May 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.

31 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that amid fears of the new variant in India spreading to the bordering district, Bangladesh has suspended all import and export activities through the Banglabandha Land Port for five days.

Media reports that the BGMEA has demanded the Bangladesh government prioritise garment workers for COVID-19 vaccinations, considering them front liners who have been doing their jobs amid the pandemic to protect the economy of the country.

Media reports that according to BGMEA president Faruque Hassan, a full recovery in garment export may take place by October this year, as many people in the US and Europe are completing their vaccinations and retailers have begun reopening.

Media reports that garment workers were among those who received stimulus packages, which aimed to help people affected by the pandemic to stay afloat and boost economic activities. According to the central bank, the government provided Tk5,000 crore as three months' salary-allowance for garment workers, which benefitted about 38 lakh people.

Cambodia: Media reports that unions are calling for garment factory owners to pay full wages to their employees for the lockdown period but the Labour Ministry says there is no law to state that employers must do so.

Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CMW) president Pav Sina said when workers raise their plight over low wages and the half-wage salary to be paid during temporary closures, the garment factory owners often just turn a deaf ear.

Media reports that Kampong Cham provincial administration has detected 42 Covid-19 patients out of more than 4,000 garment workers.

Media reports that Svay Rieng provincial administration has detected at least 88 Covid-19 patients, all of them are garment workers from six districts and two cities.

Media reports that the Minister of Labour and Vocational Training has issued a statement to all factories and enterprises mandating that workers be given a paid day off in order to get vaccinated. He added that obstructing someone from getting vaccinated was a crime as stated in the COVID-19 and labour laws, and employees can seek redress from the ministry if their employers do not grant them paid time off to get inoculated. 

Media reports that about 2,000 factory workers blocked a road over the weekend in Kampong Cham province, demanding they be given COVID-19 tests, be allowed to quarantine at home, and be paid 50% of their wages, according to provincial officials. This came after several positive COVID-19 tests were found at a factory along the road, which caused fears among others working nearby. The first cases were found at the Carlington factory (supplies VF Corporation), a shoe factory employing nearly 8,000 workers.

India: Media reports that export contracts with garment factories are being cancelled and buyers are asking factories for discounts, due to second COVID-19 wave and lockdown, which is impacting thousands of garment factories in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. In Ludhiana, production has halved as a result of cancelled orders. 

Media reports that India's economy, which was facing a slowdown even before the pandemic broke out last year, contracted by 7.3% during April 2020 to March 2021 fiscal (FY21), weighed down by the nationwide lockdown that sent consumption plummeting and brought most economic activities to a halt.

Media reports that Noida's apparel exporters are seeing lost orders from the US and Europe trickle in again, with the Western nations slowly opening up after bringing the pandemic under control and international buyers gaining confidence, with some restrictions easing in India as well.

"Multinational clothing retailers such as H&M, Marks & Spencer, Zara and a lot of US apparel importers have placed orders again. International buyers had moved 10-15% of the orders to other countries. Now, orders are coming back," said Noida Apparel Exporters Cluster president (NAEC) Lalit Thukral.  

Sri Lanka: Media reports that while vaccines are being given to those aged 30-60, garment workers above the age of 18 are also being given the vaccine.

30 May

Cambodia: Media reports that the Cambodian economy will grow by 4% this year and 5.5% next year. It is also predicted that the country’s industrial production will expand by 7.1% this year and 7% next year thanks to the recovery of apparel, footwear, and travel items as well as the growth of electronics and bicycle assembling.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that Sri Lankan apparel companies hit by the COVID-19 pandemic have reduced their capacity resulting in delays in production amidst growing tension among communities and concerns by trade unions that workers are under pressure.

Orders are now delayed as factories are currently processing those that came in February and March, and April orders likely to be further delayed. If the existing orders get delayed there is a possibility that the next season’s orders are likely to get reduced.

FTZ Workers Trade Union General Secretary Anton Marcus noted that when he requested the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) to call off work considering the plight of the workers, they refused saying that they would do so should the government ask them to stop work. He also pointed out that the authorities were late in rolling out the vaccination programme for factory workers.

29 May

China: Media reports that China's apparel exports surged by 51.7% year-on-year to $44.41 billion in the first four months of 2021.

28 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that women who faced reduced income due to the pandemic have had difficulty buying hygienic period products. A garment worker explained that she had not received any pay since the lockdown began in 2020, and her family have been struggling financially. Without pay she has no way to buy sanitary pads to manage her periods every month. She was receiving sanitary pads on credit from an NGO.

Media reports that garment workers protested after lay-offs were announced at Radisson factory (supplies LIDL and OVS Spa). They were later dispersed by police who opened fire at them. The authorities laid off 21 workers during the Eid holidays and on May 19, workers stopped working, demanding the reinstatement of the workers. On Monday, the authorities declared an indefinite lay-off.

Cambodia: Media reports that since the start of the pandemic, 203 garment factories have closed. The Secretary of State of Industry, Science and Innovation Heng Sok said the closures were caused by several factors, including COVID-19 outbreaks in communities and factories, countries facing blockades affecting orders and some suspension of orders by several countries. Most of the closed factories were in the garment, footwear and travel bag sector, he said. Several other factories have had to temporarily suspend production while waiting for new orders.

 He said the closures were caused by several factors, including Covid-19 outbreaks in communities and factories, countries facing blockades affecting orders and some suspension of orders by several countries.

Media reports 50 new cases of COVID-19, mainly among garment workers, were discovered in five districts and in the cities of Svay Rieng and Bavet in the Svag Rieng province. 

Media reports that four factories in Meachey District have been suspended for 2 days following COVID-19 outbreaks. The factories are W&D Cambodia (O'Neill Europe supplier), SLJ/Desinai factory, Kutai Joa Seng Xing Feng Jing factory (Debenhams, C&A and LIDL supplier), and Choung Hao Garment.

Media reports that about 8,000 garment workers form the Clinton factory in Cheung Prey district will undergo a COVID-19 Rapid Kit test after some workers were found infected with the disease. After finding that the homes of the workers infected with the virus were not suitable for the family members, the workers were moved to a quarantine centre.

Media reports that in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19 among garment workers, Phnom Penh City Hall has decided to come down hard on factories which do not follow preventive measures put in place as a condition to allow them to resume operations. Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng said that any factory which violates the conditions set by the Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) could face temporary closure for up to three days as punishment. 

Media reports that according to a Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) representative, factories were not intending to skirt measures implemented by ministries on the reopening of factories. GMAC deputy secretary general, Kaing Monika, said some factories are limited in their ability to adhere to all guidelines and that it’s difficult to effectively communicate to all workers the steps necessary to keep in line with the recently imposed measures.

Kaing added that some factories had issues related to the physical infrastructure of the buildings, especially in canteens, and at entry and exit points. He noted that the capacity to follow measures varies between factories and that there was no deliberate intention to not follow the guidelines.

Media reports that thousands of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand have been unable to return since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago. Chan Bunthoeun, a garment worker in Thailand, said that he works with his wife while their children are in Cambodia living with his parents. said he found work in Thailand to be able to send his children to school but now he wants to return. He hopes the government can assist him and his wife so their family can be reunited.

Media reports that as the World Health Organization urges action for Cambodian garment workers infected with COVID-19, union leaders are calling on the government to take stronger action to protect factory staff. Union chiefs are demanding the ministry seek healthy solutions for workers, including help with securing accommodation and maintaining salaries during mandatory 14-day quarantines, along with other measures.

20 more workers have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Youli International Garment factory, which has now recorded more than 120 total cases of COVID-19 among staff. A 40 year old garment worker who escaped quarantine in Youli factory (mentioned previously in the live-blog) said that hundreds of workers rushed out of the factory after hearing more of their co-workers tested positive for the virus. "The workers were protesting to go home, and when they saw a security guard open the gate, they ran out,” She had returned to work after testing negative twice for the virus. She has complained that during quarantine at the factory, there was not enough water consumption, foods of no quality, including toilets.

Officials in Preah Sihanouk province detected about 100 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the majority of which were among garment workers. That brought the total number of workers in the province who have tested positive for the virus to 648 since the beginning of the current community outbreak on February 20. The provincial administration has temporarily suspended 14 factories and enterprises in which workers have tested positive for the virus.

In Kampong Chhnang province, the Horizon Outdoor garment factory has marked 80 workers this week who have tested positive for COVID-19

Media reports that 19 out of 214 workers at the Hand Seven (H7) factory have tested positive for COVID-19.

Lesotho: Media reports that a woman has died after being shot during violent clashes between factory workers and police in protests that are now into their second week. Lesotho’s 50,000 factory workers are demanding a 20% salary increase for the lowest paid employees, who take home the local equivalent of £113.73 a month. The employers say they can only pay a 5% increase because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their businesses.

Sam Mokhele, from the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), said: “It is unfortunate that we lost one of our members, Motselisi Manase, who worked in the packaging department at Nien Hsing textile factory. It is sad that neither the police nor the army, who were both present, are acknowledging the tragic death.”

India: A new report highlights the prevalence of forced labour in spinning mills that supply international brands, including  Carrefour, GAP, IKEA, Marc O’Polo, NEXT, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, The Cookie Company Group, WE Fashion, and Zeeman. The report found that the COVID-19 crisis had exacerbated their struggles, as workers suffered from loss of income during lockdown, difficulty accessing emergency relief, and reduced job opportunities after the pandemic, due to mills reducing their workforce. If workers did find employment at a spinning mill, their days and hours had reduced, thus reducing their income. Safety measures inside the mills are also inadequate.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that apparel exports are expected to rise to reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year due to efficient vaccination, efforts of industry personnel and government initiatives. However, the exports are likely to remain stable to lower until June 2021 as many of the apparel workers have been found to be infected with COVID-19.

27 May

Cambodia: Media reports that a woman who worked as head of the sewing department at the VF Corporation supplier Horizon Outdoor has died from COVID-19, following an outbreak at the factory.

Media reports that garment workers are coming to work, and in many cases leaving work, in fear of being locked down in their factory, as COVID-19 outbreaks spread. Those who have been locked down inside their factory have reported that there has not been enough food for all the workers, the food quality has been poor and sanitation is not good. At the You Li garment factory, which has more than 5,000 workers, over 700 workers had been quarantined inside. However, in the evening, hundreds walked out.

Media reports that Por Senchey district authorities found more than 600 garment workers tested positive for COVID-19 over the last three days.

India: Media reports that the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) has urged the government of India to declare exports of apparel as essential services and instruct state governments to exempt exporting units from localised lockdowns across the country. The council said that apparel exports are fashion and season sensitive, and need to be produced and shipped on time. It fears that exporters may lose orders from Europe and the US to competing countries.

Media reports that the Tirupur Exporters Association (TEA) requested the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announce an economic stimulus package for MSMEs in the garment sector, who have been struggling to sustain business due to lockdowns.

26 May

Global: A global action was launched by workers across Amazon's supply chain, from garment workers to delivery drivers to warehouse workers, demanding the company provide the workers who are producing Amazon's profits their rights and fair wages.

Bangladesh: Media reports that following the call from leaders of garment workers’ rights bodies for compensation to be given for the treatment of Kanchan Miah, who suffered bullet injuries when police fired at workers protesting for extended-Eid holidays, Bangladesh Garment Sramik Samhati held a protest rally at the National Press Club in Dhaka. Miah's family also joined the protest. They demanded the identification and punishment of the police who fired on the workers, Tk50 lakh in compensation for Kanchan according to ‘the ILO convention’, and treatment expenditures for other wounded workers, provided the owners of the garment factory. 

Cambodia: Media reports that at least 60 garment workers have tested positive for Covid-19 at A and J Cambodia in Tay Seng 1 Special Economic Zone, in Svay Rieng province. The news of Covid-19 outbreak at the factory caused thousands of workers to be panicked and rush out of their factory compounds.

India: Media reports that the Karnataka government has listed garment workers as a priority group to receive the vaccine. The vaccinations will take place at their workplaces.

Media reports that conditions for  informal workers in this second lockdown in Bengaluru are still difficult for many, as compared to the first lockdown.  This is largely due to difficulties receiving and accessing relief from the government, as families often face bureaucratic and procedural delays. The implementation of labour reforms, which threaten working conditions and workers' rights could make life more difficult for workers.

Media reports that garment manufacturing factories in Tiruppur district are set to remain closed, as Tamil Nadu has extended the lockdown for another week.  Although garment manufacturers voluntarily decided to stop operations when the lockdown began. due to the rising cases, they raised concerns over the heavy losses the businesses suffered.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that a manager of an apparel factory in Koggala Free Trade Zone is to be remanded until May 31, for allowing the spread of COVID-19 by withholding information about close associates of infected workers and violating the quarantine regulations. Out of 1,500 workers in the factory, insprectors found that 238 were identified as COVID-19 patients and 733 close associates were placed in quarantine.

Media reports that the third wave of the COVID-19 virus and the travel restrictions are adding to the woes of the apparel industry, slowing down its pace of work in catering to the export market and delivering orders on time. The industry’s goal of reaching US $5 billion turnover for 2021 will also not be possible, due to the recurring challenges the stakeholders have to grapple with to process orders. The only solution that seems apparent to factory owners is vaccination, and the apparel industry has expressed its willingness to even procure vaccines for its workers. However, no decision on this has been reached yet by the government.

Media reports that Sri Lanka’s merchandise exports fell to a five-month low in April, after contracting by 25.1% month-on-month. This comes in the wake of the third COVID-19 wave in the country. 

Apparel exports grew by record 462.38% year-on-year in April YoY to US$ 365.04 million recovering from record low exports in April last year. However, in comparison to March export figure of US$ 465.35 million, apparel exports were down by over US$ 100 million in April. 

In the four-month period of the year, apparel exports were up by nearly 29% year-on-year to US$ 1.7 billion.

Thailand: Media reports that exports rose for a second consecutive month, jumping by 13.1% year-on-year to $21.4 billion in April. Exports grew for various sectors, including COVID-related products such as rubber gloves and other COVID-19 equipment. 

25 May

Cambodia: Media reports that despite measures being implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19, workers in some provinces are still becoming victims of the disease. The provincial authorities have announced the names of the COVID19 victims so that those who came in direct or indirect contact with them can go to the nearest health centre or hospital to do a swab test and quarantine themselves at their respective houses for 14 days.

Most of those testing positive for COVID-19 in the Kampong Chhnang Provincial Administration  were employees at Horizon Outdoor Cambodia Co., Ltd and Tekfuk (Cambodia) factory. A stop-work order was issued by provincial authorities to Horizon Outdoor Cambodia Co., Ltd to initiate investigations and checks on workers if there are new cases.

Media reports that Preah Sihanouk province has found 65 garment workers infected with COVID-19.

India: Media reports that garment exporters in Noida and Greater Noida claim that most factories are now left with 40-50% workers, resulting in international buyers placing orders with other Asian countries. Some apparel manufacturers have been making PPE kits as a stopgap measure, but exporters claim they cannot sustain without major international orders, and some are just left with no orders to service.  "We have already lost around 20% of business to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, we need to regularise the situation fast and bring workers back,” said the Noida Apparel Export Cluster (NAEC) president. "We are losing out because there is concern among international buyers whether we will be able to deliver."

Pakistan: Media reports that the value of textile and garment exports from Pakistan rose by 17.35% year-on-year in the first ten months of fiscal 2020-21 that began on July 1. During the ten-month period, Pakistan earned $12.692 billion from textile & apparel exports, against $10.816 billion in July-April 2019-20.

Sri Lanka: Media reports on the press conference organised by Asia Floor Wage Alliance, where speakers called out the lack of action taken by responsible authorities to learn from the previous COVID-19 waves and contain the third one by implementing measures such as adequate PCR tests, administering vaccines to workers, health guidelines in the workplace, and a proper quarantine process for workers.  

Media reports that a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP, Shanakiyan Rasamanikam, was barred by police from visiting a Brandix apparel factory in Batticaloa, and was threatened with arrest. He reported that the police had also visited his home prior, to warn him against going. Rasamanikam was on a fact-finding mission, as he was informed that the factory was operating in violation of health guidelines put in place to curb the transmission of COVID-19. Brandix have since requested we include their statement on the incident, found here

Media reports that the global vaccine inequality is now impacting garment workers, as the virus is spreading rapidly among garment workers in factories and densely populated neighbourhoods adjacent to the FTZs, where workers live and will quarantine in their hostels.

24 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that scores of mid-level managers in the ready-made garment  sector have lost their jobs amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The sudden job losses have caused many of these professionals to undergo severe challenges.  Some of them have moved to their village homes with families, while some have opted for sub-letting houses, selling their assets and/or borrowing from others, as their savings dried up.

Liton Mia, 44, a former production manager at a garment factory and the sole breadwinner in the family, lost his job during the pandemic and now sells watermelons at a roadside cart. At the onset of the lockdown during the first wave, his salary was halted for a few months. This was followed by a 40% pay cut for some time.  In January 2021, he was retrenched. 

Media reports that the leaders of Garments Sramik Odhikar Andolan, a combine of nine organisations of garment workers, demanded compensation for wounded garment worker Kanchan Mia who was critically injured in police firing, while 20 workers of Creative Collection Limited were also injured, during demonstrations in demand of extended Eid-ul-Fitr holidays. His family is facing a financial crisis to provide treatment expenditures. They also demanded identification and punishments of the police personnel who opened fire on the workers.

Cambodia: Media reports that more than 100 garment workers in Svay Rieng have tested positive for COVID-19, raising concerns from unionists about insufficient safety measures in Cambodia’s garment factories. Two factories located in the Shandong Sunshell Special Economic Zone have detected coronavirus among 105 workers. Youli International (Cambodia) Garment suspended operations following the test. Among its 900 workers, 104 contracted COVID-19. 19 workers at Trax Apparel (Cambodia), which produces sportswear for several major brands including Adidas, NB, and Puma, and has 1,500 workers, according to its website, tested positive for COVID-19.

India: Media reports that a joint forum of the central trade unions has given a joint call to observe May 26 as 'Black Day for Indian Democracy',  The unions are demanding free vaccine for all, strengthening the government-run public health system at all levels and immediate help to all unorganised/informal sector workers and unemployed people in terms of free food grains and cash subsidy of Rs 7,500 per month among others.

Vietnam: Media reports that the country’s fourth wave of COVID-19 is ravaging industrial parks in the north, where a large number of textile and apparel factories are located. To deal with the situation, the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association has proposed the government and the Ministry of Health help producers buy and administer COVID-19 vaccines, with priority given to those in areas hit hardest by the pandemic. The association has also suggested firms in the industry provide financial support for procuring vaccines, to speed up nationwide vaccination efforts.

23 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that listed textile and garment makers are still suffering from falling profits, impacted by lower sales of clothing in the markets abroad amid the ongoing pandemic. Data from the Dhaka Stock Exchange showed that of the 26 listed RMG, textile and spinning companies, 16 underwent a drop in earnings. Some 10 manufactures reported a fall in profits.

Between July and March of the current fiscal year, Bangladesh earned $23.48 billion from apparel shipments, which was 2.55 per cent lower than that in the corresponding period last fiscal year.

Cambodia: Media reports that at least 84 garment workers were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Kampong Cham province.

Reports via Twitter say that 210 garment workers from H7 garment factory tested positive for COVID-19 in Pur Shenchey district, Phnom Penh. 

India: Media reports that apparel exporters from Noida, Delhi’s south-eastern neighbourhood, are facing an acute labour shortage with more than half a million mill-hands and artisans returning to their homes in rural Uttar Pradesh to escape the COVID-19 surge.

Sri Lanka: CCC Network reports that during the last few days, large numbers of garment workers testing positive for COVID-19 have been reported, and some workers have sadly died from the virus. Due to the outbreaks, some factories have closed. Workers said their hostel area had been isolated and locked down with no commuting allowed in and out of the area. Workers also said they were being refused service in local groceries because of allegations that apparel workers are spreading the virus. In one instance, a pregnant woman was forced to work for 7 months, despite a COVID-19 outbreak.

FTZ&GSEU says the government and labour department neglected the export manufacture sector and its workers throughout the pandemic, and calls for employers and the labour department to be held responsible. It also calls for a COVID-19 preventive healthcare programme through Medical Officers of Health (MOH) offices and include Factory Health Committees (FHC) with worker representation. FHCs must be registered with relevant MOH offices with details about committee members enabling Public Health Inspectors to regularly monitor their activities.

22 May

Cambodia: Media reports that the latest COVID-19 patients indentified in the Preah Sihanoul Provincial Administration  are nearly all garment workers from Sihanoukville Speical Economic Zone (SEZ) and another SEZ in the province. On May 21 alone, 267 people in the province tested positive for COVID-19.

21 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that readymade garment (RMG) exports from Bangladesh increased by 6.24% to $26.004 billion in the first ten months of fiscal 2020-21 compared to $24.478 billion in the corresponding period of the previous fiscal. 

Media reports that according to economists, the income inequality that was at an alarming level in the pre-COVID period has further intensified due to the virus outbreak, affecting mostly the overwhelming poor and middle-class population. The country’s vast poor and middle-class population is badly suffering because of unemployment, income losses and disruption in economic activities.

Media reports that amid reports that some buyers have started cancelling or withholding orders, even if not as much as they did last year, some are reportedly yet to pay previous dues for already shipped goods, the BGMEA has started collecting information related to cancelled, withheld or unpaid work orders so as to determine the current state of due payment along with shipped or manufactured goods. The BGMEA has issued a circular to its member factories, to collect the required information. The BGMEA President further, maintained that it has developed a web portal to collect information related to withheld, cancelled and unpaid orders while also calling upon the members to provide the information regarding the same.

Media reports that the Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) Group Chairman John Herring said its new owners will buy stock that is sitting in Bangladeshi factories, after the BGMEA wrote to the group seeking the outstanding dues to be cleared. In the latest reply to the BGMEA, EWM Group Chairman Herring asked Bangladeshi suppliers to contact administrators directly to determine claims for any invoices that had not been settled by the companies.  Edinburgh Woollen Mills and its subsidiary brands owe about £27 million to Bangladeshi apparel suppliers.

Cambodia: Media reports that the Takeo Provincial Administration reported 40 more COVID-19 cases including vendors, students, garment workers and migrant workers.

Media reports that the Kampong Cham Provincial Administration revealed the identity of 93 people infected with COVID-19 as mostly garment workers.

Media reports that about 300 workers protested, demanding that factory owners pay them half of their April salaries as the government previously announced. Lai Samphors, a worker at Canteran Apparel garment factory, said “I am in a very difficult situation. The workers are facing difficulties and backed into a corner...It is our last resort,” The workers were concerned about possible COVID-19 transmission by gathering for the protest, however Samphors said “there is no choice so we have to block the road.”

Another worker, Chum Sath, said they had been paid $50 of what was owed, with the remainder promised on May 27. “We pay $50 just for our rooms. It is not enough. And [there’s] the cost of food, payments to the bank, payments for milk for the baby, some for parents for their treatments, and daily expenses,” Sath said. The factory and district administration said later. However, Sann Sopha, a representative of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said it was her understanding that the factory had not agreed to pay more than $50.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that 400 workers at a garment factory in the Modaravila Industrial area in Panadura have been infected with COVID-19, after 2,000 workers were tested. 

Media reports that following the open letter they wrote to the government, factory owners and buyers to protect garment workers during the second COVID-19 wave, Dabindu Collective Sri Lanka, Revolutionary Existence for Human Development, Sramabimani Kendraya and Standup Movement Lanka called for a press conference today. At the conference, Stand Up Movement Lanka said, "Right now it is like slavery within the FTZs - the government has allowed management to work in a very irresponsible manner. There are no investigations on whether health guidelines are followed within factories"

20 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that of the total export earnings made in July-March of FY21, readymade garmen exports fell 2.56% to $23.48 billion.

Cambodia: Media reports that Cambodia is predicted to have a 2.9% GDP growth after last year’s contraction, however pre-pandemic growth will not be reached until at least 2022. The economic slump in the EU and the US – both large export markets for Cambodia – has weighed heavily on exports of garments, which comprise over 60% of Cambodia’s total exports.

Media reports that over the past two weeks, at least 80 garment workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in provinces outside Phnom Penh. The most recent infections come after the government lifted restrictions on travel and announced new regulations for the safe reopening of factories.

Union leaders and civil society groups say the ongoing spread of the virus among garment workers is due to insufficient closures of factories, which are largely permitted by officials to stay open with limited closures of impacted sections. Meanwhile, provincial authorities say the most dangerous point for viral transmissions is on the tightly packed truck transports for workers.

20 garment workers from the Horizon Outdoor company factory, which supplies VF Corporation, tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in the closure of five buildings, where around 3000 workers worked. A 29-year-old garment worker said she is very worried the factory is still in operation and urges the factory owner to temporarily close the factory, “We are now working under fear”

Media reports that there have been dozens of new infections at two local footwear factories in the Kampong Cham province. 51 workers tested positive for COVID-19 between factories owned by the Carlington (supplies VF Corporation) and Juhui Footwear companies. Authorities are pointing to tightly packed truck transports as a possible source of infection.

The latest cases add to 35 confirmed among garment workers in Kampong Cham province and appear to be connected to the flow of factory staff out of Phnom Penh after travel from the capital was permitted to resume.

Authorities have temporarily closed  the Carlington footwear factory as one of four manufacturers with recorded cases of COVID-19. The other three factories, including Juhui, have closed parts of their operations.

Labour leaders say the main preventive measures used to curb factory outbreaks don’t go far enough to protect workers.

India: Media reports that textile and apparel exports from India declined by 10% during fiscal 2020-21 ending March 31.

Lesotho: Following previous reports on the shooting of workers protesting in demand of minimum wage increases, Solidarity Center (SC) reports that the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU) General Secretary told SC that eight workers were hospitalised after beings shot at with rubber bullets, and in one instance, live rounds. Lesotho’s unions, including garment workers, are imploring the government to make good on two missed incremental minimum wage increases—for 2020/2021 and 2021/2022—that have been delayed. “Our garment worker members, with whom we are already addressing rampant gender-based violence in their factories, want the world to know that their peaceful rallies in support of scheduled wage increases were met with outsize police violence,” says Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) Deputy General Secretary May Rathakan. 

Sri Lanka: Media reports that small COVID-19 clusters have begun to emerge in garment factories in Sri Lanka. Free Trade Zone and General Services Employees Union (FTZGSEU) Joint Secretary Anton Marcus said that nearly 50 factories in the Katunayake FTZ are currently infected.

He said out of the total number of 300,000 employees working in the Katunayake FTZ, it has been estimated that nearly 50,000 employees have been infected.

Anton Marcus said despite employees calling for the factories to be closed, the employers are refusing to do so due to urgent and pending orders.

Anton Marcus further said that even though some factories are conducting PCR tests, a majority of the factories have instructed employees to conduct PCR tests on their own, resulting in many failing to do so due to the high cost of the test.

19 May

Global: Media reports that global trade’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis hit a record high in the first quarter of 2021, increasing by 10% year-over-year and 4% quarter-over-quarter. The rebound continued to be largely fuelled by trade in goods. The rebound is expected to continue into Q2 2021, with the value of global trade in goods and services forecast to reach $6.6 trillion.

Bangladesh: Media reports that according to the BGMEA, more than 98% of garment factories under the BGMEA paid salaries and Eid bonuses bonuses to their workers. Workers from the rest of the factories will receive their wages and bonuses by Wednesday (today).

Media reports that workers of Padma Wears readymade garment factory on blocked the road adjacent to Chittagong EPZ demanding payment of wages. According to the protestors, their employer shut down the factory and fled three months ago without paying the workers. Shahida, one of the protestors, said: “The owner of the factory shut down his business in February without paying our salaries. We requested BEPZA continuously for the last few months for a peaceful solution but we did not get any satisfactory response. We took to the streets seeing no other alternative.”

Media reports that the worsening COVID-19 situation in India and ongoing military coup in Myanmar has led to some work orders being shifted to Bangladesh.

Media reports that ready-made garment factories are going to open in phases and go into full-scale operation within next week. A few factories have already opened in the last three days after Eid. However, several factories do not have work orders, or even if they do, it is much lower than usual due to the pandemic, so, they are taking time and opening factories slowly.

Cambodia: Media reports that after weeks of not being paid their wages while under lockdown, garment workers are struggling to pay off their debts. One worker explained, “I need to pay rent, utilities and debts. I worry that I will get infected by going to work without being vaccinated, but I don’t really have a choice.” Despite  the Cambodian Microfinance Association telling its members to assist struggling clients, several borrowers had not been offered the moratorium and feared losing land as collateral. “The (microfinance) staff told me that they had not heard of this rule, so they did not have to do it.”

Media reports that Phnom Penh will now be virtually free of Red Zones, where many workers were quarantined under strict regulations, due to the decline in COVID-19 infections. Dark yellow and yellow zones will remain, where there are less restrictive lockdown measures. In the dark yellow zones, people are allowed to go outside and shop for necessities, but they are still barred from going to work. A factory worker said that her area has been locked down for more than one month, and she and her relatives are facing difficulties because they have no income.

“We do not work, so we could not have income to pay expenses each day. “The most important thing is we do not have money to pay for the rental room and electricity and water.” She shares her room with three relatives, but because food aid is allocated per house, rather than per person, they are still struggling.

Media reports that two new factory outbreaks have been reported in Kampong Chhnang and Takeo provinces respectively. The Kampong Chhnang Health Department announced 21 new positive cases of Covid-19 of workers at the Horizon Outdoor (Cambodia) Co Ltd factory. which supplies brands under VF Corporation, including Vans and Timberland. Local authorities have locked down six villages to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to other areas.

India: Media report sthat the second wave of COVID-19 might slightly impact the Indian textile sector’s supply and demand dynamics primarily in the first quarter (Q1) of FY22. The supply chain has been impacted by the local lockdowns at key textile hubs such as Tiruppur, Ludhiana, Surat and Bhilwara. The restricted movement of goods means non-availability of inputs such as yarns and fabric, which is likely to have a short-term impact on the finished output. The labour availability has also been impacted moderately and shop floors are likely to remain functional at a few plant sites but with restricted occupancy. 

Media reports that a study of migrant workers in Kapashera, Delhi found that wages for the average household fell by 80% during the lockdown of March-May 2020. Even now, before Delhi saw a locked down imposed again in middle of April, their incomes had not risen to their regular (pre-pandemic) levels. 

This is largely due to the fact that 84% of the respondents had no work, as companies temporarily suspended their operations. None of the respondents received any assistance from their company or contractual employer to help them survive through the lockdown. 

65.5% of the residents said they did not receive any COVID-19-specific aid during the entire period of the lockdown. Most respondents said that almost all government aid was provided to those migrant workers who had returned to their native villages and hometowns during the lockdown. Most workers worked for  export companies dealing with higher end fashion products. Their incomes and livelihoods were directly tied to the global demand of these products which are now being produced in lesser supply. A worker explained: “We used to get bulk purchase orders primarily from countries like the US. When no one orders anything now, how will we get work?"

Media reports that workers in Bengaluru are at risk of COVID-19 due to inadequate safety measures at work places, according to a study by the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU). It reports that the government has failed to ensure adequate preventive steps to protect workers. Most workplaces fail to provide adequate safety measures including masks and sanitisers, and since most workers don’t have access to regular testing or adequate access to health care, the majority of them are vulnerable to being infected. Meanwhile, migrant workers’ who are unfamiliar with local languages face hurdles in accessing medical and health services.

Rajanna, a garment worker, was ferried in an ambulance arranged by the civic body and provided free hospital admission at a government healthcare centre. However, his family was asked to procure medicines from outside the hospital and ended up paying Rs 15,000. He was eventually terminated from his job, which has further affected his family financially. “This shows that a large class of people had no access to healthcare while others were unable to afford the same.” 

Media reports that the Karnataka Chief Minister announced a special package of Rs 1,250 crore to poor people who have been deprived of their livelihood because of state-wide lockdown. Garment workers will be given Rs 2,000 in relief compensation, which will go directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.

Media reports that as migrant workers are returning home amid the second COVID-19 wave, immediate attention needs to go towards extending existing labour codes to protect migrant workers.

Southeast Asia: Media reports that increased cases of COVID-19 are sweeping across Southeast Asia, leading to a series of measures restricting movement of citizens, lockdowns and curfews, which could impact the recovery of ASEAN nations economies from the first COVID-19 wave. However, it is reported that worldwide vaccination may downsize the impact this new wave has on economies, particularly in Cambodia.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that the COVID-19-induced downturn in the Sri Lankan manufacturing sector deepened during April as reflected by further contraction in the Manufacturing PMI, which fell by 5.8 index points from the previous month. This decline was mainly driven by the New Orders, Production and Employment sub-indices. Many respondents in the textile and wearing apparel sector highlighted that they have not received orders for their regular products, particularly from the US and European buyers, due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in those countries.  The stock of purchases also decreased in line with the decline of production and new orders. Suppliers’ Delivery Time lengthened further during April, due to the longer lead-times caused by the delays in shipments and local logistics. The decline of Employment was mainly due to discontinuation of some casual/temporary employees.

18 May

Global: In a statement, the Clean Clothes Campaign network is calling upon apparel companies to take action to mitigate the pandemic’s devastating effect on garment workers, and urges governments to do all in their power to keep workers safe, in the face of the current wave of COVID-19 infections.

Bangladesh: Media reports that according to a study, 47 apparel manufacturing units in the port city of Chittagong shut down last year due to the pandemic. It is estimated that 22,000 workers lost work as a result of cuts in workforce or factory closures. Due to the second wave, it is predicted that more factories may close for good.

Cambodia: Media reports that more than 200,000 garment workers in the red zones in Phnom Penh have been vaccinated. According to the vaccination campaign, 50% of the total workers in Phnom Penh have been vaccinated. 

Media reports that Cambodia’s exports to South Korea, including clothing & footwear, increased by 8.9% compared to the same period last year.

Lesotho: Solidarity Center reports via Twitter that police in  Lesotho have shot 12 garment workers and 2 children who staged a rally demanding unpaid wages and benefits. Union leaders ay police chased and beat workers in villages as they broke up the march.

17 May

Global: Clean Clothes Campaign reports that the CCC has joined the People’s Vaccine Alliance and its call for the TRIPS waiver, which is “critical to protecting the occupational health and safety of poor workers, mostly women, who are part of the global supply chains of international brands and retailers.”

Bangladesh: Media reports that the BGMEA has again proposed that the government grant more tax cuts for the apparel industry, citing losses made due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which amount to a 16% fall. It has proposed to reduce the tax at source on readymade garment exports from the existing 0.5% to 0.25% for the next five years and not to deduct income tax against this source tax. It has also proposed that the apparel sector be allowed to repay their incentive loans through 30 instalments in three years instead of 18 instalments in two years.

Media reports that after the Eid holiday, garment factories have begun to return to normal activities, as workers return to work. Factory owners are hoping they will be able to start production by May 20.

Cambodia: Media reports that approximately 128 workers from various factories in Ang Snoul district have been successfully treated and discharged yesterday. Ang Snoul district had a large number of cases arising from factory clusters, mostly from garment factories.

Italy: Media reports that Chinese textile workers in Prato are returning to China, as Italy’s low-budget textile industry has been hammered by repeated lockdown. "The problem is that here there is no work anymore, there is only fear," said Luca Zhou, who heads the Chinese community's civil protection association. "Lots of Chinese have left, and lots more want to leave."

Lesotho: Media reports that following the reports of sexual harassment and violence at a supplier for Fabletics, the union at the factory, the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) is preparing to sign a recognition agreement with the factory as per labour laws, as more members continue to join. However, Hippo Knitting has cancelled the stop order agreement for union dues following recent action by workers demanding the gazetting of new wages by the government. Of the 1,000 workers at Hippo Knitting, 538 are IDUL members of whom 479 are women.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that garment workers in Sri Lanka’s free trade zones have urged the government to protect their lives as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads rapidly in the zones. Sister Noel Christine Fernando of the Sisters of Charity who also heads Sramabimani Kendraya said " Four pregnant women have already lost their lives due to the coronavirus. Therefore, we urge Minister of Labor Nimal Siripala de Silva to take immediate steps to protect the lives of pregnant mothers working in the factories." In random PCR tests carried out in a garment factory in Katuwellegama, 50 workers were found to be positive. On May 7, the factory was closed and all workers were subject to PCR tests. The results revealed that the number of workers who tested positive had risen to 300, while 150 workers continued to work as the factory reopened on May 10. In another garment factory in Katunayake, 100 workers tested positive. Saduni Thushari, 32, a garment worker, said female workers fear that if they don’t go to work, factory owners will deduct their leave. "They are also reluctant to stay at home because their wages are cut, therefore they go to work because they are struggling to survive," she said

16 May

Cambodia: Media reports that Phnom Penh City Hall has revealed the identities of 144 new COVID-19 patients, including garment workers, linked to a community event that took place February 20.

15 May

Cambodia: Media reports that the Takeo Administration has recorded 30 new cases of COVID-19, half of which were garment workers  (14 from Sanbo factory and 1 from JD Garment  Factory). Two cases were also from Phnom Penh, one of which was also a garment worker.

India: Media reports that garment units in Tirupur have shut down operations in view of the worsening pandemic situation. They will remain closed until May 24. The closure of the units has spared an exodus of migrant workers from the textile town to the north Indian states. 

Sri Lanka: An open letter to the  Government, factory owners and buyers sets out key demands for all parties to address the COVID-19 crisis in the Free Trade Zones (FTZ). The demands include prioritising workers for the COVID-19 vaccination, putting in place random PCR testing programme across all factories, implementing track and trace, as well as isolating and transporting workers testing positive and their first contacts to quarantine. Factory owners are called on to provide safe living quarters in close proximity to the factory, ensure workers isolating are paid in full for days they are in quarantine, and provide relief packs for all workers. Buyers are called on to pay a premium for production during lockdown/restricted periods, and to include COVID-19 safety measures in their buyer’s code, and in periodic audits. The letter was signed by the Dabindu Collective Sri Lanka, Revolutionary Existence for Human Development, Sramabimani Kendraya & Standup Movement Lanka.

Media reports that Hundreds of workers at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone (FTZ) have been infected with the coronavirus but operations are continuing. “Workers are very afraid though, as some co-workers have shown symptoms such as red eyes, fever, cough, and with some fainting whilst at work. The situation is particularly dangerous as there’s nobody of authority to take responsibility for the workers, as most of the human resource personnel are working from home,” activists said.Workers from some factories fear that if they don’t go to work, those days will be cut from their leave. Many who test positive are also not taken to quarantine centres, and have not been informed of a vaccine plan. The Government has not implemented welfare provisions for such workers this time around, making them particularly vulnerable.  

USA: Media reports that the import of textiles and apparel by the United States increased by 4.32% to $24.645 billion in the first quarter of 2021, compared to imports valued at $23.626 billion in January-March 2020. China was the largest supplier of textiles and clothing to the US during the three-month period, followed by Vietnam. 

14 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that the BGMEA President Farooq Hasan has said that there is an extreme crisis in the export of readymade garments, that has intensified. He said that during July-April 2021, the export of woven garments decreased by 16.84%. In March alone, woven garments decreased to 24.6% and decreased again in April by 6.36%. Hasan also said exports had declined by 18% in the last fiscal year and another 6.72% in the first 10 months of the current financial year.

Media reports that thousands of people continued to leave Dhaka and adjacent areas on Thursday for their village homes, defying coronavirus restrictions to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr where they currently reside. A garment worker who defied COVID-19 restrictions and is returning home explained, ‘I will not get leave for long time from my workplace at any other time. That is why, I am using the chance to meet my family and relatives.’

Media reports that John Herring, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) Group Chairman, has, reportedly, informed the suppliers in Bangladesh that EWM Group’s new owners will buy ready to be shipped orders that had been cancelled earlier. Herring maintained that the new owners are happy to take the stock that sits in Bangladesh factories that is finished and ready to ship.

Media reports that the BGMEA has sought a timeframe of three years to pay back loans, and presented a set of recommendations to the Government on behalf of the trade body, ahead of the national budget for FY22 and Eid Ul Fitr .The recommendations included forming a special fund for the micro and medium enterprises to recoup their losses from the COVID-19 pandemic and thus restore their production.

Media reports that the after the extended Eid holidays for garment workers were reduced to three days, the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council  reached an agreement with the factory owners’ association BGMEA to jointly call on employers to announce a minimum of five to ten days. When the Ha-meem group of factories announced just three days of holidays, a spontaneous protest erupted, resulting in 22 workers being injured. Only after the violent response to the workers, did the company extend the Eid holidays. 

Cambodia: Media reports that 37 garment workers are among 50 new COVID-19 cases reported in five districts of Takeo Province.

Media reports that the Labour Ministry reminded factory owners to provide updated payroll lists so that workers entitled to the government’s new subsidy programme can be contacted for enrolment. The “Social Assistance in Cash After Lockdown” programme will help low-income citizens facing hardship after the implementation of large-scale lockdowns but factory owners must immediately update the phone numbers and Cambodia identity cards of workers in the payroll list of March 2021. If any worker fails to receive assistance and it is deemed the employer’s fault, the owner or director of the factory will be responsible for paying the subsidy to the worker.

Media reports that tens of thousands of Cambodians are going hungry under the country’s strict lockdown as COVID-19 cases continue to rise amid criticism from human rights groups that the government and the UN are being too slow to act. On 18 April, a group was established on the Telegram messaging service by the Phnom Penh authorities to coordinate emergency food requests. Ten days later, the group had more than 50,000 members and contained thousands of messages pleading for food and support. By 23 April, members were asking why they had received no response to their calls for support. The group was suspended on 6 May. Those who have spoken out have faced violence from police, who have posted videos of beatings on social media, according to human rights groups. Others have been arrested. Further coverage of the situation here 

Media reports that A 21-year-old garment factory worker was arrested for fleeing from quarantine, after his factory was shut due to people there testing positive for COVID-19. The man was charged for evading quarantine under the COVID-19 Law and faces six months to three years in prison and a fine of 2 million to 10 million riel (about $500 to $2,500). 

Media reports that garment workers in Cambodia are asking employers for time off from their jobs following recent COVID-19 outbreaks in their factories, but managers are denying their requests, with at least 420 factories reporting infections as of May 5.

India: Media reports that India’s merchandise exports in April 2021 increased by 197.03% compared to  April 2020. The value of exports in the first week of May 2021 is also up by almost 9% over the same period of 2019-20.

Media reports that garment units in Tirupur have turned into COVID-19 hotspots, with scores of employees testing positive. Even as the garment sector decided to shut operations from Friday in Tirupur, six units had to be sealed in the last three days after employees were found infected. Health authorities in Tirupur said that they tested all employees in textile units that have more than 200 workers. 18 of 295 employees of an export unit at Kkulathuputhur tested positive. At another unit in Sirupooluvapatti, 33 workers tested positive. In four units functioning on Mangalam Road, Asher Nagar, Andipalayam and Palladam Road, health staff found that 8, 19, 32, and 23 workers were infected respectively. Officials said that the infections were caused by the failure on the part of garment units to screen employees for temperature every day, check for symptoms and isolate those with symptoms. In some units social distancing was reported to be absent and workers were not wearing masks.

Media reports that six trade unions in Tamil Nadu have wrote to the Chief Minister, asking for the removal of the garment industry from essential services along with other welfare demands, due to the spread of COVID-19 in factories. The letter read: “In each of these factories anywhere between 100 to 1,000 labourers work in close proximity. This means that the workers, their families and the society at large are in danger of contracting and spreading the disease.” 

In Tiruppur, more than three lakh workers are eligible claimants of the Employees State Insurance (ESI), but there aren’t enough medical facilities in the district to claim the insurance. So, the unions have urged the state to intervene and with ESI funds generate makeshift oxygen beds for the employees and their families.

As of now, the factories have decided to shut from May 14 to 24.

Pakistan: Media reports that the value of textile and garment exports from Pakistan rose by 9.06% year-on-year in the first nine months of fiscal 2020-21. During the nine-month period, Pakistan earned $11.355 billion from textile & apparel exports, against $10.412 billion in July-March 2019-20.

Peru: Media reports that Peruvian textiles and clothing exports exceeded the pre-pandemic level in the beginning of 2021 and the monthly average exports are projected to reach $123.09 million between May and July 2021, owing to the implementation of healthy economic policies and rising demand from the US and the EU. The exports rose consistently after experiencing a drop in H1 2020.

Sri Lanka: Reports from Facebook state that hundreds of FTZ workers have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last month. Workers who tested positive have been told to self-quarantine at their hostels, as quarantine centres are full and they have yet to receive instruction from the government. Workers in self-quarantine have not received any relief and have had to manage on their own or depend on hand-outs from other workers. Other workers living at the hostels share the same toilets and common spaces. Workers are supplying factories that supply GAP, Marks & Spencer, L Brands, H&M, Next, George by Asda, Lidl, Amazon, PVH, Lululemon, Patagonia, Pentland, ASOS.

13 May

Bangladesh: Media report that the President of the BGMEA amidst reports of different percentage of Eid bonuses already paid, expressed the hope the 100% of factories would have paid the bonus on time for Eid-ul-Fitr. The article further reported that out of 1,913 units, the owners of 1,866 units (97.54 per cent), reportedly, already paid salaries for the month of April up to 11 May while bonus was also, reportedly, being paid in 1,882 factories (99 per cent) till Tuesday. Media furthermore report that the government is likely to extend lockdowns in Bangladesh beyond 16 May.

Bangladesh employers' association BGMEA has written to British retailer Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) urging the company to pay money owed for goods shipped and released but not paid for. The article states that the BGMEA might be considering legal action.

Cambodia: Media report that vaccination of people in red zones has reached 80% but that Po Sen Chey and Meanchey districts, where there are a lot of factories and workers are not ready yet for vaccination. 12 vaccination teams from other areas have been mobilised to vaccinate in areas with a lot of workers. The article states that in the area there are five large factories in these areas with up to 95,000 workers.

A migrant worker returning from Thailand tested positive for Covid-19.

A recent survey showed that food shortages, loss of incomes and feelings of helplessness are common among vulnerable groups during the lockdown. 77 percent of respondents say they faced food shortages in the week prior to the survey, 68 percent no longer earn an income since the lockdown. Horng Vuthy, programme coordinator at labour rights group Central, said workers struggled to adjust to last-minute announcements about measures: “We want to help people and workers in need, and if the authorities are open-minded about [us] providing food to people in lockdown zones, it will be easier for us too.” The abrupt measures were implemented to prevent Covid-19 transmission, but workers and others were not primed to accept that information, Vuthy said. “We should have announced and let people know. If we do it suddenly, it seems like the situation is really hot. It makes people fall into a panic and it is difficult to accept,” Vuthy said.

Another article reports that the government promised to give cash aid to low-income people living in “red zone” lockdown areas, of about $39 to $78 for families and $40 to garment workers, following protests over food shortages, rents and receiving vaccines. Ros Sithat, a 31-year-old garment factory worker living in a locked-down area of Stung Meanchey I commune, said she was happy to hear the news. “I am lacking. I don’t know when the factory is going to reopen. It has been a long time since April 12,” Sithat said. A second article reports that cash assistance is likely to reach those in need on lockdown areas early June.

India: An article in China Labour Bulletin about the situation for garment workers in India reports about the fact that many garment factories in Karnataka remain open during the lockdown with half of their employees at work, but absent personal protection kits. The author states that even if workers show visible symptoms of Covid-19, they still turn up at the factories, out of fear of being laid off. The author also states that only after four workers reportedly died and many many others were effected in Shahi factory unit 8 in Bengaluru, producing for H&M, Benetton and Columbia sportswear, the factory was closed down temporarily in May. At the same time transport services for workers and creche facilities are limited like in the first lockdown. Migrant workers who want to return home have trouble finding tickets and the author notes that the urgency of vaccinating migrant workers is not followed up on.

Media report that India's GDP growth for projected for financial year 2022 will be 9.2 per cent, with 10.2 per cent still projected in April. This assumes that lockdowns would be rolled back in June. The article states that supply chains are affected more than in the first wave as more workers get infected. Another article reports that India's garment and textile exports dropped by 13% in the past year.

Thailand: Media report that despite closure of borders, migrant workers from Cambodia and Myanmar continue to try to cross the border, and get caught. Thai authorities especially fear the risk of the spread of the strain of the virus that originated in India through these border crossings.

UK: Media report that despite lifting of lockdowns online clothing sales continue to grow in the UK.

US: Media report that the Sew Nice factory is being ordered by authorities to pay its staff’s back wages, while also facing a potential fine for labour rights violations.

12 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that according to the BGMEA, around 99% of garment factories have paid the festival allowance and 97.54% of factories have paid workers’ salaries, as of May 11. Regarding the Eid holiday, factory owners have been allowing extended holidays in consultation with the workers. However, the BGMEA has suggested workers not to leave their residences and stay near their workplaces to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Cambodia: Media reports that The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has announced the provision of the 60th round of unemployment benefits for over 5,000 workers in the garment and tourist sectors at 29 factories and enterprises who had their employment contracts suspended.

The ministry said the payments will be paid  based on the number of days of the employee’s contract suspension. Each worker would receive 60,750 riel ($15) for contracts suspended from seven to 10 days; 121,500 riel for contracts suspended from 11 to 20 days; and 162,000 riel for contracts suspended from 21 days to a month or more.

Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thon said the continuation of the payments to unemployed workers was a good policy, but that the government should consider providing such payments to all workers in the locked down areas.

Media reports that the Arbitration Council Foundation (ACF) has said the number of labour disputes in Cambodia has dropped by nearly half over the past year compared to the year before. The number of cases dropped from 117 cases in 2019, to 66 cases in 2020. The pandemic has had a big impact on the number of disputes registered at the ACF. For example, there has been 400 factories that had to suspend operations last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting 150,000 workers in the garment and footwear sectors

Media reports that the Phnom Penh municipal authority announced it was extending targeted lockdowns for another week, including some areas that have been locked down for more than a month. While most cities are in the yellow zone and safe to open, some parts are still marked as red zones and continue to face strict lockdown measures until May 19. Workers who live in the red zones say support from the government is not enough. A factory worker named Keo Nuon said, “Based on this aid, we cannot have enough to eat because I have five members in the room for a month but if any families have only one or two members, it is enough. Now, we don’t have money to buy any food because we did not work for a month.

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday signed a declaration promising cash assistance to support low-income families that have faced difficulties during and after the lockdown. The notice also promises support to families struggling financially after a COVID-19 death or illness. Workers at garment and footwear factories can receive a one-time payment of 160,000 riel [$40] through a mechanism offered earlier by the Labour Ministry.

Media reports that garment workers have demanded that their employer, Zhen Tai garment factory, pay them a portion of their monthly wages and their Khmer New Year holiday bonus for the period when the factory was closed under lockdown. The workers say they have been paid less than 50% of their total salaries for their work in the first two weeks of April, while salaries for week three and four of April – during which the factory was suspended – will be paid on May 14.

India: Media reports that more than three-quarters of the Indian garment industry’s micro, small and medium enterprise manufacturers say they are contemplating reducing their staff by more than 25%. Meanwhile, 72% of say more than 50% of their orders have been cancelled by buyers, leading to “a huge problem of dead inventory in the coming months.” In addition, 72% of respondents said they have received less than 25% of payments due in April, and another 12% reported receiving less than 50% of payments due to them last month.

Media reports that as Delhi grapples with COVID-19, informal and migrant workers are scrambling for food supplies and struggling to feed their families, as the Delhi government has not begun the distribution of rations yet. The non-distribution of ration is adding to the economic distress of the working poor, who have lost their sources of livelihood during the lockdown imposed by the government to combat COVID-19.

Media reports that garment units in Tiruppur will close from Friday evening until May 24 in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, said a top official of the Tiruppur Exporters Association (TEA). TEA President Raja M. Shanmugam said. “ It is only now the European and the US markets that have opened up and orders have been placed. The closure due to Covid-19 will impact the delivery schedules and may affect the reputation and future orders. But we decided to close down so that the coronavirus spread is stopped." According to him, all the units are implementing the Covid-19 safety protocols.

Philippines: Media reports that GDP fell by 4.2% in the March quarter compared to 2020, marking the fifth straight quarter of declines amid pandemic-induced lockdowns. Among the major economic sectors, industry contracted by 4.7%.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that provinces will be sealed off this week after strict travel restrictions are to be imposed to prevent a further spread of COVID-19. It has been agreed to allow only essential services including apparel workers to travel between the provinces while all others will be banned from leaving their provinces. 

Media reports that while the upcoming restriction plans have been met with widespread pushback  from multiple sectors of society, as small businesses say they are being pushed to the verge of collapse while people are losing daily income from their livelihoods. A small business owner in the garment industry, who supplies to several large and small-scale clothing stores, said she hadn’t restarted her operations since she closed for New Year holidays on April 12, due to lack of orders and workers. “It’s in fact sickening to see and hear how these people call for more restrictions, which are nearly killing us, the small businesses, which they call the life blood of the economy and the livelihoods of many more people."

USA: Media reports that 10 employees from Sew Nice Inc factory in LA will be paid $5,846 in backwages after investigators found the factory had been paying workers a piece-rate, failed to pay overtime, and violated record keeping requirements when recording workers wages and working hours.

11 May

Bangladesh: In an update from yesterday’s reporting, media reports that some 200 garment factories are yet to pay the workers' salaries and bonuses as of today, despite Eid coming up in just a few days. "Nearly 10 per cent of the factories did not disburse the salaries and bonuses yet," said Md Towhidur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Apparel Workers Federation. More coverage here

In an update from yesterday’s reporting, media reports that garment workers were seriously injured when police shot "rubber bullets" at demonstrators in Tongi, Gazipur yesterday. The workers of Ha-Meem Group's Creative Collections Ltd and That's It Garments Ltd were demonstrating near their factories and protested after the management declared that the Eid break would only be for three days, said Joly Talukder, general secretary of Garment Workers Trade Union Centre (GWTUC). Garment workers' associations severely criticised the police actions. Most of the workers have been giving up their weekends to be able to see their families during the Eid, said Bangladesh Garments Shramik Samhati in a statement. "It is quite normal for the workers to work overtime to meet production goals before Eid. Then they enjoy a substantial break," it added. "The workers have not been taking a day off for one and a half months." More coverage here.

Cambodia: Media reports that 2 women were arrested for selling fake vaccination cards to factory workers in Khan Por Sen Chey. When police apprehended them, they were in possession of 10 of the fake vaccination cards, which they were selling to workers who were hoping to circumvent the government rules that factory workers must be vaccinated.

Media reports that amid the pandemic, more than 2,000 garment workers in 12 provinces have attended the Factory Literacy Programme (FLP) to acquire basic functional literacy skills and to empower them to better understand their rights and responsibilities since 2016. During the pandemic this took place via virtual workshops.

India: According to Asia Floor Wage Alliance via Twitter, 2 major garment producing hubs in India – Maharashtra and Karnataka, are reporting the highest number of active COVID-19 cases in India.

Sri Lanka: According to the CCC network, after 36 workers at an MAS Intimate's Unichela factory (supplies L Brands, PVH, Hanes) tested positive for COVID-19, JSS union had a discussion with the management and PCR testing process were continued. A further 130 workers tested positive for COVID-19. Management has now decided to do PCR tests for all workers. Those who have tested positive will be sent to the quarantine centre managed by the factory, and dry rations will be provided for their family.

10 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that 26 people were injured during a clash between garments workers demanding extended Eid leave and police in Gazipur's Tongi today. Police fired teargas shells and rubber bullets to disperse the workers.

Media reports that at least eight readymade garment workers of Ha-Meem Group protesting for extended Eid leave in Gazipur sustained bullet injuries when the police opened fire on them. Mijanur Rahman, an injured worker of the garment factory, said that one of their fellow workers met the authorities for a 10-day vacation. "When they allowed us a 7-day vacation, the fellow worker had an argument with them in this regard and he went out from the room. Later, a police member hit the worker on the head. When we wanted to know the reason of hitting him, police opened fire on us,’ said Mijanur. More coverage here .

Media reports that RMG factory owners have now given into their workers demand for a 10-day-long Eid holiday after days of protests. Workers of several factories in Mirpur went on strike last Saturday to extend the Eid holiday. Later it spread to different areas. Workers of a Standard Group factory in Kalshi, Mirpur, went on strike on Monday demanding a 10-day holiday. Later the owner accepted their demands.  Meanwhile, the workers of Ha-Meem group have protested to increase the length of Eid holiday on Monday. 

Workers of at least 10% ready-made garment factories have not yet received their wages for April, Eid bonuses, and other allowances though the Ministry of Labour had directed them to pay these by Monday. Babul Akhtar, chairman of Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF), said about 80-85% of RMG factories have already paid wages to their workers but the rest are taking time.

Media reports that textile mills in Bangladesh have registered moderate growth in terms of revenue during January-March quarter of this year on the back of increased demands and burgeoning rates of fabrics and yarn.

Media reports that the leaders of Socialist Labour Front on Monday at a protest rally called on the government to give food and cash aid to the workers of the informal sector. A large number of workers of the informal sector are deprived of wage and festival allowance, they said, and in some garment factories, owners did not pay wage and festival allowance to the workers on scheduled day on May 10. They called on the government to give food and cash aid to the distressed workers and at least a 7-day Eid holiday for the garment workers, and condemned the police firing on the garment workers in Tongi where nine workers were wounded.

Cambodia: Media reports that the Cambodian economy is projected to grow by 4% in 2021, led by a robust recovery in manufacturing and supported by continued fiscal stimulus.

Media reports that the Minister of Labour and Vocational Training released a notification pertaining to the payment of wages and reopening requirements for factories located in Yellow Zones in Phnom Penh and Takmao city,  Kandal province.

In the letter it states that factories must not require workers to be vaccinated to return to work. Any employees facing discrimination concerning their vaccination status should report the issue. The minister’s letter noted the ministry urging landlords of rental houses to reduce, remove or delay the payment of rental fees. The letter also said the 50% of wages due to employees for April as well as other benefits entitled to employees must be paid by May 14. The General Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) also published an advisory note on Saturday clarifying to its members the measures that must be in place for factories in Yellow Zones to reopen.

Priority to work the first two weeks will be given to vaccinated workers, allowing unvaccinated workers an extra two weeks to receive a jab.

If a factory can operate for this month without any positive COVID-19 cases, the expectation is that they will be able to return to full operating capacity the following month.  

Media reports that Svay Rieng Provincial Administration announced 21 new COVID-19 positive cases today - three patients were identified as garment workers.

Media reports that a 27-year-old Cambodian woman in Srei Santhor district’s Kbal Koh village died of COVID-19. The woman, named San Kimlang, was seven-months pregnant. She was a factory worker at GNT called Building 32.

As previously reported in the live-blog, another article reports on the taxi drivers and passengers detained for trying to leave the restricted red zones . Sim Chet Oudom, 29, a worker at Din Han factory, said that he knew of many garment workers who had tried to leave Phnom Penh as a result of the harsh conditions in the red zones. “The reason that they went home was because they did not have enough food to eat,” he said. “In particular they don’t have money to buy meat, fish and vegetables, or money to pay rent, electricity and water...I think that it is a high risk for them, but they are concerned about hunger rather than COVID-19 infection.”  

Media reports that residents in one of Phnom Penh’s few remaining quarantined neighbourhoods launched a small protest to demand subsidized rent while they’re legally unable to go to work. Their demand comes after Prime Minister Hun Sen implored landlords to suspend rental fees for workers during the ongoing lockdown of some areas. Ath Thorn, president of Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC) said that, so far, most landlords have not waived rental fees because the private sector has no legal obligation to do so. This leaves property owners to decide whether to follow the government’s appeal. 

Another article reports that Dor Thon, one of the protesting workers, said they weren’t afraid. “We do not have work for nearly a month. Where could we get the money for rent? Every day we’re already challenged to get food,” Thon said. Wage payments from last month were due on Thursday and Friday for most workers, but it wouldn’t be much as they had hardly worked, he said. After two days of protests, the owner had at first agreed to a $15 discount and finally $20 off.  Another group of about a dozen red-zone residents said the 100 inhabitants of their block were also ready to resist.

India: Media reports that micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) manufacturers of the Indian domestic garment industry are once again faced with a massive challenge caused by the current wave of COVID-19, with 77% of manufacturers contemplating reducing their staff by more than 25%. Uncertainty is looming large for these manufacturers, as 72% of the respondents have seen more than 50% of their orders on hand being cancelled by their buyers.

9 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that workers have protested on the streets in Mirpur, demanding full bonuses and a 10-day Eid holiday. Tania Akter Raslima, general secretary of the central committee of Readymade Garments Workers' Federation, said she went to the spot to provide legal assistance to the workers. It is their right to receive full bonus, she said. Workers of some factories stated that they were offered one-third of their Eid bonus and that's why they were protesting.

Media reports that garment workers have been demonstrating in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj, demanding an extension of the three-day Eid holidays, while employers maintained their decision to stick to the government decision and not increase the holidays. 

Media reports that according to a study, 25% of garment factories that received loans from the taxpayer-backed stimulus package dismissed their workers in a breach of conditions. The factories had agreed that they would not lay off anybody while availing the stimulus fund.  According to the survey, 59% of workers who lost their jobs received their salary only, while 18% received nothing from their employers. Only a fifth of the unemployed workers received a limited amount of support from the government and NGOs. In the absence of unemployment insurance, cash and kind support helped the unemployed to survive. 

The survey also found that the average income for workers declined by 37%. It was 39.9% for unemployed women workers. The decline in household income for employed workers was 0.7%.

Unemployed workers tried to return to their previous jobs: 63% approached their factory management. 16% declined to accept the offer due to low wage.

Meanwhile, more than 67% of factories applied for the stimulus package, and 62.7% received subsidised credit for four months. 42% cent received the benefit of deferred payment for utility bills.

Media reports that the State Minister for Labour said that apparel factory owners must clear workers wages and other festival allowances by Monday, so that workers could enjoy Eid-ul-Fitr. Following worker protests erupting across various cities, it has been decided that each individual factory will be able to decide on extending the Eid holidays. The Eid holiday for all offices will remain three days but if RMG workers want to take leave, the owners and workers will decide it at the factory level.

Cambodia: Media reports that a 30-year-old garment worker has died from after contracting COVID-19.

Media reports that police detained 55 drivers and bus conductors who were transporting garment workers out of the Red Zone in Chaom Chao I commune of Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district in violation of the lockdown order. The police said that of the workers transported from the red zones, 49 remained on vehicles that were stopped while the others were pursued back to their places of origin.  The drivers had tried to rush workers back to their hometowns as Phnom Penh was put into lockdown with some areas designated as red zones. The drivers, bus conductors and workers are being detained at a school in the district’s Kork Kanchhan commune.

8 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that garment workers from several factories took to the streets in Mirpur to stage a sit-in protest, demanding an extension of Eid holidays and payment of wages and bonuses. The workers stated that there are just a few days left before Eid but the owners have not paid their salaries and bonuses yet. Moreover, as the Eid holidays have been announced for only three days, it would be impossible to go home and return within this short time, they said, demanding an extension of the holidays and resuming public transport. 

Cambodia: Media reports that Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed factory and enterprise owners not to require their staff to be vaccinated in order for them to return to work. He said that many workers have rushed to ask for a letter from their village chief to get vaccinated in order to return to work, and that workers say they will not be able to go to work without being vaccinated, as their workplace has said it is necessary. He said that that such conditions are not yet applicable because Cambodia is in the process of vaccinating the population and vaccinations are still limited.

Media reports that the Prime Minister expressed the hope that all landlords will understand and reduce rents for affected workers in Phnom Penh and the rest of Cambodia – especially in the closed areas where workers are not paid. Regarding water and electricity bills, he also called on the Electricity Authority of Cambodia, Electricite du Cambodge, as well as the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority to focus on the issue of workers’ wages first, to find a solution. Workers who live in rented houses get a preference to charge for water and electricity.

Media reports that upon receiving information from workers living in rented housing who had a shortage of food and problems related to the price of a rented house, Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng led authorities to coordinate with the workers. The workers confirmed that the landlord had reduced the rent and offered to share their hardship while the factory was closed, but recently, landlords’ rents have risen. Disagreeing with this price increase, the workers protested. The landlord has reduced the price back by $20. The workers also received food packages and support with their utility bills.

Media reports that a 30 year old factory worker who was 7 months pregnant has died after contracting COVID-19. She worked in a factory in Ang Snoul district, Kandal province.

India: Media reports that the municipal town of Rayadurg has been a jeans garments exporter to other states in South India and abroad, however COVID-19 has led to a  decline in its exports and production. Kalyanram, a jeans garments producer, claims that the pandemic had has affected more than 35,000 workers in the district and also jeans production, which declined by 50%. 

7 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that Garment Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad (GSKOP), an alliance of 20 worker associations, demanded the payment of wages and Eid bonuses by May 10. In a statement, GKSOP- alleged that over 30% of factories did not pay Eid bonuses while more than 75% are yet to disburse wages for the month of April, even though only 5-6 days are left for Eid-ul Fitr. They also said that even though the workers kept apparel factories operational by risking their lives amid the Covid-19 pandemic, "intelligence reports" indicate many factories are unlikely to pay the wages and allowances before the Eid. 

Media reports that Bangladesh’s apparel export to the United States fell by 8.55% in January-March of 2021 compared with that in the same period of the previous year, as the demand for woven garments decreased due to the pandemic. Although the earnings from exporting RMG products to the US in the first three months of 2021 dropped, the export earnings in March, however, increased by 1.48% year-on-year, the data showed. Also coverage here.

Media reports that ahead of Eid, around 700 garment manufacturing units are being monitored closely, apprehending workers’ unrest centring festival bonus and wages. The BGMEA have reportedly already visited 554 factories, of which 510 units claimed they would overcome the payment issues before Eid while 44 factories were in talks to solve the problems.

Media reports that workers of BP Wear Ltd protested, demanding wages and holiday dues. When the workers arrived to work on Wednesday, they found a notice stating the factory had closed, and called upon workers of another factory to join the protest. Police responded by attacking the workers who had vandalised the Disari Apparel factory, and at least 10 workers were injured. The factory authorities promised to pay half of their annual leave before Eid and the other half after Eid, but the workers did not agree.

Media reports that workers of two factories, IDS Group Fashion Forum Limited and Bismillah Dyeing, which supplies the Very Group, staged a protest and symbolic hunger strike in front of Ashulia Press Club, to protest illegal layoffs and demands for unpaid wages. The workers said that last year the owners of both factories left without paying two months of salaries. The arrears are supposed to be paid by the current owner but it is not being paid. At present, the factory authorities have laid off about 80 workers from the two factories without paying arrears for four months. They also did not pay any legal dues to the workers. The factory authorities threated the workers with local goons if they demanded arrears of wages or legal dues. 

Cambodia: Media reports that the value of exports of garments and accessories from Cambodia declined by 6.43% to $1.775 billion in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021.

Media reports that factory workers in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district gathered outside their village chiefs’ homes, petitioning to receive the documentation needed for a COVID-19 vaccine so they can be allowed back to work. Hun Malai, one of the protesting workers, said she needed the document before she could get a vaccine or a COVID-19 test — one of which was required before her factory would let her return and start earning money again. “We just want the document filled with some background … to get wages to pay rents, utilities,” Malai said. There had been no rent discounts during the lockdown and suspension of work, she said. “At first, workers didn’t want to get vaccinated, but [it changed] after the factory said [there’s no] wages or resuming work unless there is the document for the vaccine or sample test.”

Media reports that workers in the red zones of the lockdown, where no one is permitted to leave home, not even to buy food, are facing starvation, as there is  no way to access food. People risk fine or arrest if they are seen moving around without a permit. In some cases, police officers have beaten people for violating the rules. “The lockdown was so rushed that I didn’t even have time to get extra food. We have hardly any food left, but I cannot leave my house because there are so many police outside,” said Thea, a 40-year-old garment worker. Many workers say they have yet to receive a single donation of food from the government yet. Those who have received food donations say it is hardly enough to feed one person, let alone a family.

Pakistan: Media reports that industrialists are preparing to slash 15-20% jobs after Eid, in the wake of a slowdown in industrial production amid the third wave of COVID-19 in Pakistan. The estimated number of layoffs translates into millions, considering the industrial sector of the economy provides job opportunities to around 21% of the total labour force.  Around 99% of textile processing industries in SITE industrial area (of Karachi) have halved their production time to 12 hours a day compared to 24 hours a day a few months ago.

Sri Lanka: According to the CCC network, 130 workers from Esquel Group Polytex have tested positive for COVID-19 and Polytex 2 has been completely closed. According to the workers, a health committee has not been formulated so far. Furthermore, according to reports, management staff were taken to the police and given a warning, for not following the health instructions.

During meal times, social distancing was not maintained, sewing machines were not disinfected and when workers are sick with the symptoms they are not sent home, instead management have organised a separate place for workers to stay.

According to the CCC network, 90 workers at Fair Trade USA and Patagonia supplier Linia Intima factory (of the MAS Group) have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, management has stopped the PCR testing process and they have informed workers that if they get any COVID-19 symptoms, they should take 3 days leave. If they do not recover, they can get the treatment from the government hospitals.

Taiwan: Media reports that Taiwan's apparel exports are expected to increase in the period between January and July to reach a monthly average of $33.02 million. The country exported apparel worth $423.68 million in 2019, which dropped by 14.05% to $364.13 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

6 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that a study has found that although almost all those who had lost their jobs in April to May last year because of the pandemic found jobs by February, 86% said they are not earning enough to meet their daily necessities. It also found that people's working hours shrank significantly, and they cut food expenditure and other expenses, obtained credit, and lost their savings. 

Media reports that the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has urged garment workers to stay at their respective workplaces during Eid holidays, to prevent a surge of COVID-19 infections. Earlier, the government informed all organisations not to give leave or holidays exceeding three days to deal with health risks and safety at work.

Media reports that hundreds of factory workers staged a protest at the TAS Knit & Fashion factory in Bangladesh. Workers said the factory owner did not pay the workers regular salary allowance, and that they had not yet received their salary and Eid bonus for April. 

Cambodia: Media reports that only vaccinated garment workers in Cambodia can return to factories that have reopened, includes images.

Media reports that the Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) said that factories and enterprises in areas with a low incidence of COVID-19 can be allowed to resume operations after the lockdown, but with strict conditions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It also proposed that the government should provide relief for workers who are unable to work due to factory suspensions or during COVID-19 treatment or quarantine as required by the authorities.  The LAC said it will recommend to the government that factories and enterprises should only have 50% of their total employees to work in rotation every two weeks, and that workers can be paid 50% of their wages and benefits. Employers should maintain monthly benefits and other benefits such as overtime of two hours per day and overtime on Sundays or public holidays.

Media reports that despite some factories reopening with half their workforce, restrictions have still had an impact on cash flow and production for several garment industry players as well as workers.  Larry Ng, executive director of the Hong Kong Business Association of Cambodia, said many factories had either closed or reduced capacity as a result of the lockdown, causing some delays in production. Among the association’s members, some reported reduced cash flow, and some buyers had switched to buying from factories outside of Phnom Penh because of delayed orders and the spread of COVID-19 among workers. A factory manager who supplies to the U.S. said his factory had been closed for weeks now, and the factory could not fulfill orders right now and is concerned about catching up on the delayed orders. When asked whether the company’s buyers were understanding of the lockdown situation with their quotas and deadlines, he said: “It’s very hard, [the] buyers only need the goods, so how can the buyer understand the situation?” 

Another factory which supplies to European and local buyers, had some financial issues because buyers would not pay until an order is complete, so the factory requested support from the government in order to pay workers’ salaries.

Media reports that thousands of people who live in areas marked as red or dark yellow zones, cannot yet return to work, causing them difficulties. One worker said of her situation, “Now, my rice is nearly empty and I do not have money to pay for the rental room, electricity, and water and especially to pay what I owe to the bank..."

Media reports that while factories may be implementing social distancing, workers still fear for their health. “The factory arranged seats so we can work more than one meter apart from each other. I think that this factory has good sanitation for workers....I am still concerned about getting infected but I have no choice, if I do not come to work, I will not get money to support my family,” she said.

A day before many factories were set to reopen, meanwhile, workers said they had not yet been told crucial details about their return. One worker said, “I do not know yet whether they will separate workers as two shifts or not."

Haiti: Media reports that garment workers and their union in Haiti have won a landmark settlement with a factory in Port-au-Prince that provided a total of $15,480 in back pay to 1,200 workers. The compensation covers 20% of the amount the employer deducted from workers’ paychecks for health care coverage by the government agency, but failed to pay to the agency. The settlement also covers many workers laid off during the pandemic and the union is working with the employer to establish processes to contact the laid-off workers so they can receive the reimbursement.

India: Media reports that according to a new study, around 230 million people in India fell into poverty due to the pandemic last year with young people and women the hardest hit, and the current second wave threatens to make matters even worse. India's months-long lockdown from last March put around 100 million people out of work, with around 15% unable to find jobs even by the end of the year. Women were especially worse-off, with 47% of women workers unable to secure employment even after virus restrictions were lifted.

Lesotho:Media reports that Fabletics has suspended operations at a factory in Lesotho following allegations of sexual and physical abuse, and states it is running a ‘comprehensive investigation’ in collaboration with an independent investigator.

5 May

Global: Media reports that 1 in 2 people worldwide saw their earnings drop due to the pandemic, with people in low-income countries particularly hard hit by job losses or cuts to their working hours, research showed. Half of those with jobs earned less because of COVID-19 pandemic disruptions. 

Bangladesh: Media reports that a recent survey found 61.57% people had lost jobs in March and April last year, due to the adverse economic impact of the COVID-19 lockdown. only 15% could avail a job the following month, while 85% remained unemployed for a longer period. Average working hours dropped by 4% causing a decline in wage earnings, with income for people in the manufacturing sector declining by 13%.

Media reports that garment workers in Bangladesh have turned to sex work to survive, after losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet. One worker shared that after being made redundant she secretly began sex work, as it is unlikely someone of her age, 45, to be rehired in the garment industry. She says the work brings her stress, and that she fears contracting  COVID-19. “I wish foreigners, especially foreign buyers, could help support us and the people of our country. These brands and these garment factories cannot imagine what state people are in and how financially deprived we are. We are in enormous pain, both mentally and financially.”

Cambodia: Media reports that at least 95 factories and enterprises have restarted production, with 15,000 workers resuming their jobs. The reopening factories are in the Yellow Zones where lockdown rules are more relaxed.

India: Media reports that the surging number of COVID-19 cases across the country is once again forcing migrant workers to leave to their home towns. The Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) has urged the Union government to provide a wage compensation of Rs 7,000 for the next three months to all priority households and migrant workers to help them tide over the unfolding crisis.  SWAN also recommended several measures for both state and Central governments to help migrant workers, who are among the worst-hit due to the stalling of economic activity in wake of curbs imposed to contain the spread of the virus.

Media reports that a survey has shown that 81% of migrant workers who were interviewed said their work has stopped because of local lockdowns. The workers reported that they have not had work for 19 days on average. 68% of the workers interviewed said they have received either full or partial wages for the last month, and only 18% had received any money from their employer after work stopped.

Indonesia: Media reports that Indonesia’s GDP contracted 0.74% year-on-year in the January to March period. The decline was less severe than the 2.19% annual contraction seen in the October to December period last year and fell within the government’s forecast range of a contraction between 1 and 0.1%.

Lesotho: Media reports that workers supplying the athletic apparel line Fabletics, co-founded by actor Kate Hudson, have reported systemic sexual harassment and abuse in their factory. Workers say unwanted touching during daily searches worsened during the pandemic, as different supervisors are now in charge. The workers also reported non-existent social distancing and poor circulation due to closed windows, and face pressure to meet targets, or they must work without pay.

Media reports that 3 factory workers were injured after police fired rubber bullets and teargas at workers demanding a 20% pay rise, after their wages were increased by just 3%. One protestor stated that the workers are breadwinners in their families, as their spouses lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and added that their strike will continue until their grievances are addressed.

Vietnam: Media reports that that Vietnam’s textile and garment export revenue totalled nearly $4.8 billion  in the first two months of this year, down just 0.01% against the same period last year. Over the two-month period, local garment enterprises have been constantly receiving new orders, according to the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association. The growth in new orders was due to the recovery of global demand following the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines around the world, said the association.

4 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that the strong performance of the US economy fuelled by relief cheques to people and the ongoing rapid vaccination holds promises for the recovery of Bangladesh's garment shipment to the US, its single largest export destination. As a result, garment suppliers in Bangladesh are receiving a higher number of queries for US-bound work orders. Ha-Meem Group, one of the leading garment exporters, has got higher orders from US-based buyers compared to two months ago. "We are full of orders up to July," said A K Azad, managing director of Ha-Meem Group. The US accounts for 90% of the company's garment shipment.

Media reports that trade unions have rejected the call by government for factories to pay workers’ wages and festival allowances by May 10, as according to the law, wages must be paid within 7 days. Meanwhile, there is concern that small factories may not pay workers’ wages and allowances in full.

Media reports that more than 50% of garment manufacturers have had to take orders for products at much lower prices than before in case of emergency due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a study previously mentioned in the live-blog revealed. Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Liaquat Ali, Chairman of Balaka Stitch Limited, said that they were taking orders at a price lower than their production cost as there was no other choice. If they did not do so, they would have been forced to go under.

Media reports that about 69% of businesses did not get funds from the stimulus package announced by the government to tackle the effects of COVID-19, while 9% do not even know of the packages. Among the industrial sectors, 58% of the garment manufacturing firms received the stimulus package, whereas this rate is 40% for the textile and 30% for the leather industry. Also, it is the large firms who had greater access to the stimulus package. 

Media reports that 8 garment workers from DK Knitwear Limited were laid off for taking part in a May Day programme in Dhaka. 

Cambodia: Media reports that Cambodia’s garment product exports contracted in the first quarter financial period as hundreds of factories remained closed temporarily because of COVID-19. Exports of clothes, footwear, and travel goods were valued at $2.4 billion in the first quarter of 2021, a 10% compared with the same period last year. 

Fiji: Media reports that the livelihood of an estimated 27,000 people who depend on the textile, clothing and footwear sector is at stake, after garment factories closed over a week ago, following a COVID-19 outbreak. The council asked for special provisions to allow garment factories to operate, as workers and their families will struggle without income, and to enable factories to continue meeting overseas orders put in place prior to the lockdown.

Media reports that factory activity hit another record high in April, with Indonesian businesses benefiting from easing supply chain disruptions and an uptick in global trade. The Indonesia manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) increased to 54.6 in April from 53.2 in March.

Tunisia: Media reports that Malta’s Bortex will be putting an end to its operations in Tunisia with immediate effect, following major losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, the formal-wear company said that its Tunisian operations became a burden on the parent company throughout the pandemic. Bortex Group’s manufacturing operations in Malta, the European Union and the Far East are unaffected by this decision.

Turkey: Media reports that Sanko Tekstil, a company affiliated with Sanko Holding in Gaziantep, has been imposing mandatory overtime on workers since the first days of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is reported that the factory  forced workers to work with the threat of "unpaid leave" during the pandemic period.

Media reports that garment factories in Turkey have been permitted to proceed with business usual to prevent supply chain disruption, despite the rest of the country being in the midst of a two week lockdown.

3 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that the Cabinet has decided to allow only a three-day holiday for Eid. Due to this, there will only be a three-day holiday for workers in the garments sector. 

Media reports that on May Day, trade unions and labour rights organisations held rallies and discussions and brought out processions on a limited scale, while others arranged virtual events.  Labour leaders said that workers were hard hit by the pandemic, as their occupational safety was not ensured in different sectors, especially the garment sector. They demanded risk allowance for workers continuing productions amid the pandemic, and said that the government should also set Tk 20,000 as the monthly minimum national wage of a worker as prices of essentials increased over the time. RMG trade unions in procession and rallies in different industrial belts demanded festival allowance and rations for workers. They urged that government not to cut job of any worker and demanded housing facility, health insurance and pension as prescribed by the law. They also demanded an end to oppression on workers. 

Germany: Media reports that apparel and fabric imports by Germany are expected to decrease in the coming months as COVID-19 cases are surging again and lockdown has been imposed in some parts of the country. The intra-trade within the EU region has also been affected as most nations in the EU such as France and Italy have also come under lockdown restrictions. 

Cambodia: Media reports that an unofficial update on COVID-19 cases reveals that at least 800 new cases have been detected and logged overnight, comprising garment factory workers and market traders in a number of provinces.

Media reports that Amnesty International has announced that Cambodia’s government must allow aid to be delivered to thousands of people in lockdown to avert a humanitarian crisis, after the government struggled to deliver food suppliers to those in need and is blocking aid groups from entering the red zones. workers were unable to leave their homes, Amnesty International has announced. Police are also using aggressive, sometimes violent, tactics to enforce restrictions. 

Media reports that Phnom Penh’s red zones continue to face strict restrictions. Phanith, 34, a garment factory worker, said some accommodations were completely locked up. “We’ve asked people who are not in a very restricted area to go buy food and hang it on the wall so we can go down to pick it up. Before vendors could come closer to the rooms, but now they cannot come close.” 

Media reports that some people living in the quarantined red-zones had not yet received their food packages from the government, as their landlords had not paid much attention to the names of his tenants given to the village or commune chief. 

Media reports that more than 1,200 workers at four factories were required to take a COVID-19 test after being found to be directly and indirectly in contact with a positive case. The factories,  PV industries (764 workers), Hour Limey (140) Lun Wei Pak Style (19) and Lincoln Manufacturing Factory (278 workers) were temporarily suspended

Fiji: Media reports that tests conducted by the Fiji Centre for Disease Control (CDC) on 791 garment workers and other individuals connected to a garment worker who tested positive for COVID-19 had come out negative. The Ministry of Health and Medical Services said they had been able to narrow down the number of work contacts from 877 to 771. 

Pakistan: Media reports that in a webinar organised by HomeNet Pakistan commemorating Labour Day, workers and worker organisations demanded social protection for home-based workers. 

Sri Lanka: Media reports that the government has decided to convert closed garment factories to COVID-19 treatment centres as the hospitals and treatments centres in the country are running out of capacity due to the third COVID-19 wave.

Turkey: Media reports that Turkish exports hit $18.8 billion this April, managing to outpace pre-pandemic levels and marking Turkey's highest ever April figure. Turkey's exports also more than doubled from the same month last year. In the first four months of this year, Turkey's exports surged 33.1% year-on-year to $68.8 billion.

2 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that export earnings rose six times year-on-year to hit $3.13 billion in April thanks to the rebound of apparel shipment with the reopening of the US and European economies.  Of the total earnings from the garment sector, some $13.99 billion came from shipment of knitwear items, registering a 15.34% year-on-year positive growth, while earnings from woven shipment fell 2.71% year-on-year to $12 billion. The demand for casual knitwear items continued to increase.

Cambodia: Media reports that 67 women workers at VF Corporation supplier Carlington (Cambodia) Co., Ltd had come into contact with the wife of a man who died of COVID-19. All workers have been placed under quarantine at home and been tested for COVID-19.

Fiji: Media reports that all 877 contacts of the garment factory worker who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier have all been identified.

Pakistan: Nasir Mansoor, the Deputy General Secretary of National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF) reports that on 30 April, workers from International Textile unit 2, Korangi Industrial Karachi, went on strike demanding their wages, an end to the third party contract system and equal wages for women.

1 May

Bangladesh: Media reports that for May Day, trade unions and labour rights organisations urged the government to ensure workplace safety and risk allowance for workers, amid the pandemic. Labour bodies called for several demands, including: bringing all workers under COVID-19 vaccination coverage and ensuring food aid, ensuring protection against and prioritising treatment for COVID-19 for garment workers, employers ensuring transport for workers during lockdown, and for workers’ festival allowance to be paid. Garments Workers Adhikar Andolan pressed their five-point charter of demands which included eight-hour work time, festival allowance and wage by Ramadan, free test and treatment of COVID-19 infected apparel workers and ration for them in similar rates as the Bangladesh Army was given. Trade unions noted this was the second year workers would observe May Day amid job and wage cuts. 

Media reports that there may be labour unrest in at least 538 manufacturing units, including textile mills and apparel factories, over payment of wages and festival allowance ahead of the Eid. 

Cambodia: CCC Network reports that representatives of trade union confederations, federations and associations working to promote labour rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia sent a letter to the Prime Minister, calling on the government to protect labour right and social protections amid the pandemic. They highlight the struggles workers have faced to make ends meet as a result of lower wages during lockdown, as well as suspensions and lay-offs. They also highlight the response of employers and international brands in the textile industry during the pandemic, which has also led to wage cuts, mas lay-offs and the targeting of trade union leaders and activists by employers, and cancelled orders by brands. The letter notes the government's response, which includes 320,000 workers receiving allowances  during periods of employment suspension, but says the government has failed in other areas. They therefore propose several requests including reminding employers of their obligations to pay workers' severance, extend the allowance scheme to other sectors, and implementing further social assistance programmes including free or reduced electricity and water utility fees.

Media reports that the Defence Ministry has been put in charge of a red-zone vaccination drive, which aims to inoculate more than 800,000 people in Phnom Penh districts hit hard by COVID-19, including many workers. Some soldiers will also work to distribute food. Garment worker Khuon Sokhon said she hoped the soldiers would be able to expedite the deliveries of food. She had been running out of food and sending messages to the government’s Telegram group for two weeks without any response,.

Pakistan: Zehra Khan, the General Secretary of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation reports that to mark May Day, home-based workers in Pakistan called for the payment of wages to all workers and an end to forcible dismissal of workers during lockdown. 

Media reports that a join press congerence on labour issues was called by labour activists and trade union leaders in connection with May Day at the Karachi Press Club. At the conference, the lack of implementation of laws put in place to protect workers, particularly during the pandemic. The speakers also said there had been no increase in the minimum rate in Pakistan during the current financial year, and demanded that on the occasion of Labour Day, all provincial governments should announce a significant increase in the minimum wage because the inflation rate was quite high.

Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation said, "“The welfare of workers is not on the government’s agenda, it seems. Every five years or so, capitalism shows us its cruel face. We need a new world order to protect the rights of workers. Labour generates capital, but here it has become the opposite of that."

Thailand: Media reports that a Bangkok Poll has revealed that the income of 40.2% of labourers in Bangkok and its vicinity was lower than their expenses amid the COVID-19 crisis. 81.8% had been affected by COVID-19-19; 52.2% had lower income, 23.3% worked harder, and 22% received no overtime payment or bonus. Some 44.7% said they had no savings, as their income and expenses were equal.

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 2021-05-31