September 2021 Covid blog

This blog aims to collect 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. The blog is updated three times a week.

29 September

Cambodia: Media report [1, 2, 3] that the minimum wage for garment workers in Cambodia has been set at US$194 per month from the beginning of 2022 following tripartite talks between employers, unions and the government.

Although the figure represents a US$2 increase on this year's minimum wage, it is a significant departure from the unions’ initial demand of at least US$214 per month (later decreased to US$204).

Factory owners had wanted to reduce the minimum wage to just US$188 due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government had proposed a compromise of US$192, with the PM agreeing to add another US$2 to the monthly pay of workers in the apparel and textiles sector.

Many are disappointed with how small the wage increase is.

Drok Sovan, a garment worker in Yi Da factory in Kandal province said that she was “very shocked to hear about the little increase which the Ministry of Labour announced” and that the final amount of only $194 is hard to accept because the workers need to survive.

“The government's increase of $2 shows that it has no concern for the difficulties and risks workers face during the COVID-19 pandemic so that employers can make profits and strengthen the country’s economy,” said garment worker Douk Sarann.

According to Center for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights programme manager Khun Tharo, due to inflation alone, a more realistic wage increase would be in the region of $4 to $5, as $2 could only buy three meals from vendors in front of factories.

“Our labor law says that a minimum wage must allow workers to have a decent life,” said Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, adding that workers now struggle every day with overcrowded transportation and housing, and must pay almost $1 every day for each meal.

Unions had argued for a minimum wage of $204 for next year, and will now consult with their members to see if they can use the law to force a higher wage, she said.

United States: Media report that California has become the first state to require hourly wages for garment workers.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a package of 18 worker protection bills, including nation-leading legislation that will end decades-old, unfair pay practices and requires garment manufacturers to pay workers an hourly wage. 

Among the new worker protection bills is Senate Bill (SB) 62 which creates new polices that will end piece-rate compensation for garment industry workers, which has been exploited to pay workers below-minimum wages. The legislation also expands fashion brands’ liability for unpaid wages, including wage theft by contractors. Meanwhile, SB 639 prohibits paying workers with disabilities less than the state’s minimum wage. Finally, SB 321 directs Cal/OSHA to create advisory committee to recommend policies to protect domestic workers, provide health and safety guidance.

Vietnam: Media report that Ho Chi Minh City building coordination plan to facilitate workers' return to factories.

Mr. Chu Tien Dung, Chairman of HCMC Union of Business Associations, said that the labor shortage in enterprises under the three-on-site production model (where workers eat, sleep and work at factories) was at 30 percent. However, in enterprises that have stopped production for a long time, or garment and textile enterprises with many workers from other provinces, labor shortages might range from 60 percent to 70 percent.

HCMC, the country’s virus epicenter, has experienced a series of increasingly strict lockdowns, with many garment factories temporarily closing in July and causing retailers to scramble to administer vaccines to their employees. 

Many employees were worried about the developments of the Covid-19 pandemic in HCMC, so they returned to their hometown to avoid the pandemic. According to statistics, since July, the HCMC Department of Transport has coordinated with localities to bring 33,000 people back to 34 provinces and cities, besides the number of workers returning to their hometowns by their own vehicles. It has caused labor shortages in most sectors and industries.

Ho Chi Minh City is urgently developing 14 strategies, including health, labor, and employment strategies to enable reopening, while the municipal People's Committee also assigned the Department of Transport to develop a plan to coordinate with provinces and cities to welcome workers back to the city for work. 

27 September

Bangladesh: Media report that surplus work orders have created 300,000 RMG jobs.

The country’s apparel industry is now overwhelmed with export orders following the reopening of economies around the world, which has created around 300,000 new employment opportunities. According to industry insiders, nearly every factory is now hiring workers in a bid to meet the growing demand. This development also means that manufacturers have the ability to negotiate better prices for new buyers and orders.

However, Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), has stressed a pressing need for training skilled workers.

“The industry needs skilled workers to produce clothes as per clients’ requirements, but we do not have enough training centres to produce skilled and semi-skilled workers,” he said, adding that if the government focuses on workers’ skill development, the apparel industry will be able to create more job opportunities.

Referring to the rise in work orders RMG workers’ leader Nazma Akter said after a long time, a large number of factories are now running double shifts. This is compounded by the fact that buyers are placing more orders in Bangladesh due to political unrest in Myanmar and the fact that most other competitors are still struggling due to COVID-19.

As a result of this development, a number of factories have expanded their capacity or resumed lines that were shut down during the first wave of the pandemic, and some are planning further expansion within this year.

Global: Fibre2Fashion published an article assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on supply chains in the textile industry and detailing how key players in the sector are reimagining them

A survey by the International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) conducted among 600 companies in 2020 found that orders are plummeting by over 40 per cent and there has been a 32 per cent dip in turnover. As far as South-East Asia is concerned, a 22 per cent fall was anticipated as against a 36 per cent plunge in the East Asian region.

According to the article, Bangladesh is set to become one of the biggest gainers in home textiles exports to several geographies by this year. Among the primary reasons for this shift are Bangladesh’s superior product quality, competitive pricing and prompt delivery. 

On the other hand, China which has been at the forefront of textile sourcing over the past couple of decades, is set to lose some of its position due to its trade war with the US, rising labour costs, acute manpower crisis, and the pandemic. This will create opportunities for India, as well as other neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

Given the advantages of China's infrastructure and supply chain, experts suggest that most of the textile value chain will opt for a ‘China Plus One’ strategy and relocate only a part of their business to other countries. 

India: Media report that fashion retailing may recover up to 80% of pre-pandemic sales this fiscal year.

According to a new report by Icra Ratings, the fashion retail segment is expected to clip at 15-17 per cent year-on-year during July 2021-March 2022, translating into annual revenue growth of 23-25 per cent for FY22, provided there is no third wave.

This is thanks to, among other things, a growing vaccination rate, the normalisation of economic activities and the adoption of online retailing.

However, the report warns that in case of a third wave, which cannot be ruled out by virologists, up to 40 per cent of revenue might be lost. And even if the sector closes the year with a 25 per cent growth, it will still be 20 per cent lower than the pre-pandemic volumes.

Laos: Media report a surge in COVID-19 cases

Laos has recorded a large number of new cases of COVID-19 this Monday, after conducting 6,066 tests across the country over the last 24 hours.

Thanks to the tests, 622 new cases were confirmed, including 57 cases in Kienvilay and Alpilao Garment Factory and 26 additional cases resulting from close contact with Alpilao Garment Factory workers. Laos now has 5,271 active cases of Covid-19, with 16 confirmed deaths, and 22,441 total cases.

24 September

Bangladesh: Media report that the workers of a garment factory in Narayanganj's Sonargaon staged a road blockade and protest for the second day demanding three months of backpay.

On Thursday morning, workers of Opax Group's Sinha Garments blocked the Dhaka-Sylhet and Dhaka-Chittagong highways by burning tires. Police fired several rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets to bring the situation under control. Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, workers of Sinha Garments set fire to tires and blocked the Dhaka-Sylhet highway in Kanchpur area demanding the same and clashed with the police. At least 15 people have been injured in the clashes, including 8 workers.

Myanmar: Media report that 38 factories have closed down and nearly 10,000 workers have become unemployed in two industrial zones since February

In Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone, 29 factories were closed temporarily or permanently and as a result, about 7000 workers were out of jobs according to an official from the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone committee. The owners will have to pay their workers compensation if the factories are to close permanently. Meanwhile in Shwe Thanlwin industrial zone, 9 factories were closed temporarily or permanently and as a result, nearly 3000 workers were unemployed according to an official from the committee.

One of the factories which temporarily shut down was the Myanmar Unique garment factory in Hlaing Tharyar, whose closure we reported on in our previous entry. The factory closed due to a lack of orders resulting from the pandemic an political situation.

Sri Lanka: Media report that Sri Lanka’s apparel industry is on tenterhooks due to EU trade scrutiny

Sri Lanka’s preferential trade access to the EU, the biggest market for its apparel industry, is at risk due to its deteriorating human rights and governance situation. A delegation from the EU is set to write up and submit a report focusing on Sri Lanka’s compliance with 27 international conventions related to GSP+ (Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus).

Losing this facility will mean a loss of about $600 million. Sri Lanka’s apparel industry has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) is worried about the threat of factory closures – particularly among small and medium manufacturers that employ 350,000 direct and 700,000 related industry employees, of which 80% are rural women.

22 September

Cambodia: Media report that garment workers’ minimum wage will be moved to vote after third meeting fails to find joint resolution.

The third and last of the talks between the employers, government and union representatives regarding the 2022 minimum wage for garment workers was held this Tuesday and once again no agreement was reached. The vote will take place on September 28 and will include 17 participants from each of the three sides.

At the final meeting on Tuesday, employers’ representatives proposed $188 (previous proposal: $183.40), the government proposed $192, (previously $191.90) and the unions proposed $204, decreasing from $206.60. The current minimum wage is $192, but employers and, initially, the government had called for a wage decrease amid the pandemic. Unions initially called for a wage increase to $214.20, citing the past year’s 3% inflation and the resulting rising costs of all goods and gasoline, as well as the need to balance out a recent amendment to the Labour Law which reduced some worker benefits.

Meanwhile, the employers’ side is pushing back, citing the negative economic impact of the pandemic: decreases in production and increased expenditure on measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in factories.

Thuch Sreyneang, 39, a garment worker at Top Silver Factory in Prey Veng province, said she struggles to support her family of five on her current salary of about $200 a month.

 “If the government does not increase the salary for workers or decrease the salary, most of our workers will hold protests to demand an increase to the salary,” says Luch Sokkea, 24, a garment worker at Horizon Outdoor Factory in Kampong Chhnang province.

Bangladesh: Media report Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association asks Bangladesh Bank for help.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) asked Bangladesh Bank (BB) to extend its support to the RMG (ready-made garment) industry in bouncing back from the economic fallout caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. They proposed that BB maintains the loan facility with the opportunity to reschedule default loans without stopping the ongoing financing.

According to the BGMEA, the bank issued a circular directing to add 30% local VAT with respect to all incentives, something that would greatly harm weavers and knitters. In a meeting on September 21 BGMEA requested that the circular be amended, given that the pandemic was not over and Bangladesh needed further help in order to once again compete in the global market. It also proposed other amendments, such as increasing the number of loan repayment instalments and lower interest rates.

Myanmar: Garment factory employing over 800 workers temporarily shuts down.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current political situation in Burma, Myanmar Unique Garment Factory which was operated with 800+ workers, was temporarily shut down starting from yesterday (September 21). It has been operating in Yangon for more than 8 years.

20 September

India: Media report on how many migrant women laborers’ dreams were crushed under the country’s Covid upheaval. 

Women like Anita Kumari and Manti Tudu did a two-month tailoring course through the Jharkhand government’s skill development scheme and worked in a garment factory in Chennai. They are now back home in Bokaro.

In January 2020, Manti managed to trick the factory managers with a ploy used by many before her: she applied for a few days of temporary leave to visit her ailing mother, and when the leave was approved, she returned to Bokaro and never went back. Inspired by her friend’s successful escape, Anita waited for two months and then put in her own application for temporary leave to visit home.

She never had a chance to find out if it was approved. On the night of March 24, the Covid-19 lockdown was announced. Other like Simran left her village as a single woman looking for work. As several of her batchmates accepted placements at a garment factory in the city of Tiruppur, she made a spontaneous decision to leave home. took off on a three-day train journey to Tiruppur. 

Now Simran is back home, unemployed. 

Laos: Media report that three cases were confirmed at Intermet Fashion garment factory, with two people residing in Xaysavang Village and one in Donnoun Village, Xaythany District.

5,270 tests were conducted over the last 24 hours, with 154 new cases of Covid-19 recorded in the country.

Myanmar: Media report that union leaders fear another 200,000 garment workers in Myanmar could lose their jobs by the end of the year due to factory closures caused by both the political crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nay Lin Aung, assistant secretary of the Myanmar Federation of Trade Unions said more than 100,000 garment workers were already unemployed and that number could rise by another 200,000 by the end of this year.

Vietnam: Media report that shoe manufacturer Rieker Vietnam, which employs more than 10,000 workers, has been requested to halt production at two facilities by the People's Committee of Quang Nam province after a workers tested positive for Covid-19 on 08 September.

During the following week (from 09 to 16 September), health authorities recorded 82 cases originating from the first case, tracing a complicated chain of infection across multiple locations and companies.

17 September

Cambodia: Media report that employers are demanding an $8.60 reduction per month in the minimum wage next year due to the Covid-19 crisis and other issues, while the union has demanded an increase of more than $22. 

Labour Programme Manager at the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) Khun Tharo says the mechanism for raising wages for workers in Cambodia is not yet transparent and effective due to the National Minimum Wage Council and that most unions are pro-government.

Sri Lanka: Media report on the latest initiatives by Sri Lanka’s garment makers. At a meeting held by the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in Sri Lanka on the theme ‘The pandemic resilient corporate success of Sri Lanka’s apparel industry’, representatives from several of Sri Lanka’s well-known garment manufacturers including MAS Holding, Hirdaramani, Brandix Group’s Moose Clothing and Star Garments, said that more than 90% employees have been partially vaccinated, and 70% have been fully vaccinated.

Vietnam: Media report that shoe manufacturer Rieker Vietnam, which employs more than 10,000 workers, has been requested to halt production at two facilities by the People's Committee of Quang Nam province after a workers tested positive for Covid-19 on 08 September.

During the following week (from 09 to 16 September), health authorities recorded 82 cases originating from the first case, tracing a complicated chain of infection across multiple locations and companies.

Laos: Media report that the Covid Taskforce reported that 5,270 tests were conducted over the last 24 hours, with 154 new cases of Covid-19 recorded, reports Laotian Times.

Three cases were confirmed at Intermet Fashion garment factory, with two people residing in Xaysavang Village and one in Donnoun Village, Xaythany District

15 September

Bangladesh: Media report that around 84 per cent of the garment workers are concerned about the current state of Covid-19 in Bangladesh, according to a survey revealed today.

South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem) and Microfinance Opportunities (MFO) jointly conducted the survey -- "Worker Diaries: Working during COVID-19 Lockdowns" – since April 2020.

The data of the survey has been collected through interviews conducted over the cellular phone on 1,278 workers of garment factories in five major industrial areas -- Chittagong, Dhaka City, Gazipur, Narayanganj, and Savar.

Only 45 per cent of the workers were given a mask to wear while working. Around 77 per cent of those working respondents told that they had been able to socially distance while working in the factory. Sanem's finding showed that only 47 per cent of respondents told that their factory had taken additional steps to prevent Covid-19 infections

Cambodia: Media report that Tripartite discussions on the 2022 minimum wage for workers in the garment, textile and footwear sectors were set to begin on September 14. According to industry observers, the employers are planning to offer $183.40, as opposed to $214.20 requested by trade unions.

The National Council on Minimum Wage (NCMW) kicked off the negotiations earlier this year. Workers in the garment and footwear sectors are currently receiving a minimum wage of $192 per month. The NCMW scheduled September 21 and 28 for further discussions with the goal of having both sides agree to a final figure.

Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thon said workers would maintain their demands for an increase of $22.20, or 11.6 per cent, to the minimum wage over the previous year’s figure.

According to Thon, the employers are adamant that the minimum wage of 2022 should actually decrease rather than increase due to pandemic-related economic factors.

Myanmar: Media report that labour experts estimate that unemployment could rise by another 200,000 by the end of the year due to a series of garment factory closures. 

Nay Linn Aung, assistant secretary of the Myanmar Industry Craft Service - Trade Unions Federation (MICS-TUsF), said most of more than 700 garment factories had closed, leaving more than 100,000 workers unemployed and that the number could rise by another 200,000 by the end of this year.

Some of the factories that have not been closed down are no longer paying wages as before, and are changing to a pay-as-you-go system. One worker said the change in payment methods had reduced the minimum wage under the NLD government and reduced incomes significantly. Ma Thazin, a garment factory worker, said her income was low and she was no longer guaranteed a monthly income.

Vietnam: Seven textile and garment enterprises located in Tien Giang province have petitioned the Prime Minister, the People's Committee of Tien Giang province, and the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) for support in providing the Covid-19 vaccine.

The seven companies, all VITAS members, employ 13,300 workers, and include: Tien Tien Garment, Tex-Giang, Phuong Dong Garment, Viet Tan Garment, Viet Khanh Garment, Viet Long Hung, and Cong Tien Garment.

13 September

Bangladesh: Covid-19 vaccine survey: vaccination rate among workers in Bangladesh is negligible. Bangladesh Occupational Safety Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) conducted a survey among 60 workers at 6 working sectors (readymade garments, leather, ship breaking, construction, waste recycling and home based work) under the district of Dhaka, Gajipur and Chittagong founds that only 27% workers received the Covid-19 vaccine and 73% of workers have not yet received any vaccine from the government. 

According to sector wise analysis, only 3% workers at RMG sector received the vaccine and 3% at the leather sector. 

Cambodia: Media report that unions are concerned over more factory workers testing positive for Covid-19 and are worried numbers may explode if stakeholders do not respond and cooperate.

The president of the National Trade Union Confederation (Cambodia), Far Saly, sees the new variant spreading within the garment factory community, which is a worrying sign. He said that the relevant parties, especially the Ministry of Health and local authorities must work together to take preventive measures in a timely and strict manner to avoid widespread outbreaks.

Global: Media report on how relationships between supply chain partners must evolve following the pandemic.

Virtually overnight, the pandemic created incredible pressure for businesses to diversify not only their services and products but to reconsider their power and relationships within the supply chain. Large companies that cancelled significant business with their smaller vendors and then returned assuming immediate capacity have been surprised that their place in line has been taken by others. Vendors diversified into providing services to other industries that needed them during the earlier stages of the pandemic.

Forbes say that the lesson that needs to be learned: "We can’t assume suppliers will always be there if we don’t treat them well during difficult times. Even the smallest vendor demands a new level of respect. How you nurture and respect every partnership within the supply chain makes a difference."

Vietnam: Media reports from Ho Chi Minh City on the failure of Vietnam's “bubble” strategy to protect workers during a Covid-19 resurgence.

Many smaller factories simply closed, while larger facilities set up tents and cots in spare warehouse space or motorbike parking garages. In order to maintain some form of social distancing, only a fraction of workers was brought into these bubbles, with the rest sent home.

Even with reduced workforces, hygiene is a challenge, particularly when it comes to toilets and showering facilities. One factory manager who asked to remain anonymous said that, in essence, they had to become a hotel and a restaurant in addition to being a manufacturing facility.

“For the first two weeks we were at home, we were paid VND170,000 (US$7.40) per day, and now we’re paid just VND20,000 (US$0.88) a day,” Phat explained in a video call. “It’s very difficult, and since I don’t live in a red zone, we haven’t received any government support.”

10 September

Bangladesh: Media report that the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has sent letters to representatives of developed countries and regional organisations seeking vaccine assistance for garment workers.

According to BGMEA, letters have been sent to the ambassadors of the British High Commission in Bangladesh, the United States, Canada, Italy, Germany, Japan, France, South Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, the European Union, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Qatar and Switzerland.

Cambodia: Media report that unions are concerned over more factory workers testing positive for Covid-19 and are worried numbers may explode if stakeholders do not respond and cooperate.

The president of the National Trade Union Confederation (Cambodia), Far Saly, sees the new variant spreading within the garment factory community, which is a worrying sign. He said that the relevant parties, especially the Ministry of Health and local authorities must work together to take preventive measures in a timely and strict manner to avoid widespread outbreaks.

Media report that a medical team went to test more than 5,000 factory workers in Top Summit Garment Factory located in Khan Kamboul and discovered more than 30 Covid-19 cases on September 7.

Myanmar: Media report some factory owners have been accused of exploiting and failing to protect their employees during the latest COVID-19 outbreak, and with unions lying low since the coup, workers are unable to seek redress.

Frontier was unable to find figures on the number of factory workers infected with COVID-19, but with over 6,600 factories in Yangon alone, it is believed to be significant. 

Workers and labour rights activists say employers have also not been doing enough to prevent the spread of the virus.

Ma Ei Ei Win, 37, who is one of more than 8,000 employers at the Chang Yi footwear factory in Hlaing Tharyar that makes footwear for Adidas, a major global brand, said the factory was claiming to have no workers infected with COVID-19 when that was not true.

“Our factory closed from July 17 to July 31, and during that time I heard that many workers were sick and one with a high fever had died. There are still workers taking sick leave because they have COVID-19,” said Ei Ei Win, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym.

8 September

Bangladesh: Media report that german brand KiK has provided finance towards the purchase Covid-19 vaccines for garment workers in Bangladesh. The donation was made through BGMEA which will be forwarded to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as the government is responsible for procuring and administering the vaccines.

Cambodia: Media report that trade union leaders and representatives yesterday met to brainstorm and finalise the garment and footwear workers’ minimum wage adjustment for next year, taking into consideration the social and economic situation following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is understood that the proposed figure to start the minimum wage negotiation was $214.20.  Currently, the minimum wage is $192 a month.

The meeting was led by Solidarity Center, previously known as American Center for International Labor Solidary. Cambodian Labor Confederation president Ath Thorn said the $214.20 as a minimum wage for next year reasonable taking into account the cost of living, the pandemic and the need for workers to send money to their aged parents and families.

“We are aware that many workers are suffering from the current low wages and waiting for an increment to meet their daily expenses,” he added.  

Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) has criticised the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) which recently led a joint call from more than 50 groups calling for more to be done to keep workers safe in the country, and also in Bangladesh.

The CCC, along with other NGOs and trade unions, believe that both countries had put workers' lives at risk by exempting garment factories from lockdowns because of their economic importance.

Despite constant calls from unions and international labour advocates since the beginning of the pandemic, neither national governments, nor local factory managers, nor international apparel brands that source from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have acted to provide workers with adequate occupational safety and health protections or social programs that would allow workers to stay home.

The failure to prioritize worker health and safety forces workers to choose between going into a factory without access to necessary PPE, with inadequate social distancing, and with minimal testing and vaccination or to face financial ruin without income or social benefits.

6 September

Global: Media report over 50 labour advocacy groups have signed a new call to action, urging governments, apparel brands and employers to ensure the safety of workers. As COVID-19 cases surge in South Asia. For many, the choice to work for survival has resulted in the loss of life itself. “It is untenable that Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi workers must choose between death and destitution,” the letter reads.

Zimbabwe: Seven IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Zimbabwe are embarking on a campaign to encourage workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19 amid hesitancy caused by anti-vaccination messages on social media and other platforms.

Several topics and questions were discussed during a meeting on health, including whether it is lawful for the employer to ask workers to produce vaccination certificates or negative Covid-19 test results taken in the last 24 hours as a condition for reporting for work. Health and safety rights that workers enjoyed during a global pandemic were discussed with reference to Zimbabwean labour laws and international labour standards.

The unions raised the issues as a response to a recent trend in which employers in the country were demanding vaccination cards, or negative Covid-19 test results when workers reported for work. 

The National Union of the Clothing Industry (NUCI) and the Zimbabwe Textile Workers Union (ZTWU) were among the affiliates. 

According to the Ministry of Health and Childcare, the country has procured 13 million vaccines and vaccinated 2,582,705 people (single dose) and 1,636,498 (double dose) using mainly the Sinopharm vaccine from China. 

Sierra Leone: IndustriALL also reports that the Artisans, Services and General Employees Union (ASGEmU), says the ratification of nine International Labour Organization (ILO) instruments by Sierra Leone is an opportunity to transform industrial relations and promote decent work in the country.

The ILO says the ratifications of eight conventions and a protocol, which took place on 25 August, were unprecedented.

The conventions are aimed at addressing the decent work deficit common among workers in the country, including for migrant workers, and improving working conditions for precarious workers who have no job security and are poorly paid.

In most instances, precarious workers are employed through third parties such as private employment agencies who often exploit them and violate their rights. The conventions include those on occupational health and safety, which has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

3 September

Cambodia: Media report that Cambodian unions held an online meeting to discuss the minimum wage negotiations for garment workers for 2022. Prior to this meeting, the unions had expressed their position demanding an increase in workers 'wages by around $8 for a monthly wage of $200/per month. 

In response, employers asked unions to reconsider and decrease the amount. However, via Radio France International (RFI) on Wednesday, [the unions] stood firm on asking for $200 per month, citing the difficulties of factory workers in working during Covid-19.

Sri Lanka: Media report that vaccination of those aged 20-30 has begun. 

A Health Ministry press release further detailed that, of those falling under the 20-30 age group, all frontline healthcare workers, as well as a considerable number of persons working in essential service industries, such as garment factory workers, had been vaccinated already.

Media report that civil society and NGOs are ready to help with Sri Lanka’s national Covid-19 efforts, but have been shut out of official mechanisms despite repeatedly offering assistance.

Some groups are even willing to give their residential facilities as intermediate or triage centres, provided there is some partnership between the organisations and the Government, they revealed, adding that there was reluctance to hand them over to the full control of the military.

This week, the Independent Technical Expert Group (ITEG) convened by the World Health Organisation also recommended a strengthening of the social support system “by engaging with temples and religious groups, NGOs, civil society, etc (ie, a national mobilisation effort) to overcome needs of the lower income groups, led by the government.

Myanmar: Media report that following the announcement from IndustriALL Global Union and their Myanmar affiliate, the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM), Bestseller will not place new orders in the country until an impact assessment and dialogue with experts, NGOs, trade unions and other relevant stakeholders with a clear focus on the wellbeing of garment workers in Myanmar has been conducted.

Earlier this week, IndustriALL raised concerns about the health of garment workers in Myanmar particularly under Covid-19.

1 September

Bangladesh: Media report that about 70 per cent of readymade garment workers who have been retrenched from jobs amid the Covid outbreak have still remained unemployed, according to a survey conducted by Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh. Apparel factory owners, however, opposed the findings saying that the sample size for the survey was very poor and failed to reflect the real scenario.

The platform on Tuesday presented the findings at a webinar on ‘Bangladesh’s RMG Sector and Workers: Anticipating the Future’ that said that 71 per cent of unemployed RMG workers were actively looking for jobs.

Cambodia: Media report on how Covid-19 has impacted South Asia. In Cambodia, due to different epidemic control policies, the Cambodian authorities will not stop factories immediately after an outbreak. "Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the factory has not stopped work. 

“If there is an outbreak in the factory, the people who are sick need to be checked. If there are only a few cases, the factory can handle it by itself and let the workers rest at home. The Cambodian government will not directly stop production. If it stops, many people will lose their source of livelihood,” says Zhang Liang, Zhang Liang, a Chinese worker who has lived in Cambodia for more than 20 years.

Myanmar: Media report on the IndustriALL Global Union warning that garment factories in Myanmar have no concrete plan to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

One garment manufacturer said: “We have heard the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association is preparing to make an official statement on the matter soon. The MGMA instructed us to open factories during Covid-19 if in accordance with the Ministry of Health's latest workplace standards (5.0). So what we understand is factories open only after all these things have been fixed. And now all the factories are providing vaccines." 

Media report that Danish retailer Bestseller has announced a halt on new orders from garment factories in Myanmar because of fears over the lack of COVID-19 protection for workers.

It comes after IndustriALL’s warning that garment workers in Myanmar are working in factories without measures to protect them from COVID-19.

The IndustriALL-affiliated Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) says two of its members have died from coronavirus and more than 100 factory-level union leaders have been infected.

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 2021-10-01