August 2021 Covid blog

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.

30 August

South Asia/Global: Media report that seventy-nine per cent of businesses failed to receive any stimulus packages from governments to fight against the Covid fallout, according to a survey report published on Saturday.

The fifth round of nationwide firm-level survey conducted by the South Asian Network of Economic Modeling in collaboration with the Asia Foundation identified lengthy procedure, difficulty in availing services from banks, complicated application process and bribery key problems in availing the stimulus package.

The report showed that of the 21 per cent of the firms which did receive stimulus in April-June 2021, readymade garment sector took up the 1st place with 52 per cent, followed by textiles 36 per cent and leather 30 per cent.

Indonesia: Media report that since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 in Bali, one garment business in Bali has made zero income because of COVID-19. I Made Suparta has has no orders from souvenir centres such as the gift market or the art market.

Suparta's garment business specialises in producing t-shirts with Balinese art screen printing. Before the pandemic, his company distributed the t-shirts to souvenir centers. On average, his company could produce 1,000 t-shirts a day, assisted by his two children and 35 employees.

Myanmar: IndustriALL reports that two members of Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) have died from Covid-19 and more than 100 of factory-level union leaders have been infected, as the health protocols on handling the Covid pandemic are being largely ignored.

Since the military coup, many garment manufacturers have ignored the health protocols implemented by the previous democratically-elected government. When Covid-19 cases skyrocketed in July this year, the lack of implementation of the health protocols have led to an increasing number lot of workplace infections.

Sri Lanka: Media report that leading Sri Lankan apparel manufacturer Brandix recently donated essential medical equipment towards the treatment of Covid-19 patients. The Kegalle District General Hospital, Mawanella General Hospital, and the Seeduwa Intermediate Care Centre received equipment, included 12 non-invasive ventilators and 18 oxygen concentrator units in total.

27 August

Bangladesh: Media report that more than 50 garment workers fell ill after a second dose of Covid-19 vaccine administered was given at the Sadma Group's Mouchak Knit Composite garment factory in Mouchak area of Gazipur. Some of them were taken to hospital. The vaccination activities ceased immediately.

Gazipur Civil Surgeon Dr. Khairuzzaman said the workers may have felt sick for some psychological reason and are expected to recover quickly. “Some may have fainted from fear. They are receiving treatment. We will start vaccination activities again”, he says.

Indonesia; Media report that the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI) says it has recorded approximately 50,000 workers laid off since early 2021. This data includes cases of layoffs that are not directly related to Covid-19. 

KSPI President Said Iqbal said on Tuesday (23/8/2021) the impact of layoffs has been felt particularly in textiles, garments, shoes. One of the reasons is the declining demand from abroad, such as for factories producing for Nike, Adidas, and Puma.

The same is true for textiles such as Uniqlo or H&M. In West Bandung, nearly 7,100 workers have been laid off and in Cimahi nearly 4,000. KSPI data rom the textile garment and shoe workers unions show in June 2021 alone there have been 12,571 layoffs at 13 companies in Tangerang, Bogor, Bandung, Cimahi, and Central Java.

Italy: Media report that Prada Group has issued a note to its Italian employees asking them to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or recovery from the virus to access its facilities.

Starting Sept. 6, Prada employees will be required to demonstrate they hold the so-called Green Pass, the European certification released to citizens who have either undergone the vaccination or recovered from the coronavirus in the past six months. 

Sri Lanka: Media report that about five to ten workers tested positive for COVID-19 every day at every garment factory. Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective that works on garment factory workers’ rights said that though garment factories remained open during the lockdown, a significant number of COVID infections had been detected in them.

“Politicians and business leaders insist that garment factories need to remain open to keep the economy going. This is true, we earn a lot of foreign revenue for the country. Recently, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka said that the value of textile and garment exports increased by 28% year-on-year to $2.5 billion in January to June 2021. The companies also increased profits in 2020 as well. However, the garment workers are compelled to operate in an unsafe environment,” she said.

In news from our network, Anton Marcus Joint Secretary representing the Free Trade Zones &  General Services Employees Union has written a letter to the government on the impact of garment workers having to continue working during restrictions.

“Authorising workers to report for industries in the apparel, exports and construction sector is a negative condition (you are aware, thousands of workers operate in many of the companies in these sectors). The following trade unions representing the National Labour Advisory Council is of the unanimous opinion that, doing so has unnecessarily increased the risk of a large number of non-essential workers are exposed to the risk of a pandemic being transmitted,” he says.

Opening Free Trade Zones and garment factories have already been identified as a factor that has increased the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic, says Mr. Marcus. 

This is following the news that the Joint Apparel Association Forum, the apex body of the apparel industry in Sri Lanka, announced a “5 point recovery program”.

They say the programme consists of ensuring a safe working environment for employees. 

25 August

Bangladesh: It has been reported that about 13,000 workers from five garment factories in Gazipur received their second jab on Tuesday (August 24). The five factories included Sparrow Apparels, Tusuka Trousers, and Rose Fashion. 

Media report that the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the German government will provide one-time grants of Tk 3,000 to workers of export-oriented garment and knit factories affected by Covid-19.

Workers from factories belonging to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knit Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) will receive the payment. 

The BGMEA and BKMEA will manage the grant of around Tk 25 crore [$2,937,437.50] to disburse a one-time payment in the form of a wage subsidy.

It has been reported that workers from Apparels Village in Savar's Birulia have protested against illegal layoffs.

According to the workers, the factory illegally laid off about 1,000 workers during Covid-19 last year, assuring them management would contact workers to pay dues. But the factory never followed up.

Indonesia: Media report that the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation ( KSPI ) has rejected the plan to allow export-oriented companies to return to 100 per cent operational capacity as long as herd immunity has not been established in the factory environment.

A survey conducted by KSPI showed that companies had returned to 100 per cent operations before the government had officially allowed them to do so. KSPI's survey of workers in 1,000 companies shows that only 5 percent of companies implement Work From Home (WFH) regulations.

Myanmar: It has been reported that nearly 1,000 workers from Grand Enterprises Garment were vaccinated with a Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine.

More than 100 fainted after the injection, with some being hospitalised.

Workers said the military guards in attendance forbade the use of phones to take photos of the incident. The factory had offered 5,000 kyat incentives to employees who vaccinated after workers refused to take a Chinese-made vaccine.

23 August

Bangladesh: Media report that the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) has demanded workers are paid a risk allowance of 25 per cent for working during the pandemic.

The union also called for garment factories to pay overtime to workers who came back to work after the Eid holiday, reimburse workers for waged deducted during the lockdown, and a Tk 3,000 payment to cover expenses borne by workers travelling back to factories after the government reversed its decision and allowed factories to open earlier than previously declared.

Media report that more than 50 factories of various sizes in Panchagarh have been closed for two years due to Covid-19. Factories weaving saris, three pieces, veils and wigs have closed. Wholesalers are not coming as the goods are not made, nor are they are not paying the arrears. In the current situation, the owners and workers are in financial crisis with many workers not able to earn enough for their families. Owners have not received government assistance or interest free loans.

Cambodia: Media report that Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, has announced his support for a Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training program requiring factory owners to conduct rapid Covid-19 testing for workers, calling it a good measure to prevent the disease.

The announcement comes after the Ministry ordered factory owners to conduct Covid-19 tests for all workers at least twice before 10 September 10 2021. However, Ath Thorn suggested the Ministry should send officials to monitor the sampling of workers to ensure all workers are covered. This is because some factory owners, unhappy with the cost of buying test equipment, may seek to save money. He added that some workers are dissatisfied over differences in how many times they are tested.

Indonesia: Media report on 6 manufacturers conducting trials at 100% capacity amid Covid-19. 

The trial was carried out by allowing companies that have an export and domestic orientation to operate with a capacity of 100 percent of staff divided into at least two or more shifts. With the operation of these companies, there are automatically around 6,000 workers who are now able to work full-time.

The companies in the trial are essential from the production side for export and domestic purposes. For example, there are wig factories, clothing factories, and leather products," explained Regional Secretary of the Special Region of Yogyakarta, Kadarmanta Baskara Aji.

It has been reported that 2,500 employees at PT Delta Merlin Tekstil in Sragen have received their first Moderna injection. Vaccinated employees are given a day off. Workers also received paracetamol, painkillers, and multivitamins.

USA: Media report that the pandemic brought some garment manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., particularly to Los Angeles. But the clothing industry says a bill meant to protect garment workers’ pay could move jobs offshore again.

A bill that would have fundamentally changed how garment workers are paid had enough votes to pass during last year’s legislative session, its supporters say, but ran out of time during the session’s frenzied final hours. This year, the Garment Worker Protection Act is back as Senate Bill 62, and Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, a Los Angeles Democrat and its sponsor, is on a barnstorming tour across Southern California to gin up support ahead of this year’s session. 

Garment manufacturers say the pandemic provided an unexpected boon to their business in the U.S., a nascent success story amid economic calamity that is threatened by the bill, which creates new liabilities across California’s clothing supply chain from factory subcontractors to retailers. 

Vietnam: Media report that Vu Duc Giang, Chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (Vitas), says the industry expects speeding up the progress of Covid-19 vaccinations for workers will keep factories running. The 4th wave of the Covid-19 epidemic is becoming more and more complicated. The hot spot is in the southern provinces and cities, and the challenge for the textile industry in the last months of the year is huge.

20 August

Bangladesh: Media report that Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi says he expects factory owners to start providing garment workers their jabs within the next 45 days.

Media report on research asking garment workers simple questions to gauge the impact of the lockdowns on their lives and to understand exactly what workers are experiencing every day, in particular on the impact of lockdowns on workers’ travel around the Eid al-Adha holiday.

36% of workers made a trip, via public transport, to their home villages . Most travelled by bus. Garment workers paid about 17% more to return to the city than they did to leave the city. In other words, the chaos and the crowds depicted in the news also translated into more costly travel. 

Regarding social distancing within transport vehicles on the return trips, 44% of respondents told us that they felt “packed” in their commuting space. 

Cambodia: Media report that Unions and civil society groups are urging the government to prioritize garment workers for a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread.

Labor rights group CENTRAL called for the government to provide a third dose to workers, who face higher risks of infection due to crowded factories, transportation, and living conditions.

“Garment workers and workers who are being employed at crowded sites should be in the priority group for the third booster dose of the vaccine,” said Moeun Tola, executive director.

Media report that Cambodia’s government has urged garment factory owners to conduct Covid-19 tests for all workers at least twice before 10 September 2021. 

Myanmar: Media report that workers in Yangon industrial zones are being pressured into Covid-19 vaccinations, with only about 10 percent registering for jabs, according to factory workers and labor unions.

A member of the the Confederation of Trade Unions, Myanmar (CTUM) said: “If a workers is not vaccinated, there is pressure to fire him immediately if he gets sick. We have also heard of factories where the vaccine is not voluntary."

There are also conflicts between employers and workers who do not want to be vaccinated. Workers are refusing to vaccinate because of a lack of trust in vaccines imported from China, conflicting information about the vaccine, and a lack of trust in the military council.

UK: Media report that more than two-thirds of Brits taking part in a survey felt either ‘disgusted’ ‘sad’ or ‘angry’ about the fact that many garment suppliers in countries like Bangladesh were not paid during the first year of the pandemic. 

Despite this, a third of British consumers polled said they lack the money to shop ethically, and three-quarters believed that they shouldn’t have to make these kind of buying decisions: that all clothes and shoes sold in the UK should be made without exploitation 

Vietnam: Media report on how thousands of Vietnamese have spent the past month living at work, away from their families. The situation has taken a heavy toll on mental health and corporate balance sheets. 

But now some companies are questioning the approach and asking the government for vaccines and "safe zones" where workers can live near plants, and for it to take other measures.

"Owners cannot control infection 100% because to continue operating, factories still need to get supplies from outside," said Tin, who paused operations at one factory but is continuing the sleepovers at others. "Facilities there are not meant for human living."

Taiwan's Pou Chen, the world's No. 1 contract shoemaker, suspended production at its biggest site in Vietnam, near Ho Chi Minh City, from July 14, citing difficulty sheltering 56,000 employees on-site.

"We do see pressure on our short-term production capacity, and we do expect the financial impacts in July and August," the company told Nikkei Asia. "For the longer term, we will try to be more flexible and ask our other production sites to help with some production, too."

18 August

Bangladesh: Media report on how the biggest challenge at present for clothes makers and their workers is survival – which makes some accept orders at rates below the production costs.

A large number of apparel manufacturers have terminated thousands of workers even after getting loans under the government's coronavirus stimulus packages. Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi informed parliament that at least 63 garment factories across the country were closed last year due to the pandemic, leaving 32,582 workers unemployed. However, a study by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) says the number of RMG workers who had lost their jobs during the previous peak of the ongoing pandemic stands at 324,684.

Joly Talukder, general secretary of the Garment Workers Trade Union Center of Bangladesh, said that about 80% of these terminated workers have got jobs in other factories, but the remaining 20% are still jobless or may have migrated to other professions.

Sri Lanka: Concerns have been raised that not enough is being done to ensure the safety of Sri Lankan garment workers within the factories located in and around free trade zones. In a letter penned to the Minister of Health, Anton Marcus, Joint-Secretary of the Free Trade Zone and General Services Employees Union, raised concerns of a lack of quarantine facilities and testing. He has urged the government to establish medical centers and quarantine centers associated with Free Trade Zones and garment factories to treat infected workers. He has also called for;

  • Establishment of isolated centres managed by the respective factory to quarantine their workers. 
  • Mandate least 40% of factory workers should undergo regular tests. 
  • Advice factories to call employees to work that ensures 2 meters personal distancing at any given time and to provide paid leave to furloughed workers. 

USA: The Guardian reports that thousands of garment workers in Los Angeles who make pants, shirts, blouses and other clothing for a variety of well-known fashion labels are paid less than minimum wage through a piece-rate payment system that compensates workers just a few cents per article of clothing.

Works say they typically work from 7am to 6pm Monday through Friday, and an additional five hours on Saturday – about 60 hours a week with no overtime pay, which results in overall wages at $5 an hour or less, far below California’s statewide minimum wage of $14 an hour for companies with more than 26 employees.

During the pandemic, the worker explained that her employer and several other factories in the garment industry continued operating without enforcing Covid safety protocols, moving sewing machines into a windowless basement to hide production from regulatory authorities. 

One factory – operated by Los Angeles Apparel – was ordered to shut down in July last year after a Covid-19 outbreak among workers resulted in more than 300 positive cases and the deaths of four workers.

Vietnam: Media report that union and worker representatives say that a labour shortage in garment factories can only be prevented by vaccination. 

Vu Duc Giang - Chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS), says that the implementation of social distancing has caused many workers to leave industrial zones, factories and workshops to return to their hometowns. In wood processing, seafood, textiles, electronics, etc., the number of workers has decreased significantly.

In Ho Chi Minh City and some southern provinces, factories have only 50% or fewer workers. Duc Giang also said that the current low vaccination rate makes workers uneasy to stay in factories.

Media report that workers have been trying to flee Vietnam's biggest city as the COVID-19 crisis worsens. authorities are anxious to prevent them leaving Ho Chi Minh City. Television footage from nearby industrialised provinces showed factory workers on Monday dressed head-to-toe in protective clothing and rushing to board trains and buses in a similar attempt to flee the most affected areas. 

16 August

Albania: Media report on how workers in Albania’s garment sector — which is around 95% female with an average age of 31-35 — were already in a precarious situation where they faced multiple labour rights abuses and job security dependent on their factories securing fresh orders. This immediately worsened when COVID-19 started spreading across Europe. 

Women in Albania’s apparel and footwear sector are among the hardest hit by the economic woes associated with the COVID-19 health crisis, according to an ILO report. Many of the women working in the garment industry are the breadwinners in their households, with their husbands, for example, picking up daily work in construction or seasonal work abroad. 

The Albania government shut factories down in the initial lockdown in March 2020, but those in the garment industry were the first to reopen after factory owners put pressure on the government to allow them to continue working.

Cambodia: Media report that the National Council on Minimum Wage (NCMW) will begin negotiating the 2022 minimum wages for workers in the textile, garment and footwear sectors in September, according to Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour.

Worker unions and labour rights groups believe that the minimum wage in the sector should increase from $192 to $200 a month.

Media reports on Friday suggest the Cambodian government announced the 66th round of allowances to a total of 3,571 workers at 27 factories.

It should be noted that the payment of this allowance is made to workers who have had their employment contracts suspended in accordance with government's package of measures.

Media report that Cambodia’s government has clarified its position on vaccinating migrant workers entering the country.

Migrant workers, many of whom are garment factory workers, can get the jabs only after they have tested negative for Covid-19 following their quarantine and cannot be vaccinated right away once they enter Cambodia.

Vietnam: 90 CEOs of leading US brands such as Adidas, Coach, Gap, Hanebrands, Nike, VF, Under Amour and others signed a joint letter petitioning US President Joe Biden to speed up vaccine aid to Vietnam, according to the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (Vitas).

The letter emphasised Vietnam is the second largest supplier of apparel and footwear to the US market, and is experiencing a serious outbreak.

13 August

Global: The International Labour Organization has released a new report looking at the impact of COVID-19 on workers in the ASEAN region. In it, the ILO says the COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption and hardship among workers and employers. In 2021, the ASEAN region is projected to see working- hour losses of 7.4 per cent. In 2021, 9.3 million fewer workers are projected to be in employment in the region than expected in the absence of the pandemic, compared to 10.6million fewer workers. 

Bangladesh: Media reports that garment workers in Sreepur, Gazipur, have protested on the Mauna-Dhanua highway demanding various allowances. Workers of Dekko Garments Limited staged a protest and blocked the road at Maona Union of the upazila around 10am on Thursday. Workers said they were given only half of the annual leave they are owed. They demand full payment. 

Media reports that the long-standing dispute between workers and Stylecraft Ltd is coming to an end. The company's factory in Gazipur will be reopened on 25 August.

The decision was announced after a lengthy discussion at a tripartite emergency meeting between employers, workers and the government chaired by State Minister for Labor and Employment Begum Mannujan Sufian on Wednesday night. 

Cambodia: Media reports that three Cambodian garment factory workers were killed and 25 others injured after a truck transporting them crashed in Kampong Speu province, the National Police said on Thursday.

The accident took place on Wednesday evening on National Road 41 in Samrong Tong district when the truck transporting a total of 35 workers collided head-on into a brick-carrying truck.

Media report that workers formerly employed at Evergreen Garment factory have described the hardships of life and bank debt during the Covid-19 outbreak after the factory closed more than three years ago without any legal compensation.

Lin Yeang, a 50-year-old former worker at the factory, said that nine remaining workers have not yet received compensation due under the labour law after the company closed in 2018, using teh excuse of changed ownership to avoid paying.

Evergreen Garment in Sangkat Teuk Thla, Khan Sen Sok, Phnom Penh closed in 2018 with 131 workers actively protesting, of which 122 have already received compensation and the remaining nine have not.

Vietnam: Media report that Yen Dinh district authorities shut down three production lines at Alena Vietnam Footwear after a worker tested positive for Covid-19

11 August

Bangladesh: Media report that 312 garment factories in Gazipur have applied for vaccines. Factories that have 500 or so workers will be provided a specific date for vaccination. Booths and rest areas will be arranged in an open space on that day. In factories that have 1,000 or more workers, the Gazipur Health Department will train employees to vaccinate their colleagues. Factories of this size will be responsible for arranging booths and rest areas for their employees.

Gazipur Civil Surgeon Khairuzzaman said factories need to register for the vaccine (not individual workers, but the factory authorities). Workers do not need to wait for SMS informing them they can be vaccinated. The timing of the vaccination has not yet been determined. However, vaccinations for workers will mostly likely begin on August 11 or 12.

Media report that garment factory owners in Bangladesh are seeking support from the US and the European Union (EU) in vaccinating the country's garment workers against COVID-19.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Faruque Hassan said the mass vaccination of garment workers was the only way to protect the industry which was vital to the national economy

Lesotho: Media report that Lesotho's biggest textile firm, Nien Hsing International, has got rid of 4000 employees due to a lack of orders from United States markets, where most products are destined.

Nien Hsing is a Levi manufacturing company that is located in the Thetsane Industrial Area in Maseru.

Trade unionists say they are afraid that last Thursday's retrenchment of workers from Nien Hsing is just the first sign of what is yet to come as Covid-19 ravages the world.

Myanmar: Media report that around 2,000 Myanmar migrant workers have been stranded in a lockdown in Laos without work or money for rent or food.

Hundreds of protesting Myanmar workers demanded that authorities allow them to return home or provide them with food and financial aid enabling them to remain in Laos.

“Because of the lockdown, we have not been paid for months. We have been abandoned,” one protesting worker said on Monday. “We have no money of our own to pay rent or buy food, and we’ve received no financial aid.”

“In addition, we have to pay for COVID-19 testing too,” he said.

Malaysia: Media report that the Malaysian textile and apparel industry incurred an estimated MYR163m (US$39m) loss a day in 2020 as operations were shut owing to coronavirus (Covid-19) driven movement restrictions. The federation said the industry is now appealing to the government to move the industry from phase one to phase two of the National Recovery Plan to enable the sector to resume operations and ensure its survival.

9 August

Cambodia: Media report that Cambodian garment workers are demanding the world's biggest clothing companies help recover millions of dollars worth of wages and benefits lost amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Their call comes as part of a broader movement by the region's garment workers, underscoring the tough conditions facing the industry even as demand for clothing and shoes rebounds in the U.S. and other major markets.

A collective of 33 unions and labor rights groups from Cambodia this week wrote to major brands -- including Adidas, H&M, Levi's, Nike, Puma, Target, Gap, C&A and VF Corp. -- calling for action

Bangladesh: Media report that at present, 2 million garment workers in Narayanganj are missing out on vaccinations.

Narayanganj Civil Surgeon Imtiaz Ahmed said: “As far as I know, the government does not have enough vaccines at the moment. However, the new vaccines ordered by the government will be given to the garment workers when they come to the country.”

Elsewhere, factory owners involved in the sector say they are waiting for vaccinations.

Media report that managers at DK Knitwear in Ashulia, on the outskirts of Dhaka, have suspended 51 workers from the factory, posting their names and pictures on the front wall.

According to workers, there was a dispute at the factory on 03 August, after which workers stopped work and held a peaceful sit-in. The next day when they returned to work, workers found the factory was locked and declared closed under Section 13(1) of the Labour Act [which states "an employer may, in the event of an illegal strike ... close down either wholly or partly such section or establishment and in cases of such closure the workers participated in the strike shall not be paid any wages].

Media report that union leaders, meanwhile, say the government has promised to vaccinate workers, but has not been able to do so. They said that the workers are working to keep the wheel of the country's economy in motion by risking their lives in the Covid-19 epidemic, and it is therefore time to vaccinate them on a priority basis.

Vietnam: Media report that there is a severe shortage of workers with many garment factory workers returning to their hometowns to avoid the transmission of COVID-19. 

Vu Duc Giang, chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association, predicts that only 60%-65% of employees who rushed home would return to work after the pandemic is brought under control, leading to a severe shortage of manpower. He also said the garment sector is facing huge pressure because of COVID-19, with stagnant business and increased pressure over delivery. 

6 August

Cambodia: Federations representing hundreds of thousands of workers in Cambodia’s textile, garment and footwear sectors and trade union support group organisations have written an open letter raising concerns of “grave violations” by brands, including wage theft.

“Since the pandemic began, hundreds of factories in Cambodia’s textile, garment and footwear sectors have suspended employment or permanently closed owing to a lack of orders. For those factories which suspended employment, workers were provided allowances of merely USD$70 per month to provide for their families. In April 2021, textile, garment and footwear factories in Phnom Penh and Takhmao were forcibly closed as part of a government lockdown following widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in Cambodia. The suspensions and lockdowns have led to widespread economic distress amongst our members.” 

Bangladesh: Ground reports suggest that workers have not been paid for three days during lockdown and are forced to work during the Bangladeshi weekend.

Media reports that hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers have returned to major cities, besieging train and bus stations after the government said export factories could reopen despite the deadly coronavirus wave. Authorities had ordered factories, offices, transport and shops to close from 23 July to 5 August and confined people to their homes for a week, as coronavirus infections and deaths hit record levels. Larger factories that supply top brands in Europe and North America had been excluded from the nationwide lockdown order.

UK: Media reports that in Leicester, Britain’s clothes-making capital, many workers are still being paid less than the minimum wage and a taskforce set up a year ago has resulted in no labour abuse prosecutions. 

Leicester’s garment industry was forced into the spotlight, amid allegations dilapidated factories continued operating during the national lockdown.

Manufacturers have been on high alert here ever since the shocking revelations about Leicester’s sweatshops last summer. Reports of factories continuing to operate during lockdown, with little social distancing, led to worries about Covid-19 infections spreading fast. 

“You have 40 to 50 people crammed in, there’s no social distancing, there’s no space, there’s no air, it’s very hot, the noise – there’s an awful lot of those places in Leicester still,” says one investigator.  

4 August

Bangladesh: Media reports that 700,000 garment workers in Narayanganj will be vaccinated in their respective garment factories. Khandaker Mohammad Hatem, vice-president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), a national organization of garment industry owners, told local media. 

Thailand: Media reports that a total of 434 new Covid-19 infections and six fatalities were reported to the provincial communicable disease committee on Tuesday. Of the new infections, 117 caught the virus at industrial estate factories and 111 from other family members.

One was the Thai Progress Garment Company factory in the Bang Pa-in Industrial Estate in Bang Pa-in district, which had been ordered closed for seven days from July 27-Aug 3 after 312 workers were found infected with Covid-19.

Vietnam: Media reports that garment workers temporarily are taking a leave of absence due to the struggle to survive, and afraid of Covid-19 appearing at factories. Many workers have decided to quit their jobs and return to their hometown, many with no intention of returning.

Thuy from Quang Ngai is a garment worker with more than 10 years of experience in Pouyuen and has just decided to quit her job and return to her hometown to settle down, although she regrets it because it was a good working environment.

She said that in the last 2 months, her income has been continuously reduced because she took a lot of leave to stay at home to look after her children while the kindergarten was closed

Global: The Open Apparel Registry is introducing a new feature, in response to feedback from the OAR community and to help the industry understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the apparel sector. You can now report a facility as closed (and/or re-opened) in the OAR.

How to Report a Facility as Closed

Step 1: If you know that a facility has closed and can provide documentation of that closure, navigate to that facility’s profile on the Open Apparel Registry. Click “Report facility as closed.

Step 2: You will then be asked to enter any information or documentation you have to show that the facility is closed (a news story, link to closed facility website, closure paperwork, etc). Should you need to attach a document, you can email that document to

Step 3: The OAR team will then review your verification documentation to determine the quality of this facility closure report. 

Step 4: If the facility closure is confirmed, the facility will still be displayed on the Open Apparel Registry (we do not delete data from the tool), but will have a label marking it as closed.

2 August 

Bangladesh: Media reports that Health Minister Zahid Maleque said COVID-19 will increase as RMG factories have reopened amid strict lockdown restrictions.

"People from different parts of the country have joined the workplace as garments have been opened from today. But they did not follow the hygiene rules for which infection will increase," said the minister while talking to the media.

Media reports over the weekend suggest thousands of garment workers blocked the Dhaka-Rangpur highway in Rangpur city demanding transport to return to work in Dhaka. 

Workers from Rangpur and adjoining districts have been coming to the bus terminal since Saturday morning on the news of the opening on Sunday of export-oriented garment factories. At noon, they blocked the highway, demanding the administration to arrange vehicles.

Abu Mustafa, a garment worker from Gangachara, Rangpur, said, "If there was a plan to open the garment factories, why was it locked down?" Now who will stand by the suffering people like us?"

Media reports that Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association has stated that garment workers trapped in lockdown will not lose jobs.

Also reported; Mufti Syed Mohammad Faizul Karim of the Islami Andolan Bangladesh has said that the decision to reopen the garment and industrial factories by shutting down public transport during the lockdown is tantamount to cheating the working people. In a statement sent to the media, he said that the workers have been harassed by opening industrial mills without facilitating transportation

Media report that around 90 per cent of Bangladeshi garment workers on Sunday returned to their respective workplaces as factory owners opened their units amid the strict movement restrictions with approval from the government.

Labour leaders said that more than 80 percent of the workers had returned to their workplaces on the day.

The announcement to reopen factories amid the restrictions had created unspeakable sufferings and serious risks of contracting the Covid infection for the workers, Sammilita Garment Shramik Federation president Nazma Akter told New Age on Sunday.

"The government would have to bear the responsibility first and then the readymade garment factory owners for harassing the workers. Are they not humans? Are they free from the risk of contracting the infection? Why have they been forced to return to their workplaces on trucks, pickups and many other goods-carrying vehicles like sacrificial animals," she said.

Myanmar: The union IWFM has asked global brands sourcing products from Myanmar to ensure that their suppliers are complying with Covid-19 guidelines, and President Khaing Zar Aung says IWFM will continue monitoring the situation on the ground.

Vietnam: A statement issued from Pou Chen Corporation that its Pouyuen Vietnam shoe factory, which originally suspended work from 14-23 July, and then  extended it to 1 August, has decided to extend the shutdown again to 09 August.

Media reports that the Vietnam government's recent Covid-19 lockdown measures forced some of Puma's South Vietnam suppliers to suspend operations, which represent approximately half the production the sportswear seller has in the country; this, according to Puma CEO Bjørn Gulden

Information and campaigns

General info on COVID-19 in the garment industry

PayYourWorkers campaign


Demands, recommendations, proposals

CCC list of demands upon brand and retailers.

Global union and employer joint call to action.

WRC and MHSSN safety recommendations.

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

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

Information trackers

WRC's brand tracker on which brands pay for orders

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

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

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

BHRRC report "Wage theft and pandemic profits"

IHRB and Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh studies at UC Berkeley report "The Weakest Link in the Supply Chain - How the Pandemic is Affecting Bangladesh’s Garment Workers"

Basic health information

Hesperian Health Guides' COVID-19 Fact Sheet

published 2021-09-01