June 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 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that according to the BGMEA, due to public transport being shut during the lockdown, only workers who live near the factories will be able to come for work. The BGMEA said workers can reach their factories on foot, in rickshaws, or by riding bicycles. According to the BKMEA, owners will take measures for the transportation of workers, but said most workers come to work by foot.

Media reports that workers demonstrated in Chattogram against the decision to keep factories and offices open during the lockdown, while public transport is also shut. Witnesses said the commuters took to the streets after waiting for transport for a long time in the rain.  A worker from the Chattogram Export Processing Zone (EPZ) said: “The government announced the lockdown to control the pandemic, but it has allowed production at the garment factories that have most crowds...It has ordered a shutdown of the public transport system while the offices are open. Many factories have vehicles for the officials, but not for the workers, which has put us in trouble.” 

Media reports that according to a study, food security has been greatly compromised in low-income households amid the pandemic, with 40% of households facing difficulties having three meals a day and 70% consuming less food than what they regularly consumed before. The study also found that the share of work of women saw a drastic rise, with the burden of work increasing from 18% at the end of 2019 to 53% during the pandemic. 

Media reports that shipment data company Panjiva has said that, so far, Bangladeshi exports have remained resilient during the pandemic, but this trend could now reverse due to the second wave and lockdown leading to factory closures. They've also found that shipments linked to H&M increased by 13.5% in the three months to 31 May compared year-on-year. Imports associated with Levi Strauss & Co and PVH Corp, meanwhile, fell 47.8% and 68.7%, respectively, over the same period.

Cambodia: Media reports that Grand Twins International (New Balance, VF Corporation, adidas supplier), which recently shut down due to increasing COVID-19 cases, released a first quarter disclosure, which shows that operating profit declined by 37% and net profit declined by 50% over the same period last year. It reports this is due to increasing prices of raw materials.

Media reports that among 93 new COVID-19 cases in Svay Rieng, more than half of them are factory workers.

Media reports that after an outbreak of COVID-19 at JH factory (Lidl and Tesco supplier), the district authorities have suspended all of its operations. 

Media reports that six more provinces announced the launch of their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns for garment workers and people aged 18 and over, as the national immunisation programme moves ahead faster than planned.

Media reports that in a statement, the Cambodian government announced its ninth round of relief measures to support businesses and the poor, amid rising COVID-19 cases. The government said it would continue providing cash relief to nearly 700,000 poor and vulnerable families for another three months from July to September, while unemployed workers in garment, footwear and travel goods sectors would continue receiving $40 from the government and $30 dollars from the suspended factory per month, for another three months.

India: Media reports that there is a shortage of both labour and demand in the automobile and garment industry in Gurgaon, thought to be due to fears spreading among workers of a third wave.

According to Ashok Kohli, president of the Chamber of Industries of Udyog Vihar, "...Even from those who returned to their villages, at least 60% to 70% are back. Those who are still in villages are reluctant to return for two reasons – normally workers anyway return to their villages in April, May, June due to the farming season, but there are also many who have not come back fearing another lockdown since there is a rumour of a third wave."

 According to Animesh Saxena, CEO of Neetee Apparel LLP and President of Udyog Vihar Industrial Association, “in the Western market, except for USA...there is a fear of infection rising again, which has put a lot of buyers on hold. They are waiting to have more clarity on the situation.” As a result of the orders being lower than expected.

Pakistan: Media reports that the value of textile and garment exports from Pakistan increased by 18.85% year-on-year in the first eleven months of fiscal 2020-21.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that FDI inflows are predicted to take longer to recover in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka compared to other South Asian countries, due to weak investment interests in the garment industry.

Media reports that industrial production in Sri Lanka fell sharply in April from March, due to the impact of restrictions put in place to control the spread of COVID-19. The apparel sector has been falling far behind, compared to regional competitors, in meeting orders as factories operate at half their capacity due to health guidelines.

Thailand: Media reports that exports jumped 44.4% year-on-year in May, after April’s 19.1% increase.

Media reports that factories are adopting a stricter 'bubble and seal' measure to control COVID-19 infections, aimed at restricting travel among workers. Workers may need to stay in factories or travel between their dormitories and workplaces. Many factories have also set up new production lines to relieve the impact if their workers are infected.

Vietnam: Media reports that Vietnam’s total export turnover was estimated at $143.36 billion, representing a year-on-year growth of 29.67%.

29 June

Cambodia: Media reports that Cambodia's economy is forecast to rebound faster than the economies of some of its neighbours in the Asia Pacific region, due to the swift rollout of the vaccine and a rebound in global demand. 

Media reports that 213 factory workers from JH Garment Factory (Lidl and Tesco supplier) tested positive for COVID-19.

Media reports that 65 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Kampot province, most of them factory workers at a shoe factory.

Indonesia: Media reports that two textile factories have been found violating health and safety protocols after an inspection, and have been given a warning.

South Africa: Media reports that the Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU) has secured a 6.25% wage increase settlement for its footwear sector members. This will be supplemented with a further 0.25% wage increase on current rates of pay.

Thailand: Media reports that a COVID-19 cluster has been found at a weaving factory in Nonthaburi, with more than 60 COVID-19 cases.

Media reports that in Mae Sot district of Tak, about 600 COVID-19 cases have been found in a garment factory over the weekend.

Vietnam: Media reports that authorities blockaded the Ngoc Te Shoe Co., Ltd shoe factory, with over 4,000 workers, following a COVID-19 case.

28 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that the incomes of 77% of people in Bangladesh have declined during the pandemic, while prices of basic commodities and the cost of some public services have soared.

Media reports that according to the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), the issues of unemployed and those who lost job during the pandemic have not been addressed in the government’s proposed budget, and that the  government should have kept a separate fund in the proposed budget to address this.

BILS also stated that the amount and measures in the social safety net in the proposed budget are not adequate to address the issues of those who have either lost their income or jobs or remained unemployed during the pandemic time. 

It reports that in the garment sector, 35 lakh (3500000) workers were employed, but now the number declined to 25 lakh (2500000).

Media reports that according to a report, 83% of cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs) did not get a stimulus relief. 69% reported that they could not pay wages to their staff in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Media reports that garment workers blocked a highway in Savar, in protest against public transport crisis and taking extra fares.

Cambodia: Media reports that 95 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Svay Rieng, 50 of which were factory workers. 

India: Media reports that garment units in Tirupur are all set to commence production with 100% workers. The garment units, which had voluntarily shut operations before the enforcement of total lockdown, were allowed to function with 25% workforce from June 7 and 50% workers from June 21. However, there was a ban on full resumption of operations, as Tirupur continued to report high number of cases.

The units have been asked to ensure that workers are wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.

Thailand: IndustriALL reports that 300 garment workers producing for Victoria’s Secret protested against unpaid wages and severance pay in front of Brilliant Alliance Thai Global Ltd. (BAT), after the factory closed in March without prior warning and 1,388 workers were dismissed. The workers have yet to be paid wages, overtime, holiday and severance pay. BAT offered to pay back the owed amount over a 10-year period, which was rejected by the workers. 

On 23 March, the provincial labour welfare and protection office of Samut Prakarn ruled that the company must pay THB242,689,862.71 (US$7.61 million) to 1,237 complainants.

 Prasit Prasopsuk, president of Confederation of Industrial Labour of Thailand (CILT), says: “...The company claimed they had negotiated with the union, but in fact the company  unilaterally asked the union to accept instalment payments lasting up to 10 years. This only benefits the company. We cannot accept the offer and call on the company to comply with the labour inspector’s order by expediting payments to employees as quickly as possible."

27 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that the Bangladesh EPZ Investors' Association (BEPZIA) has requested the government to keep the export processing zones (EPZs) open during the lockdown to ensure smooth payment of salaries and allowances to workers for Eid-ul-Azha. According to M Nasir Uddin, the chairman of the BEPZIA, they have very urgent export commitments with international buyers.

The BEPZIA says that if the circular is published without a provision for the EPZs to remain open, workers will rush to their village homes, and spread COVID-19.

Media reports that union leaders are divided on the issues of ensuring workers’ safety and livelihoods during the lockdown, as garment factory owners express their intention to keep their factories running. 

Nazma Akter, president of the Sammilito Garment Sramik Federation, said that when it came to lockdowns and running factories over the last one and a half years, the government took decisions in favour of the factory owners while workers' interests were ignored, Akter. "The demands of the workers did not get priority during the lockdown. The factory owners did not manage safe workplaces and safe transportation."

India: Media reports that according to the Tamil Nadu Tribal People Association, COVID-19 cases have occurred in some of the hill areas in Erode district, with the return of workers from garment units in Tiruppur and other districts.

26 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that the government is likely to extend the deadline of the repayment period of loans disbursed as COVID-19 incentive packages for the export-oriented manufacturers, as it did last year. 

Media reports that apparel factory owners demanded keeping their factories open during lockdown starting Monday 28 June, as work orders would get cancelled and shipments would be affected if the factories closed.

According to the BGMEA President Faruque Hassan, work orders in the apparel sector were beginning to increase, and all efforts would go in vain if the factories closed down again. “Moreover, the buyers may refuse to take half-finished orders if shipment is delayed. In this case, if the buyers move to our competitive countries, it will be a serious blow to our sector.”

He also said that if orders are cancelled, the factories will struggle to pay the wages, bonus, and other allowances to the workers for Eid-ul-Azha and also struggle to repay their bank loans. 

Salauddin Swapan, acting president of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), said that when factories have been kept open during lockdown previously, government instructions were not obeyed. “It was announced at every lockdown that the factories would arrange for transportation of their respective workers to/from their homes. But in many cases, it was not followed. As a result, the workers had to go to the factory in high-risk vehicles at high fares or by foot. Either way they were harassed by law enforcers.

Cambodia: Media reports that the Ministry of Economy and Finance is upbeat about the country’s economic situation despite the impact of the pandemic. He said that during these five months, the economy remained strong with exports going up by 17% to between $3 billion and $4 billion. He also said that garment exports were at around the same level as last year, while that of non-garment goods increased by 52%

25 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that a new study found that during the pandemic, corporate accountability has been mostly absent. Thus was particularly the case regarding issues such as workers' wages, overtime payment, entitled financial benefits, and payment for laid-off and retrenched workers. The majority of workers can hardly challenge the decision of their dismissal, as they risk being blacklisted.

There is also an absence of required monitoring by the inspecting authorities (DIFE, DoL). The negligence was also observed in the case of monitoring health and safety issues of workers.

At the brand/buyer level, cancelled orders, orders at reduced prices and deferred payments highlighted their inability to comply to responsible business practices. Furthermore, for just 1% of orders of suppliers, brands agreed to accommodate the costs for not dismissing workers, only 3% of employers provided health and safety equipment for workers and just 4% provided training on ways to avoid getting infected. 14.4% of employers handled at least some orders where production costs were not covered during April-December 2020.

Cambodia: Media reports that 69 workers from Grand Twins International (New Balance, VF Corporation, adidas supplier) have tested positive for COVID-19. More workers are yet to be tested. 

Media reports that 62 COVID-19 cases have been reported at Kampong Cham province. All cases have been linked to factory workers.

Myanmar: Media reports that Heng Mao garment factory, which employed 800-1000 workers, decided to close its business in Myanmar. On its social media page, the company explained that the company, “faced challenges to continue its operation”.  

Ye Naing Win, working for workers’ affairs, said, “The company faced shortages in getting raw materials, economic sanctions and COVID-19 crisis and so it shut down its operation. Factories closed their businesses during these days. Workers get compensation but they become unemployed at the same time.”

Media reports that the value of foreign trade by air from October 2020 to January 2021 was nearly $170 million, declining by over 56% compared to the same period the previous year.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that vaccinations are being carried out for garment workers at Hirdaramani Knit in Vavuniya. The factory reopened after its closure, due to large numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Tamil journalists report they were denied permission to cover the vaccinations, and have expressed concern about the activities of management at the factory.

Thailand: Media reports that according to a senior government spokeswoman, lack of cooperation is thwarting efforts to control the increasing number of COVID-19 clusters in Bangkok,  including a cluster at a garment factory in Bang Bon.

Vietnam: Media reports that the Chingluh Vietnam Shoe Co. Ltd (Nike supplier) factory has been told to suspend production at 8 factories with more than 6,000 workers, due to failures to comply with social distancing regulation, following an inspection. The factory is expected to make changes to improve worker health and safety  during its suspension.

24 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that the BGMEA estimates apparel exports could increase by 8% to £33.7 billion in the 2021-2022 financial year, as the US and EU economies rebound with mass vaccinations. The BKMEA predicts the figure will be $35 billion.

Cambodia: Media reports that a vaccination campaign has commenced in Preah Sihanouk’s Special Economic Zone.

India: Media reports that the second wave of COVID-19 hit India’s economy in April and May, adding uncertainty to the country’s economic growth. It is predicted that India’s real GDP will to grow by 7% in 2022, down from the 9.3% growth initially expected for 2022.

Media reports that Karnataka's trade and industry sought a special relief package of Rs 20,000 crore from the state government to recover and survive from the pandemic, after suffering heavy losses due to COVID-induced extended lockdown and restrictions. "

The Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) President Perikal Sundar said in a statement that even as trade and industry were recovering with great difficulty from the first wave, the devastation caused by the second wave has resulted in huge losses due to suspension of economic activity across the state.

Media reports that although garment workers in Bengaluru are in the government’s priority list to receive the vaccination and companies have promised to get them inoculated, a majority of the workforce is yet to be vaccinated due to several barriers, including: waiting for their company’s vaccination drive, fear of losing wages while getting vaccinated at government centres,  companies only vaccinating those above 45 and the digital barrier which prevents workers from getting themselves registered. Workers also reported not receiving any paid leave or benefits, and in some cases having their wages reduced, if they contract COVID-19. 

"Even if we take a day off due to being sick, our wages are cut. If we try to get the vaccine from a government centre, we will lose additional wages as we might have to wait for a long time. Although my company has said that they will vaccinate us and noted down our details, there’s ambiguity over when we will get the shot,” said Parvathi, who works at a small garment factory in Bengaluru.

Clean Clothes Campaign reports that the current wave of COVID-19 infections in South Asia is having devastating consequences for workers in Sri Lanka, negatively affecting their health, livelihood, and right to unionise, which is compounded by the extreme weather. Unions and labour rights organisations call upon major brands sourcing from Sri Lanka, including PVH, VF Corporation, Marks & Spencer, Victoria’s Secret and Next, to take responsibility for the workers in the supply chain.

Thailand: Media reports that exports surged to a more than expected 41.59% in May from a year earlier, the fastest pace in nearly 11 years, as global demand improved.

Media reports that in Samut Sakhon, a cluster of six COVID-19 cases has been reported at a garment factory in Krathum Baen district.

Media reports that 30 cases of COVID-19 have been reported at a garment company in Phra Pradaeng district.

Turkey: Media reports that the manufacturing industry used 76.6% of its capacity this month, up 1.3 percentage points from last month.

23 June 

Bangladesh: Media reports that workers at Abdullah Fashions have protested over the last few days, demanding two months worth of wages they are owed. Workers blocked the road after finding the factory gate locked.

Media reports that according to the president of the BGMEA, British brands are not returning the money owed to garment factory owners during the pandemic. As a result, factory owners in the garment industry are in a crisis. In a meeting with the Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK, he requested that she provide assistance so the brands pay their bills.

Media reports that the government has isolated Dhaka for nine days, by putting seven districts into strict lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. However apparel factories will continue to operate.

The BGMEA said they were closely monitoring member factories, to see whether they are complying with health directives to prevent the spread if COVID-19. The president of the BGMEA also said that a lab has been set up at Chandra in Gazipur to test apparel workers for COVID-19. One has also been set up in Chittagong.

Media reports that the BGMEA sought customs, value0added tax and income tax-related policy support from the National Board of Revenue to help the garment industry rebound from the effects of COVID-19.

Cambodia: Media reports that the Kampong Speu Provincial Administration has begun its vaccination program for large scale enterprise workers and people within the area. Large vaccination centre have been set up in factories.

Media reports that 68 new COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Kampong Cham, with cases being either factory workers or people who came in contact with factory workers. 

Media reports that the ministry of National Defence plans to expand its vaccination programme to provinces with a high number of garment workers, including Svay Rieng, Kampong Cham, and Kampong Chhnang. 

Media reports that the government has opened its first phase of providing a subsidy to 275,747 workers from 513 factories involved in the manufacturing of garments, footwear and bags in Phnom Penh, Kandal  province and Sihanoukville. Each of the workers will receive about $40 as per the social assistance programme.

In another media report on the subsidy, a garment worker said, "although it’s not much money, it can reduce the cost of daily spending,”, adding that she also has to pay off bank debt on a monthly rate of $150. “I have to buy milk for my seven-month-old son and food for my family.” During the lockdown, her factory employer didn’t provide any allowances to workers.

Labour leaders said the allowance was a step in the right direction, but more funds are needed to truly meet the needs of the workers. 

Fiji: Media reports that the National Union of Workers (NUW) will file a dispute after nearly 30 of its members were locked out of the Danam Fiji Pte Ltd garment factory because they are not vaccinated. The union senior industrial relations officer said the workers were notified by phone not to report to work if they were not vaccinated. “The NUW encourages its members to get vaccinated and understands the seriousness of the current situation. However, individuals have fundamental rights that must be respected." Another media report mentions that the Textile Clothing and Footwear Council has said they take a firm stance backing members who decided to exclude staff because of their unwillingness to have the vaccine. 

India: Media reports that migrant workers in Ahmedabad who didn't return home during the pandemic were weeks from running out of food, struggled to access healthcare or relief, and faced acute livelihood problems during the partial lockdowns imposed by the state to curb the second wave of COVID-19.

During the lockdowns only export-oriented units were able to continue working. however, while the textile industry in Gujarat witnessed an increase in export orders earlier in 2021 before the onset of the second wave, by the end of April, it saw a 25% decline in production as lockdowns were imposed.

Garment units employing 10-50 workers and relying on orders from larger factories, had completely shut down since no new orders were coming in. Workers engaged in these units, who had been called in to finish pending orders during the second wave, cited a 47% drop in weekly wages due to non-payment of wages for their work. Employers, they said, use financial distress as an excuse, or promised payment when paid by their buyers.

Home-based women workers, who rely on outsourced value addition work such as thread-cutting and collar and button sewing, have not had any substantial orders since last year's lockdown.

Media reports that migrant workers in Tamil Nadu have been denied vaccinations, as officials only distributed tokens to those who had voter iD. One migrant worker explained that due to lack of transportation, he was unable to travel to his native country to obtain his iD. 

Sri Lanka: Media reports that the Public Health Inspectors Union has said that COVID-19 vaccines should be given to garment factory workers as soon as possible. The president of the association, Upul Rohana, said: “At the moment, many garment factories workers have been infected. In many factories, patients are reported and it is difficult to control. Therefore, we urge authorities to vaccinate those who are currently working in garment factories as soon as possible. It is clear that these industries will collapse in the future if COVID-19 is not controlled.”

22 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that Bangladesh’s clothing exports rose 571.8% year-on-year in April to $2.517 billion.  The outbreak of COVID-19 last year and the lockdowns and heavy export restrictions that followed accounted for the majority of this growth. Knitted apparel exports increased by 4.5% year over year, while woven apparel exports fell by 6.4%.

Media reports that the BGMEA and BKMEA sent a letter to the Ministry of Finance, requesting the finance minister extend the repayment period for their bank loans until December 31 this year and also to keep the facility open so that if the loans are not repaid on time, they should not be declared as a defaulter. 

 “...as the situation of Covid-19 is worsening each day, the RMG entrepreneurs are going through a critical period. Foreign buyers on the one hand have relaxed the purchase order, while payments of exported products have been deferred in many cases...”

Cambodia: Media reports that 50 new COVID-19 cases have been announced at Kampong Cham province. All cases were related to factory workers. 

India: Media reports that Kesoram Industries Ltd put its rayon factory under suspension, stating a slump in demand for textiles due to COVID-19.

Indonesia: Media reports that the Karanganyar Regency Government has asked management of a shoe factory in Central Java, which was closed for 10 days due to 94 employees being exposed to COVID-19, to continue to pay the wages of employees who were on vacation.

Mexico: Media reports that the president of the National Chamber of Clothing Industry in the state of Guanajuato (Canaive), says the textile and clothing industry has suffered the most severe crisis in its history as manufacturing fell by 20.9%, which has caused the closure of factories and seen an increase of 6.3% in the import of clothing.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that merchandise exports remained resilient in May, as exports recovered by 10.7% month-on-month (MoM) from a five-month low in April, due to the initial shocks from the third COVID-19 wave. On a year-on-year basis, exports recovered by 50.71%, due to the impacts of the first COVID-19 wave. However, the May export figure was still slightly below the pre-pandemic export earnings. Apparel exports grew by 69.48% year-on-year, accounting for 45% of total merchandise exports in the month.  

Turkey: A new CCC report finds that during the pandemic, textile workers faced several risks and rights violations in the workplace, such as: unpaid leave, short-time working allowance, and compulsory use of annual leaves. There were also issues regarding health and safety measures, and whether distancing, the use of masks, and hygiene rules were followed.

USA: Media reports that in response to Victoria Secret’s rebrand to become “the world’s leading advocate for women”, Remake has stressed that the retailer mustn’t overlook those within its supply chains, and suggests it start by committing to the #PayUp Campaign.

Vietnam: Media reports that Vietnam’s garment and textile exports increased by 21.20% year-on-year in the January-May 2021 period. The USA remained the largest importer of Vietnam’s garment and textile products with a value of $6.02 billion, which is a 24.40% increase year-on-year. USA accounted for 49.20% of the total garment and textile export revenue.

Media reports that the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) said that Nha Be Garment Corporation (Mango, Kontoor Brands, Mammut Sports Group supplier) has organised COVID-19 vaccination for all 3,000 employees.

21 June

Global: Research by the University of Sheffield and the Worker Rights Consortium finds that among garment workers in Ethiopia, Honduras, India and Myanmar, producing for major brands, declining income and working conditions (including wage theft, abuse, violations of workers' right to organise, harassment) during the pandemic has increased workers’ vulnerability to forced labor. This risk of forced labor has been exacerbated by the pandemic response of leading fashion brands and retailers. Also covered here and here.

A garment worker from Ethiopia, who has been unable to pay back the money he borrowed and has been subjected to violent treatment from his lender as a result, said “I have decided to leave the industry because the debt has become unbearable. If I stay here, the debt is going to kill me."

Bangladesh: Media reports that according to a study, 93.4% of surveyed garment workers faced up to a 65% cut in wages during the pandemic. The study also found that 10.38% workers reported that they faced a reduction in overtime pay, delayed payment of wages and reduction in bonuses.

The report also found legal violations, including workers working beyond the limit of overtime, and workers not receiving an appointment letter or service book. Workers also reported physical and sexual harassment at work.

Cambodia: Media reports that Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina said that if the government keeps up with the current momentum of its vaccination campaign, then Cambodia will successfully contain the coronavirus pandemic early next year. He hoped that after the vaccination drive in Phnom Penh, the government will accelerate the vaccination programme to the provinces, where people are still at high risk of contracting COVID-19. Currently, garment workers are still being impacted badly by the virus, and factory closures are causing employers and workers to suffer financially.

Media reports that in a joint statement, NGOs and labour groups called for continued support for the jobless and those in informal work. One of the main issues raised by the 22 civil society groups was “the rise of new debt to solve the problems of daily life,” and they called for help with utility bills and suspending debt repayments.

Media reports that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows to Bangladesh fell by 11% last year amid a global decline, due to the disruptions of the pandemic. FDI also fell in other South Asian economies that rely on export-oriented garment manufacturing.

India: Media reports that The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is organising a special vaccination campaign — starting from June 21 — to expedite the inoculation of those listed as priority groups by the Karnataka government, including garment workers. The civic body plans to set up over 300 camps for vaccinations across the eight zones of Bengaluru.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that Sri Lanka's earnings from textiles and garments exports increased by 28.7% year-on-year to $1.699 billion during the first four months of 2021. Exports of textiles increased 41.2% to $98.9 million, while garment exports were up 27.3% to $1.556 billion.

Vietnam: Media reports that the textiles and garment sector is likely to be impacted by the fourth wave of COVID-19 in the country, as the virus has impacted industrial parks in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), and may lead to a slow down in production if factories become impacted.

Manufacturers have proposed the government prioritise vaccination for garment and textile workers. 

20 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that although the total export of garments has increased, the net or actual garment exports are declining, and has declined by about 21% in the last two financial years. The pressure from buyers to reduce the price of products is believed to be contributing to the decline in the net export of garments. According to the BGMEA Vice president, the actual exports have decreased because outlets in the West have barely started to open. Exports are expected to increase in October-November this year. 

Media reports that US imported apparel products between January and April rose by 8% compared to the same period last year. While exports from China and Vietnam have increased during this period, Bangladesh's exports to the US declined by 3.71%. Exports by India and Indonesia also declined. The BGMEA Vice President said exports dropped last May because of Ramadan and Eid, but exports will increase from July-August. He also noted a  good number of work orders, with several orders being diverted from China, Vietnam, and Cambodia to Bangladesh

He also said buyers are offering lower prices despite the increased work orders, and don't' want to offer prices close to the manufacturing cost. Due to this, many owners have been forced to decline many orders. More coverage here.

Egypt: Media reports that the Readymade Garments Export Council of Egypt (RMGEC) has been working to increase exports during the pandemic by reducing prices and bearing part of the losses. It aims to maintain the reputation of Egyptian ready-made garments exports in global markets and confirm the ability of factories to overcome the crisis. 

From January to April 2021, garment exports increased 36% compared to to the same period last year. Also during this period, Egyptian garment exports to the US increased by 35%, by 5% for exports to Europe. by 297% for exports to Arab countries recorded an increase of 297% and 56% for exports to African countries. Garment exports to the rest of the world achieved a 13% percent increase.

19 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Bangladesh, alongside China and Turkey, are leading the global cotton trade recovery, as the demand for cotton has risen sharply thanks to apparel shipments. Faruque Hassan, the president of the BGMEA however, stated that , it will take long to recoup the industry's losses last year because of the fallouts of the COVID-19.

"We have been receiving a handful of work orders. There has been the reinstatement of previous orders. But many factories are running at losses." 

Cambodia: Media reports that in Samut Prakan province there are two new clusters, including 30 new cases at a garment company in Phra Pradaeng district.

According to reports via Twitter, Kampong Chhnang has reported 20 more COVID-19 cases, all of which are garment workers.

Media reports that several provinces with a high number of workers including Kampong Speu, Takeo and Svay Rieng are set to kick off large-scale vaccinations in a campaign administered by the ministries of Health and National Defence. According to governor Vei Samnang, there is a particular focus on vaccinating garment workers, with half of the latest 550,000 doses allocated for garment workers.

Laos: Media reports that during a visit to two large garment factories owwned by Trio (Laos) Export Limited and Trimax Co., Ltd. in Vientiane, the Vice President stressed the need for garment factories to comply with measures introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19, to ensure that workers and staff are protected. 

18 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that the Ministry of Labour and Employment has provided Tk93.18 crore among 7,000 garment workers and their relatives from the ministry’s central fund. 

Media reports that leaders of Garment Sramik Samhati held a protest in front of the National Press Club, demanding the government administer the COVID-19 vaccine to garment workers on a priority basis. 

The Textile Garments Workers Federation also organised a separate rally in front of the National Press Club protesting the killing of a garment worker from the Dhaka EPZ. 

El Salvador: In a video on Twitter, workers from the Florenzi factory appeal for solidarity, after the Florenzi factory, supplying Disney, Pierre Cardin and Barco Uniforms closed in July 2020 during lockdown & left 210 women jobless.  
India: Media reports that while the garment industry in Karnataka may able to function in full capacity in the next few weeks, women garment workers are still in a precarious situation, as highlighted by workers' experience of post-lockdown in 2020. 

Sri Lanka: Media reports that during Sri Lanka's lockdown period, apparel companies have continued to operate at great risk to staff, which can lead to a potential risk of quarantine leaks.  

Trade unions have demanded that garment factory workers are prioritised in Sri Lanka’s vaccine rollout the same way frontline workers in the health sector and the military are. Trade unions also complain of stigma against workers, with people fearing that returning workers could bring the disease with them.

 Programme Coordinator of Dabindu Collective Chamila Thushari said that more and more positive cases are being identified within Sri Lanka’s export processing zone, and claims that the correct numbers were not being published, and that workers are not allowed vacation.

Media reports that brands are expecting manufacturers to offer lower prices, now that suppliers who were left out by brands in the first wave are now coming back, and are trying to gain orders, thus increasing competition. Profit margins are also under pressure from increasing cotton prices.

The CCC Network reports that Anton Marcus, joint secretary of the FTZ&GSEU union in Sri Lanka, was elected as a worker delegate for the 109th International Labour Conference. At the  plenary session, he spoke about the reality for garment workers in global supply chains.

Media reports that merchandise exports declined by 25% month-on-month, despite having recovered to its highest ever value for a month of April, reflecting the impact of the third COVID-19 wave and the lockdowns that followed.

UK: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Labour Behind The Label, and ShareAction have released a joint statement expressing serious concerns regarding Boohoo’s efforts to improve supply chain practices. The statement highlights that a year after the release of the report that exposed poor working conditions and wage theft at the onset of the pandemic,  there is little evidence that Boohoo has addressed its commercial purchasing practices, instead focusing on factory owners. 

17 June

Global: The ILO reports that Delegates from 181 countries at the International Labour Conference  (ILC) have adopted a Global Call to Action for a human-centred COVID-19 recovery that prioritises decent jobs for all and addresses the inequalities caused by the crisis.

The agreement includes two sets of agreed actions. The first covers measures to be taken by national governments and their employer and trade union ‘social partners’, to achieve a job-rich recovery that strengthens worker and social protections and supports sustainable enterprises.

A second set of actions covers international cooperation and the role of multilateral institutions, with the aim of increasing the level and coherence of their support for national “human-centred” pandemic recovery strategies.

Bangladesh: Media reports that readymade garment exports increased by 11.1% year-by-year to $28.561 billion in the first eleven months of fiscal 2020-21.

According to the CCC network, the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) held a protest rally on 11 June, demanding a budget allocation to provide a rationing system, dormitories, hospitals, maternity centres, and transportation for garment workers in Bangladesh.

ngwf protest june 2021

Media reports that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has assured the BGMEA that garment workers will be prioritised for the vaccine. The BGMEA president also asked the government to prioritise vaccines for officials of international apparel brands and buyers working in Bangladesh.

Media reports that the government has set up a fund to provide low-interest loads of Tk33,000 crore for export-oriented sectors affected by the ongoing pandemic. Tk10,500 crore will be given to the garment industry.

Cambodia: Media reports that the economy is gradually recovering and is projected to grow 4% in 2021, after contracting 3.1% in 2020. However, recovery remains uneven and volatile, due in part to the reintroduction of lockdowns to control the spread of COVID-19.

Media reports that 102 COVID-19 patients, many garment workers from QIM factory, were released from quarantine and allowed to return home.

Media reports that the outbreak at Y&W factory, where 80% of workers are vaccinated, is a reminder that ending the COVID-19 pandemic is not a simple matter.

Media reports that Phnom Penh City Hall released plans aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19 among factory workers. The plans set new, non-binding, regulations and requirements for factories in the coming years, including providing accommodation and transportation for workers — two areas that have contributed to high rates of infections.

Unionists and rights advocates welcomed the regulations, but some said they were sceptical that factories would be willing to invest the necessary resources and urged oversight.

Song San, 38, who works for Din Han Enterprise Co (Adidas supplier) said his factory had already banned workers from traveling by truck, and that he couldn’t imagine them being able to implement the other requirements without the costs coming back to workers. “I think that workers could not live separately from other workers who work for different factories because we do not have enough money,” he said.

Media reports that in a press release, the UN in Cambodia expressed concerns about the long-lasting impacts of COVID-19 on the socio-economic rights of garment workers. It said that job losses and reduced income have made many workers struggle to meet their basic needs and many had taken out loans as a coping strategy. It also expressed concerns about conditions in quarantine facilities for garment workers, and highlighted that the efforts to slow the spread of the virus led to factory closures, layoffs and unpaid absences that affected the livelihoods of over 900,000 garment workers, 80% of whom are women.

India: Media reports that organisations including the Garment and Textile Workers' Union in Bengaluru have urged the government to resume bus services with adequate safety protocols and reduced fares, to support the transport needs of workers whose economic situation has been exacerbated by the second wave and lockdown.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that Next has formally recognised the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Unions branch union within the Next Manufacturing Ltd (NML) factory and will engage with them in collective bargaining, after workers organised with international allies to demand their recognition.

16 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that as many as eight manufacturing units in two export processing zones (EPZs) in the port city of Chittagong had to shut down due to declining export orders and inability to pay workers' wages on time, and five more may close down. One of the factories, Valex Ltd, is UK-owned, and supplied Marks & Spencer.

Cambodia: Media reports that Kambol District will start its COVID-19 vaccination campaign today, and factory workers in the area are being urged to get vaccinated.

India: Media reports that industrial output growth was estimated at 134.4% in April compared to last year, reflecting a recovery from the lockdown that hit economic activity last year.

Media reports that now Bengaluru has started to slowly open up, after being under lockdown since April 27, garment factories have been instructed to ensure that 30% of the workforce is on-site. Industry owners have also been asked to make sure their employees get vaccinated.

Media reports that thousands of people working at small and medium garment units are continuing to go to work without getting vaccinated, because they have no money to pay for the vaccine at a private hospital, or are unable to get it at primary health centres. The government is yet to help them out.  

It is not that I am against the vaccine or afraid. I did not get the vaccine even after visiting three primary health centre", said Rathi, president of Karnataka Garment Workers' Union. 

Media reports that COVID-19 has exacerbated the trend of girls, particularly from poor Dalit families, entering the workplace at a younger age.  In one case, a 16-year-old girl's widowed mother was forced to send her young teenage daughter to the mills following the nation-wide lockdown in 2020. She said, “She went for two months, after that she stopped because she couldn’t get used to the heat there, and her legs were aching.” 

Indonesia: Media reports that exports grew by 58.76% year-on-year, however export values were lower than the previous month.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that the manufacturing PMI fell by 2.2. points this month to 42.1, due to the adverse impacts of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions imposed to contain the virus spread.

The fall was mainly driven by the significant contraction in Production, Employment, New Orders and Stock of Purchases sub-indices.

Production in the textile and apparel sectors significantly declined together with the decline of Employment, due to the increase in uninformed absence. 

The Suppliers’ Delivery Time further lengthened at a higher pace in May 2021, mainly due to the delays in receiving imported and local supplies.

Media reports that police arrested five youth in connection with an attack on a bus transporting garment workers. Earlier, the youth had protested against the bus carrying garment workers coming into their village claiming that the employees could spread COVID-19.   

Media reports that COVID-19 restrictions have been extended until June 21. Apparel factories will be notified what days they can open per week.

Thailand: Media reports that the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) has urged factories to adopt stricter measures against COVID-19 amid growing concern over more factory shutdowns and their impact on supply chains and exports. Up to 7,100 workers in 132 factories have tested positive for COVID-19.

Vietnam: Media reports that the leather and footwear industry has achieved double-digit export growth, with many enterprises receiving long-term orders. According to the direct of Tan Phat Company Limited, buyers had cancelled nearly 80% of orders since the pandemic started, and the few remaining customers asked to defer or discount prices. As a result, the company had to make up for losses to maintain production.  However, now the company has reached an agreement with customers to share the difficulties as the pandemic continues, and it now has enough orders until the end of the year.  

It is also noted that orders for footwear and handbags are shifting to Vietnam more and more. In the first five months of the year, footwear export turnover increased by 25.5% compared to last year.

15 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that 35 workers were injured at the protests that took place over the weekend. The workers of Lenny Fashions and Lenny Apparels were joined by workers from Shine Fashion, Avant Guard, and the now-closed One BD Limited.

Media reports that on Saturday, workers from Kwun Tong Apparels (Fashion City; Amazon, Tu Clothing and George by Asda supplier) gathered at the factory to receive their arrears from the owners as promised. Workers were met with violence  and started to protest. The workers were later charged at by the police who fired blank rounds and teargas. At least 30 workers were injured. The factory owners informed workers they will be paid after the factory is sold, however no deadline has been set for the payment of workers' arrears.

Cambodia: Media reports that COVID-19 outbreaks are continuing to hit garment factories in and out of Phnom Penh, as factories navigate whether to suspend operations or keep up production. Almost 500 cases have been found at Y&W Garment, 250 cases have been found at Starlight Apparel (Puma, Under Armour, VF Corporation supplier),  

Authorities and labour organisers say workers being crammed into trucks has made them particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. Workers also say there is also not enough space at work to maintain social distancing at all times. 

Media reports that COVID-19 cases have reached their late-April peak, however workers feel they have little choice but to risk their health amid dangerous conditions, as they cannot afford to miss work.

“We clean our hands with alcohol and wear masks but we are still crowded together when we eat, use the bathroom, and work,” said Im Nen, a garment worker who travels to work in a truck holding garment workers tightly packed together, as this is the only affordable way for most to commute to work. 

On June 10, a number of communes in Pur Senchey district were designated dark yellow zones and given additional restrictions, after dozens of workers from the Grand Twins International factory tested positive for COVID-19. However, neighbouring factories remained open while the Grand Twins International factory closed.

According to the Ou Sokhoeun, director of the Svay Rieng provincial labour department, among 921 recorded cases, more than 400 were factory workers. In total, more than 3,000 factory workers who came in contact with infected individuals had to quarantine. 

China: Media reports that revenue, profits, output, online retail sales and exports of major garment enterprises in China have risen during the first four months of the current year. Total profits of 12,444 major garment firms shot up by 37.9% year-on-year to 18 billion yuan during January-April 2021.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that a resolution was passed to close down two garment factories owned by MAS Holdings, Vidiyal and Vaanavil (PVH and Fanatics supplier), due to the increasing spread of COVID-19. 

Media reports that in an open letter addressed to brands and buying communities the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) has stated it is not reasonable for some buyers to ask manufacturers to airlift goods to make up for delays, especially after the sacrifices manufacturers made when they accepted cancellations and extended payment from brands.

The letter also highlights that the third COVID-19 wave has impacted the industry in a different manner, due to the global inequity in vaccine distribution. "You and the countries you reside in are starting to ease restrictions and go back to what life looked like pre COVID-19 while we have been crippled by yet another wave that has seen COVID-19 cases rise by over 130% in two months and COVID-related deaths rise by 239% in the same period."

"We urge you to step up in our time of need and show us the partnerships that you say you herald."

Thailand: Media reports that COVID-19 has spread across more than 130 factories, including those supplying international brands, making manufacturing one of the top sources of infections. Some factories have continued with partial operations while others have temporarily closed and quarantined their workers.

The government has been trying to contain the outbreak with a "bubble and seal" policy, which takes effect when 10% of factory workers are infected. The confirmed cases are then sent for treatment while the remainder are kept at the factory for 28 days.

Workers who live on site - many low-wage migrant workers - have been unable to leave their workplace. The policy differs from other workplaces affected by the coronavirus.

14 June

Cambodia: Media reports that 81 workers from the Pou Chen shoe factory in Kampot province have tested positive for COVID-19.

Media reports that 21 people in Kampong Cham province have tested positive for COVID-19. All were involved with factory workers or are factory workers themselves.

Media reports that 29 people in Svay Rieng province have tested positive for COVID-19. All are factory workers.

Bangladesh: Media reports that in response to protests at the Dhaka Export Processing Zone yesterday, leaders of the unions demanded a fair investigation and compensation for the worker who was killed. Garment Workers' Solidarity declared a protest rally in front of the National Press Club for today.

Media reports that Ring Shine Textiles Limited (supplied Arcadia) is to resume production at 2% of its full capacity, after about 9 months' closure. 

Media reports that exporters fear that if Bangladesh's vaccination programme fails to catch up with that in the developed nations, the country runs the risk of losing its export markets. 

USA: Media reports that textile and apparel exports from the US  increased by 13.09% year-on-year in the first four months of this year. The value of exports stood at $7.2 billion during January-April 2021 compared to $6.367 billion in the corresponding period last year.

Vietnam: Media reports that apparel exports of Vietnam are expected to increase from $14.96 billion in the first half of 2021 to $16.04 billion in the second half of this year.

13 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that a garment worker from Goldtex Garments Limited (Esprit supplier), Jasmine Begum, was killed in a clash between police and factory workers at Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) in Savar, as she tried to escape the demonstration.

More than 600 workers of Lenny Fashion Ltd (Tu Clothing, George by Asda, Amazon supplier) and Lenny Apparels Ltd (George by Asda, Amazon, Target supplier) blocked the highway in front of the EPZ and started demanding their arrears, after the factories closed in January without paying dues to their workers. The workers were attacked by the police with tear gas and water cannons, injuring at least 10 workers. More coverage here and here.

Cambodia: Media reports that 39 new COVID-19 cases have been found in the Kampong Cham province. All were factory workers or others related to them.

India: The Karnataka Garment Workers' Union reports via Twitter that employers in Karnataka have unilaterally decided to pay only 10 days of lockdown, compelling workers to take loans and forcing workers to bear the brunt of the crisis. Migrant workers, who are more severely impacted and and are facing starvation, refused to work until their full lockdown wages were paid. 

When asked about supplying rations to workers, management said they were unable to do anything. However, in a recent update, management of Shahi Exports unit 8 responded to union reps and came forward to provide rations to COVID-19 infected workers. 

Media reports that the Grand Twins International factory (VF Corporation, adidas, and New Balance supplier) was instructed to close its factory until June 20, after more than 200 garment workers tested positive for COVID-19.

South-east Asia: Media reports that several countries across south-east Asia are facing new waves of COVID-19, with clusters beginning in factories manufacturing goods for the West, as demand increases. A garment worker in Cambodia explained that even if people are distanced in the factory, they are crammed together in the journey to and from work. After he tested positive for COVID-19, he was taken to a quarantine facility, and the authorities placed rope around his house, his wife and children were told to remain indoors, and relied on neighbours leaving food outside. Workers in Cambodia are not being given their full wages during lockdown.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that trade unions have demanded the Government give garment industry workers the same priority given to frontline health workers in the vaccination programme, and ensure workers' salaries and other allowances are given on time even when they undergo quarantine. In most factories, there are no arrangements to conduct regular tests; nor are there proper quarantine facilities for those who contracted the virus and their close contacts despite the industry being one of the country’s top foreign exchange earners. 

As COVID-19 cases rise, villagers are discouraging apparel factory workers from going to work. Last week, a group of apparel factory workers were prevented from boarding the factory bus that had come in the morning to take them to the factory. The workers were then forced to go home. The next day, a man and his three children staged a sit-in outside a factory, alleging that the management had not sent his wife, a factory employee, for treatment after she tested positive. 

As workers show reluctance to report to work, some reports say they are forced to go to work following intimidation by police and security forces.  

The Thulhiriya factory of the garment giant MAS was shut down after the detection of 380 COVID-19 cases. The factory resumed operations this week with Labour Ministry approval. 

261 workers tested positive at a Puthukudiyiruppu garment factory, however while the area Medical Officer of Health (MoH)  recommended that the factory be closed down after a few cases were detected there,  management kept it open until a large number of workers were afflicted. 

At the Katunayake FTZ, it is alleged that hundreds of workers who have come into contact with afflicted workers have been told to self-quarantine in their crowded quarters. Workers say they have no option but to put up with these orders as it is with their salaries that they have to support their families. 

Vietnam: Media reports that 3 workers from Samho Vietnam Co. Ltd (New Balance and Adidas supplier) in Cu Chi District tested positive for COVID-19. Departments were temporarily suspended.  Another report highlights that 3,500 workers were temporarily laid off.

12 June

Cambodia: Media reports in images officials taking second COVID-19 test samples from garment workers in Phnom Penh.

Media reports that Phnom Penh may reimpose colour coded zones, Red, Orange and Yellow, if the COVID-19 infection rate continues to rise.

India: Media reports that in Jigani and Bommasandra industrial areas, where there are over 30,000 labourers, mostly floor workers and garment workers, people are unable to get vaccinated, as small and mid-size hospitals in their neighbourhoods don't have stocks of the vaccine. Manufacturers require hospitals, regardless of size, to buy in large quantities, but smaller hospitals are unable to. Also covered here.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that Amnesty International has slammed Sri Lanka's handling of the pandemic. It emphasised that while the government and factory owners reap the profits of workers' labour, the workers are left to fend for themselves, as they remain unprotected and not prioritised for the vaccine. It also highlights that garment workers have been ordered to continue working during the ongoing lockdowns, despite inadequate testing, quarantine and care facilities made available to workers. Full statement here.

Thailand: Media reports that in Samut Prakan, a new COVID-19 cluster was reported at a garment export factory in Bang Sao Thong district with 61 cases. 

Vietnam: Media reports that Duc Tho district announced a temporary blockade of the Appareltech Export garment factory, after it was discovered workers were in close contact with a worker employed in the mechanical and repair workshop, who tested positive for COVID-19.

11 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that workers from Style Craft (River Island, New Look, Next, H&M, Debenhams supplier) and Young Ones Bangladesh factories blocked a road and staged a demonstration for nine hours, demanding due salaries and arrears. According to the Gazipur Executive Magistrate, a meeting was held between workers, owners and police which led to an assurance that workers would receive their due arrears and salaries, and the workers then withdrew the blockade.

Cambodia: Media reports that a major outbreak of COVID-19 has been discovered at Y&W Factory (George, Primark, Woolworths and Tu Clothing supplier) in Phnom Penh, with over 200 workers infected. 

Media reports that over 1000 workers fled from the Fortress Factory (Clarks supplier), when health authorities arrived to take a second round of COVID-19 samples from workers to verify their previous results. This caused workers to panic and flee. Another article reports that 11 of the workers who fled the factory tested positive for COVID-19.

Media reports that the QMI factory has temporarily shut down, following 302 reported COVID-19 cases among workers.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that the vaccination of apparel workers has now commenced. 

According to the CCC network, heavy rain and flooding has exasperated the living conditions of workers amid the second wave. FTZGSEU is distributing dry rations to those affected, and will continue their efforts.

Thailand: Media reports that 78 COVID-19 cluster have been identified, including three new ones, with 37 cases reported at GPS Garment factory in Phasicharoen district. 67 cases have also been found at a woollen shirt exporting company.

10 June

Global: Media reports that garment workers in Myanmar, Haiti, Cambodia and Pakistan have yet to receive any funding from the brand-backed initiative ILO Call to Action, which aimed to provide financial relief for garment workers during the pandemic. 

Cambodia: Media reports that the Prime Minister issued a proclamation announcing the start of cash subsidies under the Social Assistance Program for target people and families, including workers working in factories and enterprises in the field of garments, shoes and bags in the area.

Media reports that the Prime Minister has approved the plans prepared by the national Covid-19 vaccination commission to expand the vaccination drive to five high-risk provinces after the capital and neighbouring Kandal province have been covered. Vaccinations will first be administered in high-risk locations with a large number of garment workers.

Media reports that according to the Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng, the COVID-19 situation has not improved, with most infections found among factory workers in Phnom Penh. He requested that the labour ministry issue a notice to factory owners in the capital to make a list of where workers live to enable more effective contact tracing in order to break the chain of transmission linked to a community outbreak in February.

India: Media reports that factories in Delhi are still recovering from the losses of last year’s pandemic-induced lockdown and the fact that 800,000 migrant workers left Delhi during the second wave of the pandemic. 

Sri Lanka: Media reports that Sri Lankan police have arrested ten people, including the provincial council’s deputy chairman for Puthukkudiyiruppu, Mullaitivu, following protests against the reopening of a garment factory amidst fears of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading.

The reopening of the garment factory follows orders from Sri Lanka’s President that Governors and District Secretaries should continue the operations of development plants and factories so as to avoid an economic collapse.

In the last few days, TNA MP Vino Noharathalingam and the garment factory administration sent letters to the President urging the garment factory to not be opened until it was deemed safe to do so and to prevent the risk of another outbreak. The letter urged for all employees to be vaccinated and provision of better facilities to monitor the employees.

US: Media reports that the import of textiles and apparel by the United States increased by 14.07% to $32.814 billion in the first four months of 2021, compared to $28.767 billion in January-April 2020. With 28.89% share, China was the largest supplier of textiles and clothing to the US during the four-month period, followed by Vietnam with 14.75% share.

9 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that only around 4% of garment workers received transport facilities to commute to their workplaces during lockdown, while 8% had to use alternative means to get to work due to insufficient public transport.

Media reports that the BGMEA has called on the commerce ministry to simplify the export procedures for the apparel sector to tackle the COVID-19 crisis and move forward.

Media reports that the government has reformed the crisis management core committee to look into the overall labour situation and resolve unrest in the garment industry and other sectors. The shipping minster explained the committee was reorganised mainly to monitor the labour situation and find ways when any crisis, such as the current COVID-19 crisis, emerges.

China: Media reports that China's exports rose 27.9% in May, as demand for China's goods bounced back from the COVID-19 crisis, and vaccines continue to be rolled out across the world. However, growth in demand for textiles have eased, dropping to 10.3%.

Cambodia: Media reports that the Ministry of Health stated that garment workers are a priority group to be vaccinated because of the high rate of COVID-19 infections in factories.

Media reports that due to the string of COVID-19 cases with connections to factories and factory workers, factory owners in Kampong Chhnang gathered on June 8, 2021 for a lecture on Covid-19 prevention.

India: Media reports that over 2.5 crore existing jobs have been lost between January and May 2021. The bulk of these losses – about 2.2 crore – have occurred in April and May, the period in which India was engulfed in a brutal second wave of COVID-19, leading to lockdowns.  Daily wage workers appear to have been the worst sufferers.

The manufacturing sector has lost jobs in this period, though most of it was exempted from the restrictions in many states. There have been reports that where 50% of workforce was to be allowed for work, employers simply terminated services of the remaining employees. 

Sri Lanka: Media reports that the  vaccination roll out will commence in 12 more districts. According to the Army Commander Shavendra Sila, the President has instructed that apparel workers be among those prioritised for the vaccine.

IndustriALL reports that IndustriALL, Ansell Limited and FTZGSEU union jointly confirm in a statement that employee claims arising from a strike in 2013 at the Ansell Lanka plant and subsequent termination of workers have been fully settled. 

Taiwan: Media reports that textile and apparel exports from Taiwan grew 11.54% year-on-year to $2.871 billion during the first four months of the current year.

Thailand: Media reports that vaccines will be distributed to factory workers in five industrial estates on July 9, with a target of 1,000 vaccines administered per day.

Media reports that Bangkok has 74 COVID-19 clusters in 35 districts, including 20 cases at Samor Thong Garment Co in Bang Khae district. 

Vietnam: Media reports that the total export turnover of textiles and garments reached $9.7 billion in the first four months of the year, an increase of 10.7% year-on-year. Vietnam exported $4.7 billion worth of goods to the US during this period, a year-on-year increase of 18.7% and accounting for 48.7% of the country's total export values of textiles and garments. 

8 June

Global: Media reports that global apparel exports are expected to rise in coming months as the world slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The top apparel exporting countries such as China, Bangladesh and Vietnam are bouncing back rapidly.

Bangladesh: Media reports that the Bangladesh Bank has allowed exporters to bring their export earnings until December this year, after the deadline was extended last year due to the pandemic. The bank has also extended the repayment period for loans under the export development fund to six months from three months, after it was due to expire this month. 

Laos: Media reports that in Vientiane, 11 textile and garment factories were shut down due to COVID-19, causing more than 10,000 workers to lose their jobs, resulting in a drop in income. 

In the face of this situation, the Government of Laos said it will focus on supporting workers and the poor during COVID-19.

Nicaragua: Media reports that Tegra is set to sign a deal to pay 965 workers around $600,000 in layoff and other compensation as it unwinds a key apparel factory in Managua. Tegra, which has production deals with brands including Nike, will also help fund a labour fair to help dismissed garment workers at the site find new work. More coverage here.

In Honduras, Tegra is planning to merge two of its divisions, with unions asking Tegra to sign a formal pledge that the process won't lead to any layoffs, and that they will provide compensation to long-term workers who choose to leave the newly merged entity.

Turkey: Media reports that Turkey's industrial production index for April is expected to rise on average by 63.5% year-on-year.

Vietnam: Media reports that from January to April 2021, Vietnam earned $11.342 billion from textile and garment exports. Of this, yarn exports accounted for $1.681 billion while fabric and garment exports were valued at $9.661 billion.

7 June

Asia: Media reports that countries across South and Southeast Asia are struggling to contain a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases amid widespread vaccine shortages, with apparel and footwear production hubs usually at the centre of clusters.

However, due to economic necessity, these countries are unlikely to return to lockdown measures, with garment workers, who have limited access to healthcare and underprioritised in vaccine drives, at particular risk while working in crowded factories. Due to low wages and a lack of social safety nets, workers are left with no choice but to go to work even if they experience symptoms of COVID-19. Factories are also ill-equipped to avoid or manage the spread of infection, and are not doing enough to support workers, especially when quarantining. 

Bangladesh: Media reports that the BGMEA has sought support of Bangladesh Bank for the garment industry in its struggle to overcome the impacts of COVID-19. Requests from the BGMEA included extending the payback period of loans under the COVID-19 response stimulus package to 5 years, and writing off all debt, interest and cost of fund charges from 133 garment factories. 

Media reports that the BGMEA has maintained that proposals it had put forward to the Finance Minister for the 2021-22 fiscal budget had not been included, and called upon the Government to withdraw the 10% tax on cash incentive, as the garment exporters are facing an acute shortage of cash during the pandemic, while demanding specialised health cards for apparel workers and bringing them under the purview of the vaccination programme on a priority basis. 

Media reports that in response to the Finance Minister's proposed budget for the fiscal year 2021-22, the garment accessories' manufacturers have demanded cash incentives similar to what the Government has provided to exports of apparels and other export-oriented sectors.  

India: Media reports that in Bengaluru, vaccination drives are expected to be considerably improved. Donor organisations have come forward to organise vaccinations for the poor, garment workers and construction workers. 

Media reports that the Karnataka government's will vaccinate industrial workers, including garment workers, which will ensure that factory production will not be affected in future by waves of COVID-19 and will guarantee greater protection to the workforce.

Media reports that  

Turkey: Media reports that apparel exports from Turkey increased by 31.38% year-on-year in the first four months of 2021. 

Vietnam: Media reports that from January to May 2021, the textile-garment, leather and footwear industries experienced positive growth, largely due to the gradual recovery of major markets from the pandemic. The garment-textile industry raked in $12 billion, a year-on-year rise of 15%, while exports of shoes and sandals surged by 26.4% to more than $8 billion compared to last year’s corresponding period. 

6 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that only 2% of garments workers were able to get COVID-19 vaccines. 69% of workers said they were willing to get vaccinated if they were eligible to get the vaccine. On being asked whether they think they are eligible to get vaccinated, 36% said they were eligible, 28% said they were not eligible, and 34% said they did not know if they were eligible.

Less than a quarter had information on how to gain access to a vaccination shot.

Nearly half of those who did not want to be vaccinated said they were afraid of side effects and of dying from the vaccine.

Malaysia: Media reports that due to limited manpower capacity as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, a garment manufacturer has reported rotating workers' shifts to ensure everyone gets a turn on the production line. While manufacturers are reportedly understanding in regards to paying full wages despite workers working half their usual hours, the Chairman of the company reports that if lockdown continues, businesses would have to prioritise their companies' survival, which could lead to dismissals.

5 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that thanks to the sharp rise of knitwear shipments along with jute & jute products and chemical products in May - which have fetched Bangladesh US $3,108.09 million, up by 112.11% year-on-year - Bangladesh made a decent performance in terms of export earnings.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that Sri Lanka’s President has ordered Governors and District Secretaries to maintain operations in factories and developments projects despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

USA: Media reports that textile and apparel exports l from United States were down 1% year-on-year in the first three months of this year. The value of exports stood at $5.310 billion during January-March 2021 compared to $5.364 billion in the corresponding period last year.

Vietnam: Media reports that workers in Ho Chi Minh City have been hit hard by the latest COVID-19 outbreak, due to factory closures. A garment worker explains that she and 100 other workers have been at home for one week after the company decided to suspend production following the discovery of a COVID-19 cluster in the district. She and her husband have had to save expenses as much as possible, and have cut their daily meals to just two. 

The Vietnam General Confederation of Labor has approved emergency support for affected workers, and each will get VND3 million. Those with financial issues and staying in quarantine camps will get another VND1.5 million.

4 June

Global: Media reports that Better Work's has published annual reports for seven established country programmes in Cambodia Vietnam, Nicaragua, Jordan, Ethiopia, Haiti and Indonesia, which detail how Better Work teamed up with partner factories in these regions to mitigate the damage to workers and their livelihoods following the pandemic.

For example in Haiti, Better Work Haiti collaborated with the WHO to train medical personnel working in the sector.

Bangladesh: Media reports that economists and businesses have said that the government's budget has not proposed any direct support to revive the cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs sector), where milions of workers lost jobs. Faruque Hassan, the president of the BGMEA, demanded a special low-cost fund of Tk 1,0000 crore for the CMSMEs in the apparel sector. He says that a portion of this can be used to reopen closed factories and another portion to pay back the loans of owners of factories that had to close, who are unwilling to run their units anymore.

Cambodia: Media reports that Kampong Cham provincial administration has reported 48 new COVID-19 cases, mostly garment workers, in four districts.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that Chamila Thushari of Dabindu Group has said that the health sector must pay attention to the neglect of FTZ workers infected with COVID-19, as companies continue work as usual amid the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the FTZs across the country.

She points out that workers who have COVID-19 are quarantining in hostels with other workers, where facilities are shared. PCR tests are also being avoided and a limited number of workers have been vaccinated.

Media reports that Sri Lanka's earnings from textiles and garments exports increased by 6.3% year-on-year to $1.333 billion during the first three months of 2021. Exports of textiles increased 20.7% to $78.4 million, while garment exports were up 4.7% to $1.219 billion. 

India: Media reports that 36 women textile workers from Jharkhand who were stranded in Tamil Nadu due to the COVID-19 lockdown in the southern state will return to their home district of Dumka.  

Media reports that with the second wave of the pandemic impacting the recovery of India's garment Industry, the sector is expected to grow at 15-20% this financial year, almost half the 28-33% expected earlier. 

Domestic demand, which accounts for almost three quarters of overall demand has been severely affected by the lockdowns.  

Vietnam: Media reports that enterprises in the textile and garment sector are calling for workers to be prioritised for vaccines, since workers in industrial zones face great risk. Le Tien Truong, chairman of the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex), said delayed deliveries could result in contract cancellations and penalties running into billions of dollars, and so textile and garment workers should be prioritised for vaccination, especially in pandemic-hit areas. 

3 June

Bangladesh: Media reports that export  earnings doubled year-on-year to $3.11 billion in May this year, due to a rebound in garment shipment. Of the total earnings from garment sector, some $15.36 billion came from knitwear shipment and some $13.19 billion from woven, registering 20.55% and 1.80% year-on-year growth respectively.

Media reports that an additional 1% cash incentive against export of apparel goods, along with the existing incentives, will continue well into the next fiscal year. The government started providing an additional 1% cash incentive along with other existing export incentives to the textiles and RMG industry from FY2019-2020, in response to the pandemic.

Cambodia: Media reports that the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has rebuffed calls for workers to be paid in full for the lockdown period by saying that the “principle of no work, no pay must prevail”. According to the secretary-general of GMAC, companies are under no obligation to pay wages during the lockdown period.

This comes after unions demanded workers be paid their full wages for the lockdown period instead of the agreed 50%, as workers are struggling with such low income.

Media reports that 5 out of 21 garment workers tested positive for COVID-19, after they were admitted to a hospital over a traffic accident, when the truck they were travelling in hit a tree.

Media reports that a woman inmate of Kampong Speu Provincial Prison died of COVID-19 after being in contact with a doctor who caught the infection from his daughter, a garment worker at the Clinton garment factory.

Media reports that across Cambodia, officials said that most new cases of COVID-19 have been found among garment workers, underscoring the poor living and working conditions faced by Cambodia’s factory workers. 

Many workers also share housing, with four or five people living in a small rental room, and that they travel to and from factories on crowded trucks.

 Mann Seng Hak, vice president of the Free Trade Union of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said COVID-19 measures for garment workers will continue to fall short as long as workers have to take overcrowded vehicles and live in cramped homes.

India: Media reports that the rise in COVID-19 cases in India, which has forced factories to close down or reduce capacity, has added stress onto garment workers who are already strained from the pandemic. According to the CEO of Gokaldas Exports Limited, the company is exploring options for workers to work overtime or on weekends to meet their order deadlines after the lockdowns are lifted.  

Media reports that while lockdown restrictions in Karnataka are likely to be extended, the government is expected to allow all industries, including the garment industry, to resume work with 50% of their staff.

Vietnam: Media reports that according to the Vietnam Textile and Garment Trade Union at Thanh Cong Textile (Asics, New Balance, APG & Co, and Columbia Sportswear supplier) , all companies with more than 5,000 employees are allowed to adjust working hours during peak hours, to prevent and control COVID-19. Shifts are arranged in 2 separate production shifts, the morning shift from 5am to 1pm, and the afternoon shift from 2pm to 10pm.

2 June

Cambodia: Media reports that half or more workers in key Cambodian industries were suspended for three or four months, and most were unable to support themselves on government aid during the pandemic, according to a new study. 40% of workers in Cambodia’s garment and footwear industries were suspended for an average of 11 week.

Workers interviewed said the suspension payments from the government were not sufficient to cover the roughly $69 they needed for basic monthly food expenditure.

India: Media reports that India's vaccination strategy is driven by technology and restricted by age, which has excluded millions of informal workers from the vaccination drive. 

Media reports that India‘s factory activity growth slowed significantly in May as an escalation in COVID-19 cases hit new orders and output, while scarcity of raw materials drove up input costs.

Media reports that over 10 million Indians have lost their jobs because of the second wave of COVID-19, and around 97% of households' incomes have declined since the beginning of the pandemic last year.

Media reports that as states across India relax lockdown, Ludhiana's garment industry is hoping business will pick up with new orders and old payments cleared. 

Turkey: Media reports that Turkey's exports hit $16.5 billion in May 2021, up by 65.5% year-on-year.

1 June

Global: Media reports that world economic recovery from the pandemic is likely to remain uneven and dependent on the effectiveness of public health measures and policy support. Recovery will be modest in many emerging-market economies where access to vaccines are limited.

Argentina: Media reports that textile workers have occupied their factory since 5 May, after the factory announced it intended to dismiss half of its workers without paying compensation.

Cambodia: Media reports that the January-March export of garment products was valued at $2,527 million, a 5.4% decrease compared to the same period last year, while the non-garment export rose by 52% to $887 million.

India: Media reports that a study has found workers employed in garment factories in Tamil Nadu were at increased risk of infection for COVID-19. In these factories, social distancing norms were not implemented and often, those who fell sick did not have health insurance or access to efficient medical infrastructure and were unaware of medical insurance. A mill worker said that they were occasionally given masks, forcing workers to wear the same mask for a long duration. "We had to wear them for a long time, too, which led to several facing shortness of breath during the working hours. Many did not bother to abide by safety guidelines and removed the masks. Our companies checked our temperatures but did not create any awareness about what to do if it comes out high."

Sri Lanka: According to the CCC network, a desperate appeal has been made by civil society organisations and trade unions to the international community to urge the Sri Lankan Government and factory owners to protect workers from COVID-19, as workers have continued to work during the pandemic, and have  quarantined in centres with minimal facilities or medical treatment, that are often unhygienic. They reiterate six demands, including:

  • Shut down all factories for at least 2 weeks with paid leave, and carry out widespread COVID-19 PCR testing.
  • Prioritise workers in the FTZ and apparel supply chain for COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Take measures to track, isolate and transport workers who test positive.
  • Workers forced into quarantine or self-isolation be given full pay.
  • Ensure the monthly relief pack promised by the Government is distributed to all workers.
  • Ensure all factories strictly adhere to health and safety guidelines.

Information and campaigns

General info on COVID-19 in the garment industry

PayYourWorkers campaign

PayUp campaign page -> coming


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 2021-07-01