November 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.

29 November

Bangladesh: Media report that labour leaders on Friday called on the government to take steps for revising the wage structure for the country’s garment workers adjusting wages to living costs.

Addressing a rally in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka, speakers also demanded measures to ensure proper implementation of the labour law, to stop violence against workers and unions, to safeguard workplace safety and to form a legal framework for paying compensation to workplace accident victims and to rehabilitate them.

Myanmar: Media report that workers' right violation at the Korean owned World Apparel Knitting factory, located in Shwe Pyi Thar industry zone 3.

Educational leave has been cancelled, forced overtime, forced to work until 5:30 am, no more day off on Sunday, forced and scolded all the time to get a higher target. Workers are required to be vaccinated with COVID 19 vaccine. Workers should have a card to prove they are vaccinated. The factory does not give cards to the workers to keep workers working at the factory.

Vietnam: Media report that manufacturing companies are offering higher salaries and benefits to attract workers as their year-end order books bulge, but are getting few applications amid the lingering fear of COVID-19.

Nearly two months after HCMC started to reopen its economy following months of lock-downs, soft drink producer Tan Quang Minh Manufacturing & Trading only has half its pre-pandemic complement of workers.

The rest include those who have returned to their hometowns and are not willing to return, have Covid or were in close contact with patients.

26 November

Bangladesh: Media report apparel workers blockaded roads in the different parts of the capital on Wednesday for arrears and demanded an increase in their wages due to skyrocketing prices of daily necessities.

Workers from Centex Garments, BMA Garments, Vision Garments, and some other factories blockaded the road.

Cambodia: Media report workers from a garment factory gathered to protest in front of their workplace.

The protest erupted in front of the Xinhao Sun Garment Factory located in St. 371, Village 4, Sangkat Stung Meanchey 3, Khan Meanchey. It took place on the afternoon of November 24.

According to the workers who came to the protest, the protest erupted over the termination of the employment of the worker representative by the factory owner.

The demands listed by the workers included: end of the year claim, seniority pays, maternity pays, proper implementation of the labour laws, and the instalment of a workers’ representative.

During the protest, no company representative met with the workers to negotiate with them. Workers stated that neither the factory owner or representative met with them to listen to their demands.

Vietnam: Media report 5 workers test positive for Covid-19 in Hoang Long Industrial Park, Thanh Hoa.

24 November

Bangladesh: Media report that mass vaccination of garment factory workers has started, with 60,000 workers reportedly planned to be vaccinated within a week. The rest will be vaccinated in phases.

The vaccination program officially started on Tuesday (November 23). In this phase, 13,000 workers of 12 garment factories were vaccinated in Nasirabad area.

Media report that workers at a garment factory called Denim [ডেনিম - denima] have blocked the Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Comilla's Chandina demanding pay. At 9:30 am on Wednesday (November 24) at the Harikhola area of Chandina on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Comilla, factory workers gathered and blocked the road demanding three months' salary.

Vietnam: Media report that two garment factory workers in Hai Phong have COVID-19. One patient is a worker of Hieu Hang Garment Company (address: Doc Hanh, Toan Thang, Tien Lang). The company has nearly 100 workers.

Media report on a response to a Covid-19 outbreak in Toan Thang garment factory, (based in the Doc Hanh village, Town Thang commute, Tien Lang district).

A delegation from the Department of Health, the city's COVID-19 rapid response team, together with the Tien Lang district's Steering Committee for COVID-19 prevention and control went to check and direct measures.

The garment factory has a total of 95 workers, related to Toan Thang, Tien Minh, Tien Thang, Quang Phuc, Bach Dang, and Dong Hung communes.

22 November

Bangladesh: Media report on a potential long term solution to ensuring the health and safety of RMG workers.

The twin disasters of Rana Plaza and Tazreen Factory Fire in 2012 and 2013 - that killed 1,232 workers and injured 2,650 workers - dealt a massive blow to the reputation of the Bangladesh RMG industry, the second largest garment exporter in the world. It exposed to the world the inhumane conditions under which Bangladeshi workers worked in some of these factories, as well as the lack of protections afforded these workers in the country's labour law. 

A pilot project in Bangladesh named Employment Injury Scheme (EIS) is looking to find long term solutions to protect workers against disasters. Expected to be implemented in 2022-2023 - it will run for three to five years and will be fully funded by international brands and central funds from BGMEA. Healthcare is a pillar of the EIS.

This year in March, the Institute of Health Economics of Dhaka University (DU) revealed that 40% of the country's RMG industry's workers, out of 42 lakh, are deprived of medical treatment due to the high cost of healthcare. 

Dr Ruhul Abid, President and Founder of Health and Education for All (HAEFA) in an interview earlier this year with The Business Standard said he speculated that around 60% to 70% of workers in this sector are deprived of healthcare. 

"I believe at best 10% to 20% of factories ensure this fundamental right [healthcare] for their workers and I doubt even one percent of our garment workers have health insurance coverage," he said during the interview.

A letter of intent for EIS had been signed between the Governments of Bangladesh, Germany and ILO in 2015, but it took a long time to make this much progress. Later, in early 2020, a broad level consensus was reached with the employers to initiate a trial of an EIS project. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the initiative had to face a setback.

The project has a plan to introduce an injury-based compensation approach for long-term compensation and health care for workers with permanent incapacity, and long-term compensation for family members of deceased workers. In the case of the latter, compensation would be calculated based on loss of earnings and paid periodically.

Media report that in Dhamrai, AKH Eco Apparels Ltd. has started vaccinating garment workers with Covid-19.

Managers visited the vaccination program on Sunday (November 21) at noon with Dhaka District Civil Surgeon Dr. Moinul Ahsan.

19 November

Bangladesh: Media report on the story of Sayema, a Bangladeshi informal garment worker, and her family who GoodWeave and partner organization Awaj Foundation supported with urgent food relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From August 2020 to July 2021, GoodWeave and Awaj implemented the Hidden Supply Chains in Bangladesh pilot project. The project expanded research on undisclosed production, child labor and forced labor in informal ready-made garment (RMG) supply chains, as well as associated remediation and mitigation, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on RMG workers. The project also supported vulnerable RMG workers by providing emergency food distribution, rights awareness and COVID-19 safety information during the pandemic

Sri Lanka: Media report a survey of garment workers in Sri Lanka, conducted in partnership with Solidarity Center and IndustriALL, found employer opposition and harassment has limited their ability to form unions and address workplace rights violations such as increased workloads and work hours, layoffs and temporary termination.

18 November

Bangladesh: Media report on how the Covid-19 pandemic could accelerate the adoption of automation, especially in the sample approval process. Automation would hit women in particular, who built the RMG sector. 

By 2023, it is predicted that 25% of RMG factories in Bangladesh will adopt automation.

A study by a2i and the International Labour Organization (ILO) predicts that 60.8% of garment workers will lose their jobs to automation by 2030.

Media report on child labor in Bangladesh. Faced with the reality of a worsening economic situation as a direct result of the global pandemic, the situation of many working children is getting worse, not better. New children have joined their ranks, and many have been forced into even more perilous work.

Media report on more than 500 workers of ZA Apparels Limited factory protested in the Dewan Market area in Ashulia, Savar, demanding timely payment of salaries and overtime bills.

Around 700 people are working in the factory for a long time, according to the protestors. The workers' wages used to be paid by the 10th of every month. The factory authorities, however, have been paying the salaries on the 25th for the past two months. Furthermore, the authorities pay irregularly, failing to include the overtime bill in the salary, workers claimed.

Vietnam: Media report on how Vietnam, one of the world’s largest suppliers of apparel and footwear, is experiencing a labor shortage with bosses trying to coax workers back to work. Many employees are reluctant to return after a harsh summer lockdown.

Thu Trang traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in 2019, ecstatic to get a job at a factory. She worked eight-hour shifts and was guaranteed overtime pay, and the wages were nearly triple what she had made as a farmer back home.

But during a Covid-19 outbreak this summer, the factory where she worked making Adidas, Converse and New Balance shoes virtually shut down. She and her co-workers were forced to live in a cramped apartment for nearly three months, subsisting on a diet of rice and soy sauce. In October, when restrictions loosened as global supply chain issues surged, Thu Trang decided she would pack up and return to her home province, Tra Vinh.

Her manager promised her higher wages, but she didn’t bother to find out how much.

Malaysia: Media report on a Covid-era experiment undertaken by governments around the world to reduce migrant labor. With Covid-19 reducing migrant labor in many countries, some governments are testing whether their economies can run with fewer foreign workers than in the past.

Among the most aggressive is Malaysia, a country of 33 million people that has long relied on several million low-paid foreigners to toil in its factories, construct shopping malls and harvest its rubber. Businesses credit these workers with keeping products competitive as the country grows richer and local incomes rise.

Malaysia has closed its borders to migrant workers since early in the pandemic, creating gaping labor shortages in industries such as garment manufacturing and palm oil, and making it harder for the nation’s globally important semiconductor industry to keep up with demand.

15 November

Cambodia: Media report that in Cambodia, more than 700,000 workers commute to work on the road every day.

Speaking at a training workshop for trainers on "safe and economical driving" for training truck drivers in Cambodia on November 12, Im Piseth said in 2020 garment and footwear workers commuting to work had been involved in more than 2,000 road accidents, or more than 183 times a month, resulting in 30 deaths and nearly 3,000 injuries.

Malaysia: Media report that in a Covid-era experiment, Malaysia tries dramatic reduction in migrant labor. With Covid-19 reducing migrant labor in many countries, some governments are testing whether their economies can run with fewer foreign workers than in the past.

Among the most aggressive is Malaysia, a country of 33 million people that has long relied on several million low-paid foreigners to toil in its factories, construct shopping malls and harvest its rubber. Businesses credit these workers with keeping products competitive as the country grows richer and local incomes rise.

Malaysia has closed its borders to migrant workers since early in the pandemic, creating gaping labor shortages in industries such as garment manufacturing and palm oil, and making it harder for the nation’s globally important semiconductor industry to keep up with demand.

12 November

Bangladesh: Media report that the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council has made seven demands for garment workers including a wage increase and providing other facilities in the workplace. The demands were made at a roundtable meeting at Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia Hall of the National Press Club on Wednesday (November 10).

Salauddin Swapan, an executive member of the organization said employers have taken advantage of Covid-19 to commit various irregularities, including layoffs, wage cuts and the prevention of organising and trade union registration.

Cambodia: Media report that more than 1,000 garment workers will receive some financial assistance. On November 10, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training issued an announcement that 1,037 workers of 15 different factories in the garment and textile sector will be receiving subsidies from the government. This is the 74th time that government gave out these subsidies.

The range of allowance given is from $15-$40 [per month]

China: Media report that Chinese authorities have issued warnings about parcels being potentially contaminated with Covid-19 just as the country's biggest annual online shopping festival looms, after three workers at a small company that makes children's clothing tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, authorities in Inner Mongolia's Xilinhot have told people who shopped at or received packages from another clothes store in the past month to report to the local disease prevention department after more traces of Covid-19 were detected. No positive tests have been linked to the items.

Myanmar: Media report that, according to data compiled based on a monthly report by the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, 256 garment factories that closed last year were hit hard by the third wave of Covid-19 and the February 1 military coup.

As a result, more than 150,000 garment workers are unemployed in Yangon Region, according to the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association.

A garment worker who spoke on condition of anonymity said that workers' rights were being violated more than ever before.

"This is not the era of workers, it is the era of employers," he said. That's what many employers say, no matter where you go."

5 November

Bangladesh: Media report that Stylecraft Limited and Young One Limited factory workers marched towards the Prime Minister’s Office seeking the intervention of prime minister Sheikh Hasina to get their unpaid wages. The march was started at Shrama Bhaban in Dhaka and it was halted near the Kadam fountain near the National Press Club.

Owners of the garment factories situated in Gazipur closed the factories about six months ago without paying wages of workers. The workers have been staging a sit-in in front of Shrama Bhaban in Dhaka for past 10 days. Garment Workers Trade Union Centre general secretary Joly Talukder said that factory owners did not obeyed the of tripartite agreement which was negotiated to resolve the crisis.

Global: Media report on how the pandemic could be what prompts companies to  spread out where they source their materials.

Steve Lamar, head of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, a trade group that represents hundreds of companies, says retailers have been staking out suppliers in Central America or Africa as part of a “generational sourcing shift to diversify their supply chains.”

Myanmar: Media report on how Myanmar’s garment industry hit first by COVID-19, is struggling to recover from the aftermath of the military coup and could take years to return to normal, business owners say.

According to the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, nearly 60 garment factories have been temporarily and permanently closed due to the political crisis caused by COVID-19 and military coup in 2021, leaving more than 200,000 unemployed.

A local garment manufacturer said, “Currently, no factory is fully operational. The maximum you can do is ‌ even 60%."

Sri Lanka: Media report that UNISON is attempting to come to the aid of medical rubber glove manufacturing workers in Sri Lanka.

General secretary Christina McAnea has co-signed a letter that has been sent to the investors of the Australian company Ansell, ahead of its AGM on 11 November, urging them “to help change the corporate culture of worker exploitation in Sri Lanka in Ansell workplaces.”

This includes denying workers their right to form and join trade unions of their own choosing and to collectively bargain.

The letter has also been signed by Anton Marcus, joint secretary of the Free Trade Zone and General Services Employees’ Union (FTZ&GSEU) in Sri Lanka. For decades, Ansell has refused to recognise the union, even when it represented well over the 40% threshold of workers required by Sri Lankan labour law.

Their letter adds: “Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when workers have been at great risk of infection and immense pressure due to the exponential rise in global demand for PPE, Ansell refused to negotiate with the FTZ&GSEU, who had been alerting management to safety oversights on the behalf of its members.

“Workers are currently not being paid the stipulated overtime rate for the weekend. Ansell also refuse to pay the wages of workers with underlying health conditions who cannot work during the pandemic due to the unsafe working conditions. These are further breaches of Sri Lankan labour law.”

Safety concerns on the factory floor include the absence of social distancing.

Human rights abuses across the rubber glove industry are rife, with forced labour a serious concern, as well as the absence of proper safety procedures as factories have gone into overdrive to meet the global demand for PPE.

Vietnam: Media report that production has restarted in the nearly 200 Vietnam factories that make Nike products after Covid-19 outbreaks. Pouyuen Vietnam, a unit of one of the world’s largest makers of athletic shoes, Pou Chen Corp., said 70% of its workforce has returned to work 

3 November

Bangladesh: Media report that workers from Stylecraft garments factory in Gazipur have protested in the capital for arrears of about Tk 80 crore. Managing Director Shams Almas Rahman has gone missing after closing the factory just before Eid-ul-Adha.

Workers say that 4,300 employees have not received salaries for between 4 and 11 months, along with two Eid bonuses owed during the pandemic.

Myanmar: Media report that up to one third of unemployed female garment workers are turning to sex work. Rising joblessness because of factory closures - impacted by COVID-19 - and no social safety net has forced many in the garment industry to seek alternative incomes. 

“It’s not as good a job for me because the income is not guaranteed day-to-day. We get money depending on if customers visit: if there are no customers, we won’t get money,” says one worker, adding that she makes at most about K10,000 (US$5.10) a day, compared to her previous monthly salary of K600,000 (US$309) a month. “The customers are also rare these days because of the country situation and the third wave of COVID-19.” 

In the first six months of 2021, the International Labor Organization found 250,000 jobs had been lost in Burma’s garment manufacturing sector, and that 86% of those now unemployed were female. 

According to a study by business oversight group Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, 70% of 240 factories interviewed closed as they had no orders; fires (post-coup sabotage, insurance scams, and accidents), the imposition of martial law, and COVID-19 outbreaks surprisingly constitute a far smaller number of cases.

1 November

Bangladesh: Media report that a government document by the Home Ministry has stated that factories could not pay wages on time on the "excuse" of various Covid-induced crises such as cancellation of purchase orders, non-receipt of work orders, shortage of capital, and a lack of loans and funds from stimulus packages.

Workers said they have arrears in wages for four to nine months.

"Our total due is over Tk70 crore. But the factory owner now wants to pay just Tk2.5 crore, which is unrealistic," factory worker Afrin told The Business Standard. "We will stay here until the arrears are realised."

Labour leaders have threatened to launch a movement for arrears at two Opex Group garment units at Narayanganj and Mirpur. According to the list, Nurunnahar Knit Apparels at Pallabi has not yet paid workers' wages for September.

Pakistan: Social media reports and footage (below) show workers protesting at a factory gate. The factory is believed to be International textile Ltd Unit 2, manufacturing towels for Standard Textile France, STC & London luxury accor.

The factory contractor expelled 25 workers from the factory without giving them show cause notice or any reason. Workers are being threatened by contractor when they started protest for their rights at the factory gate. 

Vietnam: Media report that 60 percent of garment workers have returned to Ho Chi Minh City. Makers say that is still a shortage, with production being ramped up as COVID restrictions end elsewhere around the world. 

Workers are not returning for various reasons. One of them is a fear of another Covid outbreak and attendant restrictions. A survey by the HCMC Business Association in September found that only 40 percent of workers at manufacturing companies wanted to return to the city when it reopened. 

This was because many lived in areas with low-quality housing and a high population density, which increased the risk of contracting Covid-19, Tran Viet Anh, deputy chairman of the HCMC Business Association, said.

"To ensure it has a large labor pool, Ho Chi Minh City needs to pay attention to building housing and health centers for workers."

Information and campaigns

General info on COVID-19 in the garment industry

PayYourWorkers campaign


Demands, recommendations, proposals

CCC list of demands upon brand and retailers.

Global union and employer joint call to action.

WRC and MHSSN safety recommendations.

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

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

Information trackers

WRC's brand tracker on which brands pay for orders

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

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

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

The International Trade Union Confederation collects trade union news on the COVID-19 crisis.

ICNL has a civic freedom tracker.

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

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

Background and position papers

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

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

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

ECCHR policy paper "Garment Industry in intensive care?"

ECCHR, SOMO and Pax paper on responsible business relationships.

AFWA's paper The emperor has no clothes.

Traidcraft Exchange "Bailing out the supply chain"

ECCHR-WRC paper "Force majeure"

COVID-19 Report by Decent Work Check: Indonesia and Ethiopia garment industry.

UN Special Rapporteur report "Looking back to look ahead"

WRC and Penn State University paper "Unpaid Billions"

WRC and Penn State University paper "Apparel Brands' Purchasing Practices during COVID-19"

ILO research brief "The supply chain ripple effect"

WRC research report "Hunger in the Apparel Supply Chain" & Spanish version

BHRRC report "Wage theft and pandemic profits"

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

Basic health information

Hesperian Health Guides' COVID-19 Fact Sheet

published 2021-12-01