May 2022 COVID blog

This blog aims to collect weekly information about the conditions of garment workers around the world; wage disputes, risks to their safety at work, discrimination, the impact of the cost of living, and how 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.

Tuesday 31 May

Bangladesh: Media report that Savar garment workers protested for wage arrears. The protest took place on Sunday (May 29) at noon in front of the HR Textile Limited factory under the Pride Group adjacent to the Ulail bus stand in Savar.

Media report RMG workers of a garment factory in Konabari area of Gazipur staged demonstrations blocking Dhaka-Tangail Highway demanding arrears on Wednesday.

According to locals, some workers of NTKC garment took position in front of the factory and blocked the highway in the morning.

Media report on new research revealing that young female workers, primarily aged between 18 and 24, in Bangladesh often experience sexual harassment at work, but their concerns about it are ignored.

When I click on this link I get to the 'front page' of the online paper. I scrolled all the way down but I didn't find any article about this. Is there another link we can use?

In partnership with the Institute of Development Studies and Sobujer Obhijan Foundation, researchers from the Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) conducted the study among domestic workers and factory workers in Dhaka.

Most do not dare to challenge men when witnessing or experiencing sexual harassment because they feel ashamed and think taking action will worsen the situation.

When women made complaints about what they were dealing with, they were mostly responded with some workers being fired or the police being bribed by the families of those accused.

The report recommends that elected officials, trade union leaders and NGO representatives take firm steps to promote accessible language to describe sexual harassment, which can be used by people from all backgrounds and ages and will enable a person to accurately describe what she experienced. 

Media report that a garment factory worker has alleged she jumped off a moving bus in Chattogram to escape an attempted rape by the driver.

She was unconscious for five days in Chattogram Medical College Hospital after being rescued by locals from the roadside in Rahattarpool of Bakolia on May 19.

The worker recounted the incident to police on Wednesday after regaining consciousness on Tuesday. Deputy commissioner at Chattogram Metropolitan Police said the 19-year-old woman was a worker of a factory in the Kalurghat BSCIC area.

Cambodia: Media report that since the beginning of 2020, the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Worker Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) has estimated that about 350 unions and active members have been fired using the pandemic as a pretext.

As the Covid-19 outbreak became the standard reason for dismissing workers, union representatives said it made it more difficult to negotiate working conditions with employers and ask workers to join.

Media report that the government will give all factory workers two days off to participate in the June 5 commune council elections. Owners of factories and manufacturing enterprises will be required to pay wages and other benefits as normal.

Myanmar: Media report of workers at Tianjin Fashion Milestone working overtime for no pay. Employees have been forced to work 11 hours a day, and are forced to work all night.

Sri Lanka: Media report that poverty is forcing hundreds of women towards prostitution in Sri Lanka, including women garment workers on low wages who are in need of making ends meet.

Only 3 years ago, Sri Lanka was heralded by the World Bank as a lower middle-income country; a developing economic success story. A large part of this derived from a booming apparel and textile industry. The readymade garment industry was offering jobs to hundreds and thousands of women, while Sri Lanka was manufacturing goods for brands such as Nike, Marks & Spencer etc.

But now, for those women working in the garment industries, their daily wages of Sri Lankan rupee 1,000, which is equivalent to $3 is too meagre because of out-of-control inflation which is expected to reach 40 per cent.

"We could see up to one million people, mainly women, facing unemployment over the next six months if the economic crisis worsens as expected," says Padmini Weerasuriya, the director of the Women's Centre, a Sri Lankan NGO supporting garment workers.

There has been a 30 per cent increase in women joining the sex industry in Colombo since January, according to the Stand Up Movement Lanka (SUML), the country's leading advocacy group for sex workers. The majority of the women previously worked in garment factories.

United Kingdom: Media report clothing suppliers for Missguided fear their lives could be at risk as the struggling fast-fashion retailer refuses to pay them for stock they delivered months ago. 

The owner of one factory in China said they have been unable to pay their own suppliers because the British firm is withholding £800,000. They worry family members will be threatened as invoices pile up.

Tuesday 24 May

Bangladesh: Media report that hundreds of ready-made garment workers staged a demonstration on Monday 23rd, by blocking a road in Chattogram city's Bayezid Bostami area, in Chittagong, demanding arrears.

The workers of Anwara Garments Factory blocked Bayezid Bostami Road around 12:30pm, according to witnesses. The workers said their salaries of several months are pending. 

Local media also report workers from Frank Apparels demonstrated alongside Anwara garment workers. 

Media report that at least 10 workers sustained burn injuries after a fire broke out in a readymade garment factory in Gazipur's Kaliakair, on Monday 23rd May.

The blaze started at Nur Group's Raiyan Textile (or known as Raiyan Knit Composite in the Open Apparel Database) in Chandra just one week after another fire accident at the same factory. The fire started on the 4th floor of the factory and spread like wildfire, according to firefighters. 

Media report on how the rising cost of living is eroding the purchasing power of garment workers even though most of them work overtime in order to make ends meet, according to the findings of a study released on May 19. 

Garment workers work for more than 10 hours a day on average but even after working overtime, the cost of food and rent alone eat up most of their earnings, it said.


Media report that more than 300 workers at Canteran Apparel Cambodia in Phnom continue to strike, including via a 24 hour vigil, in front of factory. This has been ongoing for almost a month now because the factory owner is trying to avoid paying workers.

Media report that Oxfam in Cambodia and Laudes Foundation have partnered with four other NGOs and trade unions to jointly implement an initiative known as INSPIRE.

The scheme, which will last till 2025, is aimed at assisting the government to improve social protection for garment workers in Cambodia.

Building on these efforts to address social inequality, NGOs will help to address the remaining barriers to social protection among employees in the garment sector, especially those who work on contract.

The key focuses to be addressed, according to a press release, include "limited access to information about social protection schemes and benefits, lack of compliance among apparel industry employers, and the quality of services provided and available to apparel industry workers".

Madagascar: IndustriaALL reports that unions from the textile, garment, shoe, and leather industries in Madagascar met in Antananarivo last week to discuss how to sustain and build union power in a post-Covid economy.

The strategies and tactics discussed at the workshop included having an active trade union membership, shop steward training that improves negotiation skills, how to engage effectively in collective bargaining, representing workers' interests in social dialogue, defending workers' rights through enterprise committees, fighting gender-based violence and harassment in factories, and electing effective and democratic trade union leadership.

On living wages, the workshop agreed to demand living wages of at least 600 000 Malagasy Ariary (US$150). The government's proposed 260 000 Ariary (US$65) is seen by workers as a poverty wage. 

Lovasoa Fetra Harinoro, the women's chairperson for IndustriALL Madagascar which is made up of IndustriALL affiliates from island and one of the facilitators said:

"One of the goals of this workshop is to build dynamic unions in Madagascar. When unions are dynamic, they can quickly embrace change and are always learning new ways of organizing and developing new union cultures. Being dynamic allows unions to adapt to change and deal with challenges."

Thailand: IndustriALL Union reports that a thirteen month campaign has led to a union win for Triumph International Thailand Labour Union (TITLU). Now Brilliant Alliance Thai Global (BAT) will pay the money owed to the 1,388 illegally fired workers.

The 1,388 workers were fired without notice in March 2021 as the factory, supplying lingerie brands Victoria's Secret, Torrid and Lane Bryant, suddenly closed, using the pandemic and a lack of orders as reasons.

The workers, mostly women, were left in dire conditions in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the factory owners refused to pay wages, overtime, holiday and severance pay owed.

Tuesday 17 May

Bangladesh: Levis and IKEA are still putting their factory workers' lives at risk nine years later.

May 15th marked nine years since the signing of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. So far, the trailblazing, legally binding agreement has protected over two million garment workers by making sure 1,600 factories in Bangladesh meet safety requirements, but Levis and IKEA refuse to sign.

Despite the unquestionable need to protect workers, some notable names, which are active in countries with demonstrable safety problems, are still missing from that list. Brands such as Levi's and IKEA, that pride themselves on sustainability and workers' rights, have refused to sign the accord so far risking the safety of workers in the supplying factories.

Read more on Clean Clothes' latest statement earmarking the Accord anniversary. 

Media report that workers at the Golden Stitch garment factory in Savar's Rajfulbaria area have gone on strike inside the factory demanding payment of wage arrears.

European Union: Media report that lawmakers are piling pressure on the European Commission to implement a full ban on the trade of products made using forced labour, amid concerns that bureaucrats could water down plans to outlaw the practice later this year.

A resolution will be launched by influential members of the European Parliament's trade committee in early June, calling for a tool "based on best practices" of bans on forced labour products in the United States and Canada, as "a political priority of the parliament and the EU as a whole".
It calls for a total ban on the "import and export of products made or transported by forced labour", as well as those found within the EU's single market.

The motion is not aimed directly at China, but names only two instances of alleged forced labour in draft text seen by the South China Morning Post.

India: Media report that more than four people were injured in a fire at a factory site in Shahpur area of Ahmedabad on Wednesday. According to fire officials, the fire started around 7 pm on Wednesday at a two-storey shop of H K Textile in 'I' block of Ravi Estate of Shahpur.

Myanmar: IndustriALL Union says that more than a year after the military coup d'état in Myanmar, the state-sponsored repression at garment factories in Myanmar continues.

IndustriALL is reiterating its call for brands to leave Myanmar as due diligence is not possible in a military dictatorship.

In April three garment workers at Sioen Myanmar Garment were arrested for their involvement in the civil disobedience movement.

Vietnam: Media report the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) have partnered to study the impacts of Covid-19 on the labour rights of internal migrant workers in Viet Nam with a focus on the apparel, footwear and electronics industries.

The seven-month study, from March to September 2022, will produce evidence-based information and recommendations for government authorities, businesses and civil society on the protection of internal migrant workers, especially during and post Covid-19 recovery.

"During the fourth wave of Covid-19 in Vietnam, internal migrant workers were among the hardest hit groups, resulted in about 2.2 million returning to their hometowns," said Ms. Mihyung Park, Chief of Mission, IOM Viet Nam.

Strict lockdown and movement restrictions during the fourth wave of COVID-19 in the southern provinces have impacted the livelihoods of millions of internal migrant workers in both factories and the informal sector. It has been forecasted that the reluctancy of internal migrant workers to return to work, due to both physical and mental health concerns, will continue for a long time, and negatively impact the national economy, especially for labour-intensive industries such as apparel, footwear and electronics.

10 May

Bangladesh: Media report that nearly 700 workers of a garment factory observed a hunger strike in Narayanganj city, amid the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr throughout the country last week, demanding salaries for the last three months and Eid bonus.

The workers of Beka Garments and Textile began the hunger strike in front of Narayanganj Press Club in Chashara area around 11am and continued till 3pm on Tuesday 3 May. The workers said there are 700 workers in the factory located in Adamjee Export Processing Zone (EPZ). On April 20, the factory authorities announced to pay salaries of February, March, and April and Eid bonuses but the workers found the factory closed that day.

China: Media report that traces of Xinjiang cotton have reportedly been found in garments made by German brands Adidas, Puma and Hugo Boss - despite all three publicly distancing themselves from the region because of forced labour allegations.

Researchers at the Agroisolab testing company in Jülich and the Hochschule Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences, both in Germany, said isotope analysis had found traces of Xinjiang cotton in Puma and Adidas T-shirts, and shirts by Hugo Boss.

Recent reports have suggested more than half a million people from minority ethnic groups such as the Uyghurs have been coerced into picking cotton in Xinjiang, which provides more than 80% of China's and a fifth of the global production of cotton.

Eswatini: IndustriALL Union reports that, despite intimidation by security forces, textile and garment workers in Eswatini are continuing their strike for living wages. Five weeks into the strike, the workers are reiterating their request for at least E15 per hour or E2983 (US$183) per month in Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland. 

ATUSWA, which is leading the strike, says instead of addressing the wage dispute, the employers are colluding with the Government of Eswatini, which is supposed to be neutral, to intimidate and harass the union and the strikers.

Around 2,000 workers met on 2 May at Nhlangano industrial area - a hub of textile and garment factories – to reaffirm their commitment to the strike action. Some walked for more than 8 km to attend the mass meeting where 30 workers spoke in support of the strike, which they say must continue until their demands for living wages are met.

Global: IndustriALL Union is launching the third and final chapter of the research on gender-based violence and harassment with a summary of the results from the garment sector, where women report that trade union presence in the workplace makes a difference in fighting gender-based violence.

Many of the women interviewed spoke about the positive impact of a union; some women saw significant changes after the union was formed in the factory. Many unions have made training and awareness raising on GBVH a priority, along with workplace negotiations and agreements on the issue. The presence of women in trade union leadership positions has a defining impact.

Living wages, decent work and ending precarious work are of critical importance in to ending GBVH in the garment and textile sector. In addition, strategies to relieve production pressures and ensure women are not forced to work overtime, are essential in ending GBVH.

A lack of effective systems for reporting violence and harassment, along with a culture of silence, impunity and victim-blaming, contribute to low levels of complaints.

India: Media report a hosiery factory in Mandargeschia area of Kolaghat in East Midnapore was gutted by fire in the middle of the night.

Many factories have been set up in Kolaghat, Panshkura and vast areas of Tamluk to manufacture underwear of various reputed brands in Kolkata. Arjun Bera, a resident of Mandargeschia village in Kolaghat, used to run such a factory. His factory caught fire late Saturday night. The fire broke out in the two-storey house in a very short time as flammable material was stored.

Sri Lanka: Media report on how Sri Lanka's pandemic recovery stalls, women garment workers are bearing the brunt.

The economic crisis is compounding garment industry's problems, with women worst hit as backbone of clothing factories. They are working long shifts

Many rural, low-paid women have already lost their jobs or say they have taken on loans or extra shifts to make ends meet each month - all for the cost of a Victoria's Secret negligee.

"One luxury brand garment piece stitched in our factory is worth our monthly salary. When they earn millions of dollars off of our many hours of arduous work, we are paid little," said 22-year-old Charika Fernando.

Victoria's Secret did not immediately reply to a request for comment about pay and conditions among workers at its suppliers in Sri Lanka.

4 May

Bangladesh: Media report on age discrimination in Bangladeshi garment factories.

According to a 2020 study titled A Survey Report on the Garment Workers of Bangladesh, conducted by Asian Centre for Development (ACD), the average age of workers in the RMG sector in Bangladesh is 25.9 years. 

The average age of female workers is even lower: around 25 years while the number is around 27 years for male workers.

One worker, Mosammat Mala Begum, had started working for the factory when she was only 13. She was married off in the same year.

Fast forward 17 years, and one day, the owner of the factory informed Mala and 14 of her co-workers – all aged between 25 and 32 – that the factory management was letting them go.

"Older people cannot work in garment factories as owners throw them out for different reasons," Mala said, now 36 years of age.

There are a bunch of factors at play. While the workers mentioned that they would continue working for the sector for many more years had they got a chance, the owners in the industry appear to be under the impression that the workers earn so well that they find it suitable to retire early. Some RMG insiders said that the nature of the work takes its toll on the workers at a relatively early age and that prohibits the workers from continuing work beyond a certain age.

Media report that cattle belonging to a Gazipur garment factory owner sold off to partially pay the wages and Eid bonuses of protesting workers.

Workers at the Jim and Jessi Composite factory in the town's Bhogra area received their dues on Sunday evening, said Wasiuzzaman Chowdhury, a senior assistant commissioner at the Gazipur district administration.

(Also see entry for Jim & Jessi in the Open Apparel Registry database)

Media report that Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Faruque Hassan has said all readymade garments (RMG) factories under the organisation have paid a festival allowance of Eid-ul-Fitr to workers alongside their wages.

"100 per cent of the factories have given festival allowances and advance salaries for April 2022 to the workers as per the decision of the government. Eid holidays have been provided in 100 per cent of the factories," he is reported to have said.

Cambodia: Media report that more than 800 workers the garment sectors, alongside agriculture, gathered for Labor Day. Workers' representatives submitted petitions to the government, calling for a reduction in gas and petrol prices, an increase in rice export prices and an increase in workers' salaries to US $250 per month.

Sa Ing, a garment worker living in Phnom Penh, said she felt it was impossible to feed and support my family on a $192 salary.

India: Media report on how a garment worker's murder sparked a movement that got H&M to address gender-based violence.

The global fashion giant signed an agreement in April on making workspaces safer for women staffers after a sustained, union-led campaign.

On New Year's Day 2021, a female garment worker was murdered. As was later discovered, she was killed by her male supervisor at the factory after months of sexual harassment. In the investigations that followed, something that had been common knowledge among many women in the factory was now publicly revealed. Despite the woman's attempts to bring these sexual harassment incidents to light, no action was taken.

In the aftermath of her murder, her colleagues – 25 garment workers from the factory – came forward and reported to The Guardian a "culture of gender-based violence and harassment".

A new report looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on garment workers and modern slavery has been released. 

Garment makers, due to their 'contractual' proximity to the demand side of the industry, felt the repercussions of pandemic more immediately than those suppliers further up the supply chain, say the authors of the report.

With relaxation of lockdowns and the increase in orders, particularly for on-line brands, pressures on the supply chain to deliver increased. In some cases, where the relationships between brand and supply chain were weak, workers were exposed to increased modern slavery risks.

Myanmar: Media report on how all-day blackouts is making life miserable for workers in Myanmar.

In the factory workers' hostel where Ma May Si lives, in Yangon's industrial East Hlaing Tharyar Township, some ran to take showers while others began cooking food for the coming day. Others flocked with devices in hand to power outlets to charge dead batteries while the current still flowed.  

"It doesn't matter what time it is — we must do as much as possible when the electricity is back on," May Si said. "If it's 1am, we have to get up and cook and wash our clothes. The building becomes a hive of activity."

Meanwhile, the fuel needed to run the generators has quadrupled since the coup. Many run on diesel, which was up to nearly K2,000 (US $1.08) a litre by mid-April, from K660 (0.36 US cents) on February 1, 2021, and petrol has seen similar price spikes.

Some factories are slashing overtime hours in response. Naw Sel Sel, a garment worker in East Hlaing Tharyar, said she's had no overtime since February.

Tunisia: Media report that a fire broke out Monday morning in a used clothing warehouse in the Ben Arous industrial zone covering an area of 5,000 square metres, causing damage to nearly 3,000 square metres.

The fire caused a partial collapse of the building's roof. No human casualties have been reported so far.

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 2022-05-31