid wages, forced resignations and deducted salaries - faced by employees from 35 companies - many of whom are garment factories - in the context of the coronavirus crisis. The companies and respective problems are as follows: 

  1. Chiefway Katunayaka Pvt. Ltd.: 150 workers have been forced to sign resignation letters and some employees have not been paid salaries for April; 
  2. White International Pvt. Ltd.: Workers' salaries for the month of March have been paid with a 8 ½ day’s pay deduction and April wages have not been paid at all; 
  3. Hidramani Pvt Ltd.: Although the factory has reopened, workers who are over 50 years old and employees with less than one year of service have not been called for work with no explanation;
  4. Smart Shirt Pvt. Ltd.: 2500 employees of have only been paid  Rs.10,000 for April and have been informed not to report for work until further notice;
  5. Screen Line Pvt Ltd.: Workers have not received April wages and 65 employees have been removed from service;
  6. Star Garment Pvt Ltd.: Workers' bonuses for Sinhala and Hindu New Year in April 2020 have not been paid and some employees have been dismissed;
  7. Nysco Lanka Pvt Ltd.: April wages have not been paid; 
  8. Noratel International Pvt. Ltd.: April wages have not been paid and, in March, workers were deployed on a daily basis and paid based on the number of days of work;
  9. Eligant  Apparel Pvt. Ltd.: April wages have not been paid and workers only received 40% of their March salary. 600 employees have not yet been called for work; 
  10. Isin Lanka Pvt. Ltd.: March and April wages have not been paid; 
  11. Leisure line Pvt. Ltd.: A fraction of Employees have been removed from service;
  12. EL Steel Pvt Ltd.: Three office bearers of the Union have not been called for work;
  13. Sky Way Sea Foods Pvt. Ltd.: 40 employees have been removed from service and the rest of the employees have been forced to resign from service voluntarily on compensation basis;
  14. Jinasena Pvt. Ltd.: Three office bearers of the Union have not been called for work;
  15. Esquel Sri Lanka Ltd.: About 1000 employees of Yakkala, Ekala & Kegalle branches of this Company have been removed from service and 300 workers have been forced to resign;
  16. United Tractor Equipment Pvt. Ltd.: Workers' salaries have been reduced by 5% to 10%. 
  17. Star Garments Pvt. Ltd.: Workers have been informed that they will only be paid 50% of their salaries;
  18. Trend Setters Pvt Ltd.: April wages have not been paid and workers only received 35% of their March salary;
  19. WISEscape Hotel: Workers have not been paid March salaries; 
  20. Brandix Pvt. Ltd.: Workers have been told to go on the company's website twice a week in order to be paid the minimum salary. Accordingly, workers who do not have Smart phones will be deprived of their salaries;
  21. Nimali Garments Pvt. Ltd.: Workers have not been paid or called for work since April; 
  22. Keselwatta Metal Industries Pvt. Ltd.: 20 workers have been removed from service;
  23. Keselwatta  Agencies Pvt. Ltd.: April wages have not been paid; 
  24. Patpasleen Pvt. Ltd.: April wages have not been paid and some workers have been asked to do overtime without any additional payment; 
  25. J.J. Garments Pvt. Ltd.: Only Rs. 8000 have been paid for April and over 100 workers have been removed from service;
  26. G.V.P Lanka Pvt. Ltd.: Workers have not been paid or called for work for April; 
  27. Blackhoth Security Syndicate Pvt. Ltd.: April wages have not been paid;
  28. Paradise Gaments Pvt. Ltd.: April wages have not been paid and only some workers have been called for work; 
  29. Coca Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd.: Workers have been deprived of the privileges they enjoyed prior to the coronavirus crisis; 
  30. Stretchline Pvt. Ltd.: Around 600 workers will be removed on the basis of voluntary resignation upon receiving compensation; 
  31. N.C. Fashion: Some workers have not been paid salary for April or been called for work;
  32. Sherton Turtle Beach Hotel: 70% of the workers have been paid 30% of the April;
  33. A.B. Securydal Pvt. Ltd.: April wages have been paid with deduction; 
  34. Regal Calibre L.K Ltd.: April wages have not been paid and garment workers have not been called back to work;
  35. Specialist Construction Chemicals Pvt. Ltd.: April wages have not been paid.

Also according to reports from the CCC network, the Esquel Group is union busting under guise of COVID-19 in its Yakkala Factory, in Sri Lanka, which produces clothes for the likes of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. 

1 June 2020

Global: Today, the Clean Clothes Campaign, as labour organisations and unions around the world, has released a statement calling upon apparel companies to commit to not making workers pay the price for this pandemic by assuring that workers receive their wages for the length of the crisis and has announced that the network will start reaching out to apparel companies with demands directly as well as through an upcoming campaign. "Companies have a responsibility to prevent, mitigate and remedy the human rights violations in their supply chains. By ensuring that workers receive their due wages, companies fulfil part of their due diligence obligations, which also include ensuring non-discriminatory treatment of workers, social protection, and safe working conditions that do not expose workers to infection or other health risks", the statement makes clear. 

Media report that Sedex has released a report based on research from over 3300 buyer and supplier members across 118 countries that reveals that the garment, footwear and construction sectors have taken the biggest economic hit during the coronavirus crisis. The data shows that only 38% of respondents in the garment sector state that their customers are being supportive during this time. 

Bangladesh: Media report that hundreds of garment workers protested earlier today in Gazipur against factory layoffs amidst the coronavirus crisis. Workers said that factory management shut the factory soon after it reopened following the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday, without any payment for workers. Managment of Tanaz Fashion announced layoffs citing lack of work orders and did not mention any timeframe as to when the factory would reopen. The police assured workers that they would negotiate with management to reopen the factory on their behalf.

Dhaka Tribune reports that China Rahman, general secretary of the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council and trade unions representative on the RMG Sustainability Council Board of Directors said that "Together with our Bangladeshi trade union affiliates we will help ensure workers in RMG factories have safe workplaces and access to remedy to address safety concerns and exercise the right to safe workplaces. We will work to ensure that workers have trust in the newly established RSC." In a statement, the RMG Sustainability Council urged all reopened RMG factories to implement necessary measures to mitigate COVID-19 exposure and keep the factory workers as safe as possible.

Media report that, according to data compiled by the BGMEA, ready-made garment (RMG) exports in the first 29 days of May this year have declined by 62% compared to the same period last year as both the demand for and prices of apparel products decreased on the global market due to the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, Dhaka Tribune reports that, according to industry insiders, in addition to withheld payments and asking for unreasonable discounts, many buyers are considering shifting their orders to other countries, potentially dumping the pending orders with Bangladesh RMG producers. "If implemented, such actions will cause a financial catastrophe", Nabeel Khan, co-founder of Market Insights, warned. 

Cambodia: Media report that about 1,000 Cambodian traders, who usually cross into Thailand to work at the Rong Klua market, have picketed at the Thai-Cambodian checkpoint in Ban Khlong Luek to protest against the prolonged border closure. Traders explained that they were in economic hardship and that the extended emergency decree imposed by the Thai government further negatively impacted their financial situation. 

Malaysia: According to reports from the CCC network, the Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC), Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and Tenaganita, alongside nine other non-governmental organisations, have released a press statement urging that all public health policies be inclusive and non-discriminatory to all citizens and non-citizen residents in Malaysia. "We support the government’s decision to provide medical treatment and healthcare to the COVID-19 positive cases which have emerged in immigration detention centres. However, this must come together with other measures in parallel", the statement reads. Thus, they demand the following: 

  • Improvement of living conditions for migrant workers;
  • Development of a coherent a comprehensive workplace policy; 
  • Improvement of conditions in detention centres. 

Myanmar: Media report that, even though the Thai government recently extended the state of emergency until the end of June, Myanmar migrant workers, most of whom are now out of work, will be allowed to return home. U Wai Lin Maung, Myanmar labour attaché in Bangkok, said that the Thai government will allow about 34,000 migrants who want to return home through border crossings after losing their jobs in the Thailand. "They extended the curfew order on May 28, but it will not affect the returnees", he said. 

Media report that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has announced that it will deliver emergency loans worth 5 billion yen (US$46.5 million) to assist businesses in Myanmar hit by the coronavirus crisis as part of its plan to help the country mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

Pakistan: Media report that trade union leaders released a joint statement welcoming the Supreme Court's landmark judgment in which the apex court judged that contract workers have legitimate and fundamental right to form a union or become a part of it and take part in the union referendum or elections. They lauded added that the Supreme Court’s judgment would set a precedent and strengthen the trade union movement in the country.

This is the content of our ongoing coverage for the current month

Our Covid 19 blog archive:

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

published 2020-06-04