April 2020 Covid blog
30 April 2020
Global: The ILO urged governments across the world to take actions in order to prevent and control COVID-19 in the workplace. "Without such controls, countries face the very real risk of a resurgence of the virus. Putting in place the necessary measures will minimise the risk of a second wave of contagion contracted at the workplace", the ILO made clear.
Anti-Slavery International has conducted an assessment to understand the impact of Covid-19 on survivors of slavery, people in slavery, and vulnerable people and published a set of recommendations on measures that governments, businesses, donors and international agencies should undertake. Anti-Slavery has observed that situations of acute economic distress, including humanitarian emergencies, bring with them increased risks. The lockdowns to try to halt the spread of the virus, have led to mass layoffs as many global brands have cancelled orders and factories have been required to shut down. Unemployment on this scale, even if only temporary, will shrink incomes for the workers and their families. This in turn, will lead to increases in household debt, particularly in places where debt is already endemic, due to poverty. Mass unemployment, high debt and little government safety net creates opportunities for traffickers, as well as business owners. They can cover their financial losses suffered during the crisis, by exploiting the cheap labour of people who have suffered sudden unemployment, once global demand resumes. Read more.
Bangladesh: Media report that Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan shared that garment workers from outside Dhaka would not be allowed to enter the city, as factories will operate on a limited scale with workers who are already in the capital. "Garment factory workers who are now available in Dhaka can join factories. No one from outside will be allowed to come to Dhaka for work, and necessary steps have been taken in this regard", he said. According to Ecotextile now 1,000 export-focused factories have reportedly reopened as owners say their businesses are threatened by a loss of income which means they are struggling to pay workers' wages. Brands sourcing from the reopened factories include PVH, Sainsbury, H&M, C&A, Marks & Spencer, Next and Esprit. Sourcing Journal points out that the reopening of factories comes just as Bangladesh is dealing with its highest number of new cases since it confirmed its first infection on 8 March.
Media report that Monnujan Sufian, State Minister for the Labour and Employment Ministry, warned that factory owners would not be allowed to announce layoffs until May and that workers could not be fired. The article also reiterated that garment workers unable to join factories this month due to the lockdown will receive 60% of their wages.
Media report that two factories, in Savar and Jashore, have shut down as one worker in each unit tested positive for coronavirus. The same article shared that Nazma Akhter, president of Sammilita Garment Shramik Federation, alleged that many of the large garment factories have continued to operate with the majority of their workforce, disrespecting social distancing measures.
Media report that garment workers from at least 258 out of 2,072 factories in Gazipur are yet to receive last month's wages, forcing workers to continue protesting for their due salaries. Yesterday (29 April), garment workers started protesting in front of their factory when management announced that workers who had been working there for less than a year were laid off. Also yesterday, workers from two garment factories in Savar blocked roads demanding due wages.
Media report that Tipu Munshi, Commerce Minister of Bangladesh, urged the UK government to intervene in support of Bangladesh's manufacturing industry, as the impact of cancellations by UK retailers hits an estimated loss of £2.5 billion for the industry, that represents about 80 percent of national exports. Media report that Stefan Lofven, Prime Minister of Sweden, has assured the Prime Minister of Bangladesh that Sweden would not cancel any orders placed in the garment industry. "We'll continue importing RMG products from Bangladesh," he said while talking to Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, over the phone.
Media report that women bear the brunt of the garment industry layoffs in Bangladesh. Local factories in Bangladesh have laid these women off without warning. “I went home to my village because it was a national holiday. Our factory was supposed to reopen on 5 April. When I went back to work on that day, someone had put up a sign saying that all the workers had been laid off,” Khaleda Parvin, a local garment worker from Bangladesh said.
Cambodia: Reports from the CCC network say that over 130 factories are now shut down in Cambodia and over 90,000 workers dismissed, with a right to seven days worth of wages. Unionized workers are dispropotionally often dismissed.
Media report that during normal times experienced seamstresses should be able to easily find a new job. But many Cambodian factories are currently struggling to survive. Instead of recruiting new staff, they are suspending them. Khun Tharo from the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), said: "We know some factories are owned by massive multinational companies who will probably be able to survive, but when we start looking at some of the smaller factories and at subcontractor factories, which don't have the financial resources of these bigger companies, it paints a very concerning picture of the near future of the industry." The Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), which represents hundreds of employers, has also said that some factories may not survive the rapidly growing crisis, largely because the margins on which these companies operate are small.
India: Media report that the Ministry of Home Affairs has announced that migrant workers, stranded by the nationwide lockdown, will be allowed to return to their home states. Migrant workers will be screened for symptoms at departure and destination, and will have to stay in quarantine once back home. In addition, the movement of migrants will only be possible through state government facilitation, which means that people cannot cross national state borders on their own account. Another article made clear that movement would only be possible by road and that states would have to mutually agree in order for people to cross borders.
Media report that Indian bureaucrat Pranabjyoti Nath saw the COVID-19 outbreak as an opportunity to document the country's legions of migrant workers in order to help boost their rights. As of today, India has no central registry of migrant workers, despite passing legislation forty years ago to establish such a database. As Kerala's labour commissioner made clear, "the lockdown may be lifted, but this data is relevant for coming months. Policy-making is not possible without numbers."
Indonesia: According to information from the CCC network PT. Beesco, an Asics supplier in Indonesia, after having dismissed 2,500 workers last year is now about to let go around 2000 workers. [edited 14 May 2020 with a correction]
Further reports from the CCC network say that about a research shows that two-third of workers in Indonesia are still required to report for work and about a quarter of them does not receive PPE in the workplace. Over fifty percent of workers in Indonesia experience wage cuts. [edited 14 May 2020 for clarity]
Malaysia: A civil society statement from Malaysia points out that non-citizens in Malaysia are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 and other illnesses due to their high-density living quarters and working areas, and a lack of access to information and healthcare urging access to health care and information for migrant communities, clear guidelines and procedures to ensure that reopening workplaces are operated safely, and a moratorium on all evictions for all residents in Malaysia.
Myanmar: According to reports from the CCC network the ban on public gatherings in Myamnar is used to curb union activities.
Petitions and relief efforts
Labour behind the Label focusing on UK brands.
Oxfam Australia focusing on Australian brands.
USAS focusing on US brand Under Amour.
Public Eye petition in German and French.
Traidcraft focusing on UK brands.
Remake focusing on global brands.
Garment worker Covid relief collects relief efforts.
Donate to the CCC relief fund in EUR:
Donate to the CCC relief fund in USD:
Demands, recommendations, proposals
CCC list of demands upon brand and retailers.
Global union and employer joint call to action.
WRC and MHSSN safety recommendations.
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.
International Labor Rights Forum created a resource for global solidarity during COVID19.
Labour Start collects materials coming in from trade unions around the world.
The International Trade Union Confederation collects trade union news on the COVID19 crisis.
The Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD maintains a website with partner responses.
Retail dive tracks retailers’ response to COVID19.
The US Chamber of Commerce maintains a corporate aid tracker.
Foot Wear News tracks fashion philanthropy.
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"
Basic health information
Hesperian Health Guides' COVID-19 Fact Sheet
29 April 2020
Bangladesh: The BBC reports that the $588 million stimulus package for the garment sector to pay wages divided by the number of workers would only cover wages for one month. It is now estimated that about 200,000 garment workers are back at work. The sector has been urged to enforce social distancing as well as raise hygiene standards but workers say some factories are ignoring this. "I'm going to work every day and I'm full of fear," one garment factory worker told the BBC."In my factory, there are so many of us working in such a small place, which increases the risk of coronavirus infection. I'm scared for my life."
Media report that now 600 apparel factories reopened. Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, or BGMEA, said she was under pressure to reopen factories after the pandemic cost the industry more than $3 billion in orders that were cancelled or suspended.
Cambodia: Media report that hundreds of garment workers who have been put into quarantine in Cambodia after returning to the capital after celebrating the Khmer New Year with their families, say they are running out of money.
Media report that among the nearly 86,000 migrant workers who had returned from Thailand in the last month and were placed in quarantine at home no infections were discovered. Around 150 to 200 workers are still coming back from Thailand every day often because there are no longer jobs for them in Thailand.
Media report that workers from the Hulu Garment factory have been protesting since April 22nd. Workers are demanding to be informed by management if the closure of the factory will be permanent, noting that, if so, they would be required to pay them full benefits. These demands have been supported by the Labour Ministry of Cambodia, as Heng Sour, the ministry's spokesperson, affirmed that workers should report to the ministry if the factory failed to pay them their full benefits. Meanwhile, 135 NGOs and human rights groups have issued a joint statement on Monday [27th of April] calling for the suspension of all microfinance debts, including interest accrual, for at least three months amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. "These actions are necessary to ensure that people are able to survive this crisis without risking their health or homes and are able to avoid further risky loans that could lead to bonded labor, human trafficking and other human rights abuses," the statement warned. However, media report that this call has been rejected by the Cambodian Microfinance Association (CMA), which has justified the refusal by affirming that it has already committed to exempt borrowers of paying late fees.
India: According to reports from the CCC network, the adverse effects of the lockdown in India have affected vulnerable groups among the garment workers with whom Garment Labour Union (GLU) is working. As these workers are paid low wages, they do not have sufficient savings to help them during this crisis. Hence, GLU, Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and some worker leaders have come forward to help the garment workers and other daily wage workers and vulnerable groups during the crisis. They distribute dry rations for over 350 (migrant) workers at their homes and also provide cooked food for lunch and dinner for 850 workers in the Northern parts of Bangalore, with the help of the State Workers Welfare Board (Karnataka Workers Welfare Board).
Myanmar: Media report that around 70 labour activists and workers are being prosecuted for organizing strikes while social distancing orders are in effect. Ko Wai Phyo, labour activist, explained that factory owners have also violated social distancing orders by making workers work too close to each other, but that they weren't being held accountable by authorities in this matter. "Factory owners have broken the workers' laws", Ko Myat affirmed, further explaining that there had been negotiations between workers and owners regarding working conditions, but that these negotiations had failed.
Media report that factories and other workplaces are gradually resuming operations after being ordered to close for COVID-19 health and safety inspections, reiterating that the manner in which the inspections were announced on April 19 caused widespread confusion. Although the goal was to inspect all Myanmar factories by tomorrow (April 30), this goal has proved impossible, and inspections will carry on into next week.
28 April 2020
Bangladesh: Media report that workers continue to return to the cities, desperate to save their jobs and often spending excessive fares as regular public transport is not available. Many travel without protective gear, while thousands of workers have to cross rivers are packed on ferries.
At the same time authorities try to stick to the plan that factories would only restart with workers already living in the city. Media report that Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan today said steps have been taken so that garment workers cannot enter Dhaka from outside. President of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Rubana Huq said on Friday that reopening would be dependent on the situation in the country: “We won’t reopen the factories killing people or putting our workers in trouble.” She said they would consult relevant stakeholders and the authorities concerned before reopening the factories. Many factories however started opening from Sunday on. "We have to accept coronavirus as part of life. If we don't open factories, there will be economic crisis," said Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association vice president Mohammad Hatem, who added that factories reopen as they have to finish orders. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has warned that without adequate safeguards for returning workers there could be a second wave of the virus. To prevent transmission of the virus and safeguard workers in the country, the ILO Bangladesh office has developed COVID-19 specific OSH guidelines, together with the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE).
In the meantime, demonstrations about unpaid worker wages continue. Media report that at least eight people were injured on Monday after a clash erupted between police and garment workers in Gazipur. Protests also continued in other parts of the country including Savar, Narayanganj, and Chittagong. Workers demanded reopening of closed factories, payment of their arrears, and provision of adequate safety measures at reopened factories. Confusion about factory openings also created chaos among groups of workers.
Cambodia: Media report that up to 130 factories in Cambodia have thus far submitted notices requesting for suspension and these will impact up 100,000 workers. For the second quarter of this year, garment and footwear exports will see a 50 to 60 percent decline over the same corresponding period last year, according to the government.
India: Media report that migrant workers in India, who had previously moved to urban areas in search of work or better employment and ended up in the informal sector, are now mostly living on the streets or in very small households, where they are unable to practice social distancing. The journalist poses the questions: "How can one stay at home if they do not have one, or if their house is awfully small to accommodate all the members of the family?", urging for better housing security.
Media report that over 500,000 migrant workers, that find themselves away from their home-state, have registered themselves on an online portal organised by the Odisha government to facilitate their return once the lockdown is lifted. Officials fear that the massive registration could overwhelm the preparations made by the State government for worker's return.
Media report that the Shiv Sena said that the Centre should make arrangements in order to send migrant workers to their home provinces. "It is the Centres responsibility to arrange trains and buses so that labourers could reach their homes", they said.
Garment manufacturers in Noida say that future shipments been cancelled, but consignments in transit are also cancelled. They fear not to have any orders for the next two years.
Indonesia: This month marks the fifth anniversary of the Jaba Garmindo factory bankruptcy and the #PayUpUniqlo campaign for the brand to take responsibility for 2,000 former garment workers who are still fighting for the $5.5 million owed to them in severance pay. Many have struggled to find new factory jobs since the closure and have been forced to rely on inadequate income from informal work, such as street vending. Such informal work is banned under COVID-19 restrictions, closing the only avenue to income these workers had. As informal workers, they are not entitled to any financial assistance and many are now surviving on plain rice only, unable to afford anything else. These workers face an increasingly desperate situation and urgently need Uniqlo to take action.
Haiti: Garment factories in Haiti have begun reopening after shuttering for up to four weeks. This means workers risk exposure during their crowded work commutes and at factories, while most have not received the wages they were promised during the factory closings, according to several garment worker unions.
Pakistan: CCC organizations NTUF and HBWWF today observed Occupational Health and Safety Day/Worker Memorial Day with a demonstration in Karachi.
27 April 2020
Bangladesh: Many garment factories have started to reopen since yesterday. Trade union leaders stated that, despite the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA)'s claims that factories would only reopen with the workers who were living nearby, factory owners asked many workers to join work over mobile phones, even though they were in their village homes. Mofazzal Hossain, a garment worker, explains that he feels compelled to return to his factory, even though "The fear of coronavirus is there", because "I am now more worried about losing my job, wages and benefits".
Reports from the CCC network suggest that most factories do not have adequate safety measures. Some have soap and water or plastic sheets between workplaces, some have not even that. Companies sourcing from factories reopening now include H&M, PVH, Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury, Next, Inditex.
Media report that Narayanganj, one of the worst-hit coronavirus hotspots in the country, has resumed operations in 191 factories, including 81 garment factories. Units have reopened with a limited number of workers and Nirob Hossain, a garment worker, reported that temperature checks were undergoing at the entrance of the factory, that workers had access to disinfectants and that they were respecting social distancing measures within factory walls.
Media report that the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) has launched an investigation to check whether garment factories that are going through temporary closures are doing so "by the book". Shibnath Roy, inspector general of the DIFE, made clear that the Department "will mainly find out whether the factories laid off the workers following the rules of Bangladesh Labour Act or not." The full list of factories that have abandoned production without following the rules will be sent to the Ministry of Labour for punitive action. The BGMEA said, last week, that factories that have no work due to the COVID-19 outbreak are within their right to temporarily shutdown, but Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation, made clear that "Laying off a worker during such a critical moment is illegal and unjust."
Protest against non-payments of wages continued on Sunday, Reuters reports, in defiance of the lock down that still lasts until 5 May. Health officials confirmed five more deaths and reported 418 new cases on Sunday, taking the official total number of positive cases to 5,416, including 145 deaths.
An article in Asia Times questions the puzzling decision made by the Bangladeshi government to launch a $558M stimulus program that puts money in the hands of garment manufacturers instead of in the hands of garment workers, who need it the most amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. "It’s a grave error for Bangladesh to bite the hand that feeds it.", the journalist made clear.
India: Media report that the reopening of factories in Bangladesh has pushed for stronger calls within India for an easing of the national lock down, which has caused deep economic suffering. Ashok Gehlot, chief minister of Rajasthan, explained that extending the severe lock down could lead to people starving and urged the government to allow economic activity in less-affected areas, reiterating that 300 of India's 630 districts have reported no cases. "I can't say how many people will die of corona, but, if the situation continues, people will die of hunger", he warned.
Pakistan: Labour leaders in Pakistan say that millions of workers have been dismissed and many more workers will be dismissed because companies are not taking the responsibility and are cancelling orders.
26 April 2020
Bangladesh: Media report that, despite the BGMEA's directive to all its members asking them not to ask their workers who are currently in their villages to return to Dhaka, the race to the cities has begun as factory owners announced that they would open the factories from today (26 April). Moreover, the article also reports that workers have been unable to respect social distancing measures while traveling to the cities, as most have left villages on foot or jammed into whatever vehicle they could find. "We don't want to lose our job. I wish management provided us with transport.", one garment worker said. This is the second time in a month that workers have had to scramble to their factories in Savar, Ashulia, Dhaka, Gazipur and Naraynganj.
In the meantime, demonstrations continue. Media report that nearly 1,000 workers of the Haesong Bd Ltd company took to the streets of Kaliakoir this morning to demand three months arrears. Media furthermore report that garment workers from different factories demonstrated in Gazipur and blocked two roads this morning, demanding their due salaries. Garment workers also demonstrated this morning in Narayanganj, Gazipur and Savar, protesting layoffs and demanding last month's wages.
Discussion on the opening of factories continues. Media report that Salman F. Rahman, the Prime Minister's private sector adviser, said that the country's garment factories must be reopened slowly by maintaining necessary health protocol to save the economy. Media furthermore report that factory owners and the government worked together to decide that factories should start reopening from today (26 April): "In the initial stage, we will run our factories with a limited number of workers who are living nearby our factories and we are requesting our workers who are now living at village homes not to return to workplace", Mohammad Hatem, first vice president of BKMEA, affirmed. The BGMEA shared that its member factories located in Dhaka will reopen from today and tomorrow; factories in Ashulia, Savar and Dhamrai and Manikganj will reopen on 28, 29 and 30 April, respectively; factories in Rupganj, Narsingdi and Kanchpur will be reopened on 30 April and, finally, factories in Gazipur and Mymensingh will reopen on 2-3 May. Garment sector leaders urged to be allowed to reopen, as some orders in their factories are half done and need to be completed and shipped in order to avoid facing order cancellation. In a statement the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry explained that export-oriented industries should be allowed to reopen gradually for the sake of the economy, urging for a quick decision to be taken in this regard and, if necessary, by forming a sector-wise taskforce.
India: Media report that in the fifth week of the Indian lock down there are still migrants on the streets wolking back to their home villages. Odisha is bringing back migrant workers from the most affected states Gujarat and Maharashtra. An opinion article urges to take the migrant worker crisis caused by the COVID-19 lock down and take it as an incentive to reexamine social-protection and employment policies and redesign them with internal migration in mind.
Pakistan: CCC organizations National Trade Union Federation and Home Based Women Workers Federation continue food relief to worker families.
Sri Lanka: Media report that the Ceylon Federation of Labour (CFL) has said that it was perplexed to learn that the government has proceeded to open the country's normal activity with little regard to the health and well-being of its citizens. The CFL released a statement describing the government's decision as "arbitrary, untimely and short-sighted". The union is particularly concerned with the impact this decision will have on workers and their families, as workers will now have to report to work without any guarantees to their health and safety in the workplace. “The CFL would urge the authorities against any action that would resume production without first ensuring the safety and security of workers while at work, in the course of employment and while commuting to and from work” the union made clear in its statement.
25 April 2020
Global: An op-ed by Business and Human Rights Resource Centre's Phil Bloomer and Alysha Khambay explains: "Even before the Covid-19 crisis, many suppliers have struggled with cashflow and paying workers on time, with 40% of suppliers facing payment terms of more than 60 days under normal business conditions. The brands’ responses to the crisis have placed an even greater strain on suppliers; the unequal power balance could not be more stark. Crucially, non-payment for orders that have not yet been sent out from factories risks leaving suppliers unable to pay wages owed to their workers. Reports are already emerging of workers protesting for wages owed to them which factories are refusing to pay on the grounds that buyers have cancelled orders."
Bangladesh: Media report that at least 50 workers demonstrated in front of their factory this morning in Dhaka. Workers protested because they are yet to receive their salaries for the past three months.
Media report how, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the reopening of garment factories will soon take place. In the same article, the BGMEA made clear that it has directed its member factories not to ask workers who are in their villages to return to Dhaka until the factory's opening date is announced, as, in the first phase, only the workers who are living nearby should be asked to join.
Media report that trade union leaders and labour rights activists have expressed their concerns over the government's decision to allow the reopening of garment factories amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. They warned that it is dangerous to allow the reopening of the most labour intensive industry, in which maintaining social distancing will be almost impossible. Taslima Akter, president of the Bangladesh Garment Workers Solidarity group, reiterated that "Factory reopening would mean more vulnerability for the workers".
Media report that two readymade garment factories in Ashulia have laid off around 1,100 workers: Sigma Fashions Ltd in Ashulia's Tajpur area fired 709 workers this morning without any prior notice, and the factory has been declared shut from 18 April to 31 May, during which none of the other remaining workers will be eligible for payment either. The workers of the factory started to demonstrate after they learned of the notice. Nearly 400 workers of Aswad Composite Mills have claimed they were dismissed over the last couple of days, however, the director of Aswad Composite Mills Mahtab Uddin claims that no worker has lost their job during this period. Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) of Dhaka Industrial Police-1 Jane Alam Khan said factory owners have been asked not to sack any workers especially during this situation.
Cambodia: Media report that 77 new factories, including 34 in the garment sector, have opened in Cambodia since the beginning of 2020, despite the COVID-19 outbreak. However, at the same time, six factories have closed, leaving more than 6,000 workers without a job. These 77 new factories have, according to the Ministry of Industry of Cambodia, created jobs for 27,909 people across the country.
Media report that the 85,000 Cambodian migrant workers who have returned to Cambodia due to the pandemic are told by the government not to attempt to go back to the countries where they used to work.
India: Media report that anticipating the return of over 50,000 migrant workers to the state after lifting of lockdown on 3 May, the Odisha government on Friday launched a portal in which migrants have to register before being allowed to return, to contain the pandemic.
An article about the plight of the many migrant workers who returned to their villages once more indicates that many migrant workers do not have access to food support or ration cards as they are no longer registered in their home villages.
Myanmar: Media report that manufacturers are urging the government to send a coordinated response, instead of individual directives from each ministry, as some of the directives have been found to be in conflict with each other, putting workers at risk. Khin Maung Oo, general secretary of Myanmar Industries Associations, made clear that the last minute government instructions for factories and workplaces to close for COVID-19 inspections have demonstrated the lack of consultations between various stakeholders and the different ministries
Pakistan: The National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF), Democratic Workers Federation, and Karachi Bar representatives have filed a constitutional petition at the Sindh High Court against illegal worker retrenchment and violations of fundamental rights. Two members of the High Court bench have issued notices to the federal and Sindh governments, the Employers' Federation of Pakistan and other stakeholders for a response.
Reports from the CCC network state that workers of Siddique Sons, unit # D 53, have successfully negotiated with the management, meaning they will receive their bonuses, April wages and arrears within a week.
24 April 2020
Global: A range of organizations, including Clean Clothes Campaign, Worker Rights Consortium, and many more, today commemorate the Rana Plaza building collapse of seven years ago by also asking attention to the devasting effect the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has on workers in Bangladesh and around the world. Also many media articles and podcasts and op-eds that pay attention to the anniversary make the link to the pandemic and the persistant inequality in the industry it lays bare. Fashion United quotes Kalpona Akter: “I see the western world stocking up on food while garment workers are going hungry. Where are the brands who claimed to be sustainable now? I will never forget how they’ve treated us during Covid-19. It is like Rana Plaza all over again”.
Labour behind the Label, representing CCC in the UK, writes in an op-ed on Reuters: "The injustice we are seeing in the garment industry during the pandemic is not a new phenomenon, rather global supply chains are designed specifically to limit brands obligations to suppliers. ... Brands have thus far profited from a system which outsources work to worker in countries on the other side of the world, conveniently ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ However, COVID-19 has shattered the walls that brands have built to separate themselves from their workers. It is impossible to ignore the links between poverty pay and the destitution that workers now face. The case for brands to enter into enforceable agreements with unions, that obligate them to pay higher prices for products, pay living wages to workers and support social protection systems has never been stronger. In order to make sure that workers are never again left so exposed to a public health or financial crisis, it is essential to radically change the global garment industry and embed social protections in supply chains."
Women In Informal Employment calls upon brands not to forget the workers at the bottom of the garment supply chain. Subcontracted homeworkers — women who stitch from homes for some of the leading brands, often for pennies — have been left devastated by a lack of wages and lost payments for work already completed. Many home based workers have not been paid for products already handed over to the factory and are left without income now that the factories that hand off work to them are closed.
Bangladesh: Labour rights groups in Bangladesh oppose factory owners plans to reopen factories in May while the government is set to extend the lockdown over coronavirus until the first week of the month.
Media report that the BGMEA has a plan to set up three coronavirus testing units and 130 private clinics in Gazipur, Bangladesh, for workers once factories reopen. The same article also shared that 98,5% of workers (working in BGMEA member factories) had received March's salaries, but that most factories that suspended production temporarily are now only paying 60% of workers' gross salaries during the period of suspension.
Media report that Khondaker Golam Moazeem, research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), presented research work that emphasised the importance of effective dialogue between the government of Bangladesh, factory owners, workers and global buyers to protect businesses and workers from the current health and economic crisis. He went on to say that global brands and buyers should have aligned with the local initiatives initiated by governments and manufacturers.
Media report that trade union leaders are urging factory owners to withdraw layoffs. Nazma Akter, president of Sammilita Garment Shramik Federation, demands that workers who have been terminated be reinstated to their respective workplaces and urged manufacturers to end layoffs, pay March's wages and pay wages for April when they are due with the Eid festival allowance expected.
The Steelworkers Humanity Fund is contributing with $50,000 to the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, that provides emergency relief for garment workers put out of work during the COVID-19 outbreak. Ken Neumann, Canadian Director of the organisation, made clear that "The Humanity Fund contribution will make a huge difference in the lives of 750 families who will receive food packages and medical kits from the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. But it is not nearly enough. Canadian brands and the government of Canada must also step up".
Media report that the Rana Plaza Survivors' Association, along with 25 workers' organisations in Savar, that usually arrange various programmes every year to recall the victims of Rana Plaza, have urged people to observe the day from their homes, in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country. Media report that Khairul Mamun Mintu, organising secretary of the Garment Workers Trade Union Centre, reiterated that trade unions have been demanding that the government rehabilitate survivors of the Rana Plaza tragedy for a long time, but that "no steps have been taken in this regard". "In the meantime, they are suffering due to the shutdown. Most have no food or money to buy medicine. The government should make a list of the survivors immediately and help them", he added.
India: Shipments worth US$3 billion are at stake for India's apparel exporters, following order cancellations and payment delays amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey. The key findings of the poll, by Rajesh Bheda Consulting (RBC), are that the combined value of orders cancelled and on hold is US$1.49 million per factory, which is the equivalent of US$4.17 billion nationwide.
South Asia: Experts say that South Asian countries need a migrant worker-friendly disaster management policy. Sudden lock downs and unclear policies led workers in India and Bangladesh to walk long distances to get to their home villages or back to work.
Sri Lanka: According to reports from the CCC network trade unions in Sri Lanka, including Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union, reached out to the government on the potential re-opening of factories, saying: "We do accept, factories have to be re-opened to support the economy in its efforts to sustain the nation. Yet re-opening factories should not be planned on employer needs for profits alone, leaving employees as a secondary factor in production." The unions asked for clear criteria on factories that would be allowed to return to work, clarity on the status of workers that would not be rehired and a government commitment to support employers to sustain workers untill they are employed again.
Media report that the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association, Rehan Lakhani is fearing that many member factories will go bankrupt over lack of orders and the fact that buyers are asking for a 180-day credit limit unlike the present 30 day credit limit. He also said that the industry urger the government to introduce retrenchment laws, to suspend the EPF and ETF contributions from both employers and employees for a period of six months, and provide a wage fund for three months for factories employing less than 3000 employees.
The Philippines: The Samahan ng Manggagawang Kaagapay sa Pag-unlad workers’ association calls for unity and solidarity in battling the virus and asserting the health, safety and welfare of the people, demanding universal health care, social protection of workers and the poor, participation in policy making and respect for human rights amidst the crisis. More than a month has passed since the enhanced community quarantine. Concrete help for basic needs of the people from the government are barely seen in communities. In some places, government help only came 10 days, leaving workers and their families hungry and with no assurance that additional assistance will be distributed to the communities at a regular basis. The promised financial support has not reached many of the workers yet. Employers should apply for the support shall file on behalf of their workers. Thousands of
workers and their families are still waiting. Human rights groups in the country call for:
1. Efficient free mass testing especially of all suspected persons, frontline healthcare workers and surveillance testing in communities with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
2. Adequate and free access to quarantine facilities at the local level.
3. Adequate and timely social protection programme especially for vulnerable sectors.
4. Respect of human rights during and after lock down.
You can listen to a pod-cast with Livia Firth, Lucy Siegle and CCC's Christie Miedema here
23 April 2020
Global: Human Rights Watch urges governments, brands, retailers, and suppliers to work together with labour rights groups and unions to minimize economic harm to garment workers in global supply chains. Drawing from some positive examples, such as the measures taken by the Sindh provincial government in Pakistan and South Africa's Unemployment Insurance Fund, the organisation makes clear that "sadly, even such short-term measures are the exception rather than the norm". "Garment workers shouldn't have to worry about putting food on the table", Aruna Kasyap of Human Rights Watch stated.
The launch of an EU Shadow strategy for the Textile, Garment and Foorwear sector, by 65 civil society organisations included a paper to explain the how the current pandemic crisis highlights the urgency of a EU comprehensive strategy to mitigate the effect on a high-risk value chain.
An article in Refinery 29 looks at the future of fashion aftre the pandemic. “I would hope there is an opportunity to make sure that profit-making brands — because there’s still a lot of money in those brands — are forced to take more of their share of burden,” says Dominique Muller, director of policy at Labour Behind the Label. “I don’t think that change is something that will come from a shift in shopping habits. For me, changes in the fashion industry will come with global binding legislation that has teeth, so that we can actually make corporations responsible for the products that they make and for how those products are made,” Tansy Hoskins says.
The BBC features garment factory workers in Bangladesh who are finding themselves out of work, a factory CEU which has seen its orders drying up, and an academic who believes the pandemic will lead to global supply chain restructuring, potentially meaning higher prices for consumer goods.
Clean Clothes Campaign is starting a relief fund to help finance the variety of grassroots relief activities happing in the global network. Find donate buttons at the top right of this page.
Bangladesh: In an interview in The Nation, labour rights activist and union leader Kalpona Akter explains why workers are demonstrating in Bangladesh and why, despite the current problems with workers not being paid, closing factories is paramount: "In the factories, workers sit at sewing machines with just a one-foot gap between them. Thousands of people are working together in the same building. You could have a situation where two workers infect an entire factory of 5,000. And Bangladesh has a shortage of medical facilities, which makes our country one of the most vulnerable. We have a broken health system. It would be a nightmare for workers to try and get access to health care or a hospital. So that’s why we called for the factories to be locked down."
Vogue remembers the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh and states that, seven years later, the COVID-19 outbreak has put garment workers in Bangladesh back in the spotlight. “Our workers have made [these international fashion brands] profit for years, but when we need their support, they run away from their responsibility,” Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, told Vogue. “If these brands did not cancel their orders, the factory workers would not be losing their jobs.” Factory owners and campaigners urge brands to take a greater share of the responsibility, both during this crisis and going forward. “We could have easily overcome this situation if we had true partnership and cooperation,” says a factory owner, who sees the current response by brands as a betrayal of the progress made since the Rana Plaza disaster. “I have my responsibility towards my workers, and I expect the same responsibility from our clients.” The article also shares how readers can help hold brands accountable and support garment workers in Bangladesh.
Media report that most garment factories will remain closed, although they were supposed to reopen on 26 April, due to the exponential rise of COVID-19 cases and the proximity in which garment workers operate within factory walls. The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) has been making a guideline for reopening garment factories in Bangladesh, which will mainly instruct factory owners on how to run units following health safety measures. Shibnath Roy, inspector general of the DIFE, shared some of the guidelines, such as making sure factories have several exit and entry gates, impose regular hand washing and cleaning of floors and washrooms while using hand gloves. Nevertheless, ready-made garment factories (RMG) have been allowed to keep open if the chose so during the public holidays, which has already been extended until 5 May, as long as they are able to ensure worker's safety and health service facilities during this period. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated that "RMG owners may continue operation with a few workers if they can provide safe accomodation and transportation of the workers."
The Daily Star remembers the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory by exposing Western brands' double standards. "The proposed price cut by Western brands through revision of subsisting contracts with RMG factories has been a tale of two standards. On the one hand, Western brands wailed at the Bangladeshi RMG industry's state after the Rana Plaza collapse and worked commendably through Accord and Alliance towards improving workers' safety. On the other hand, in these testing times of Covid-19, the brands are threatening to walk away from valid contracts if heavy discounts are not offered by RMG factories." The article also reiterates that it is important to explore the legality of such a stance by foreign brands, stating that "It is true that a contract can be altered by mutual agreement of the parties (see section 62 of the Contract Act 1872). But here, the issue is not about mutual alteration of a contract. The problem lies in the bargaining power of the parties and the context in which such a bargain is made by a party. And at the heart of that context are the principles of economic duress and undue influence."
Media report that, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), as many as 48,200 apparel workers are yet to get their wages for the month of March. The association further claimed that 92 factories of member factories, equivalent to 4%, have not paid due salaries, most of them being small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are currently suffering from fund crisis.
Bulgaria: The Pleven sewing company Mizia stopped work until 4 May because 24 people from one of the workshops were tested positive for the new Coronavirus: one of them is in hospital, the others with one exception are symptom free. The factory was disinfected and some workers were called in for testing while three health inspection teams in Pleven traveled to nearby settlements to collect samples from contact points.
Cambodia: Media report that Ken Loo, secretary of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, states that the majority of buyers of Cambodian garments and textiles have cancelled their orders, affecting around 500,000 garment workers and their families.
Media report that nearly 3,000 garment workers who had returned from their home provinces after the Khmer New Year holidays have been tested for coronavirus over the past four days. After 14 days of quarantine, workers will be checked again and, if they are cleared, they will be allowed to resume work.
Media report that more than 300 workers from the Hulu Garment Factory in Por Senchey protested today because the factory said that workers had resigned from the factory by their own accord, which is, according to Ry Sithyneth, president of Independent Trade Union Federation, untrue. "The workers did not resign at all, but the company said the workers have resigned. The company did this to avoid paying seniority pay to the workers," he said, noting that a total of 1,020 workers worked at this factory, which suspended its operations more than two months ago.
About 3,000 workers at Propitious Cambodia Garment Ltd in Takhmao, Cambodia were dismissed yesterday by employers without any advance notice. The factory manager said they dismissed workers as they do not have any orders and not enough money to pay workers.
India: Small and medium size spinning industries are seeking immediate relief measures from the Tamil Nadu government. At the same time, Tirupur is struggling to step up production as demand for personal protective equipment such as masks and bodysuits is growing. At national level the Garment Exporters & Manufacturers Association (GEMA) has appealed to the government to pay wages for workers engaged in the sector for April and May.
The Indian central government decided to allow for intrastate movement of stranded migrant workers to their workplaces, especially migrant workers residing in relief camps, but the Maharashtra state government seems not interested in allowing such movement, fearing spread of the virus.
Indonesia: Media report that, while a number of large manufacturing companies in Indonesia are adapting to the shifts in demand toward health equipment and basic necessities during the COVID-19 outbreak, widespread layoffs and furloughs have still been seen with small and medium-sized manufacturers struggling. The Industry Minister shared that four large garment manufacturing companies have been able to export $3B in products during the pandemic, but that 1.5 million workers have still been furloughed, with the majority having worked for small and medium-sized textile companies.
Myanmar: A broad coalition of labour rights groups in Myanmar have set up criteria on which garment workers most need to to receive the COVID-related rapid response worker funds stemming from the EU.
Pakistan: CCC network organizations Home Based Women Workers Federation and NTUF report that Siddique Sons, Denim cloths, unit #2 sacked 130 workers without paying March salary and taking signatures on black papers. After action by the two organizations the factory owners agreed to negotiate with the protesting workers. The same organizations also reported that TriStar Polyester sacked 250 workerw with workers planning to protest. Also here the factory owner agreed to negotiate.
UK: Media report that Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods, shared that the company could take an extra £284M hit due to products it can no longer sell due to lockdown and that more than 68,000 employees are receiving furlough payments from governments across Europe.
USA: Media report that many garment factories in Los Angeles have switched to making masks, but job conditions remain substandard. Most of the estimated 45,000 garment workers in LA struggle to make a living at the best of times, working part-time without benefits and doing piecework instead of being paid hourly. The piecework arrangement means many are paid less than the minimum wage, but, considering that many of them are undocumented workers that fear any complaints they make will not only cost them their jobs, but could also bring armed ICE agents to their door, most "keep their heads down and their mouths shut".
22 April 2020
Global: The Clean Clothes Campaign network released a response welcoming the statement from Global Unions and employers' organization IOE calling for a global approach to protecting garment workers in supply chains. It is of utmost importance that brands and retailers do not cancel orders, do not seek sanctions or discounts, and pay suppliers for all orders completed or in production, as the statement sets forth, and that they do so in full and on the original payment terms, in order to avoid exacerbating the crisis, forcing suppliers into bankruptcy, and causing widespread job loss. The ILO similary welcomes the statement as a way forward.
Asia: Media report that Fashion Revolution encourages concerned individuals to write letters to their favorite fashions brands demanding that they honor the orders "already placed with their suppliers and ensure that the workers making their products are protected, supported and paid properly during this crisis"
Bangladesh: CNN Business has published an updated article and a video on the situation in the garment industry in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) estimates that nearly half of the country's 4.1 million garment workers have been laid off and that this has had catastrophic effects on workers and their families. The loss of business has exposed a rift between major brands and factory owners, that they have been left to pick up the tab, which has left them and their workers in dire straits. Rubana Huq, President of the BGMEA, describes the situation as "abysmal" and "unreal", adding that there is little legal recourse in the country for factories to demand that international retailers fulfill the terms of their contracts. "I don't want any grant, I don't want any kind of charity, I just want the bare minimum justice for our workers.", she added. The article further explains that the millions of factory workers aren't the only ones at risk, as around 15 million jobs in the country rely, directly or indirectly, on this industry. As the Bangladesh Commerce Minister made clear, "It is a very dangerous situation which may impact a lot of people". As such, the article stresses the important role of international brands, making clear that some brands have committed to paying in part or in full for the goods they have already ordered, but others, such as Gap, have not. Gap told CNN Business that the company is "making decisions based on the best interest of our employees, customers and partners, as well as the long-term health of our business. We are committed to working closely with our long-standing suppliers to best assess how we can work together through this crisis." However, actual commitments from Gap remain to be seen.
CCC network reports that the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) is distributing emergency food, safety equipment and leaflets among the garment workers.
Cambodia: Media report that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows in Cambodia have suffered an extreme drop, which, according to Economists, could pose a serious risk for the country. As the majority of FDI inflows have come, for the past few years, from China, investing mainly in the garment manufacturing sector, it is clear that this decrease in FDI inflows will affect the garment industry.
Hong Kong: More than 60% of retail workers suffer salary reduction according to CCC member, RCCIGU's survey. 25.6% of workers reported they are forced to take unpaid leave. The union demand the government undertake a six-months non-means-tested unemployment fund for those who are in need, along with other social protection and job programs.
India: Media report that the Government estimates that 1.25 million migrants that are stranded between big cities and their villages are living in government shelters. The same article reports that 33% of the total migrant population in India has had no access to food since March 24, the day that the Prime Minister announced that the entire country would be on lockdown.
The BBC published an updated article on situation of India's migrant workers, reiterating that last week, hours after the Prime Minister extended the nationwide lockdown, thousands of migrant workers gathered near a railway station in Mumbai. At the same time, hundreds of textile workers protested in Surat city, demanding passage home. A day later, several hundred migrants were found to be living under a bridge along the Yamuna river, in the capital. BBC, having visited shelters in east Delhi, reports that, whether living in shelters, sleeping on footpaths or under flyovers, the migrants are restless and are waiting for restrictions to be eased so they can go home. "This lockdown is totally inhuman", lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan told the BBC.
Media report that the states of Gujarat and Punjab have followed the footsteps of the Rajasthan government and increases the working hours limit allowed in manufacturing units to 12 hours a day. The states have invoked special powers under the Factories Act of 1948, which could be used during a public emergency, to make these changes without taking the legislative route. The same article reports that, unlike Rajasthan and Pubjab, workers in Gujarat will not be paid double the normal wages for the increased working hours.
Media report that the Supreme Court of India has asked the Union Government to consider the contents of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which seeks to ensure payments of minimum wages to all migrant workers who are suffering during the lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Indonesia: Media report that The Industry Ministry has decided to issue 11,172 operation and mobility permits for companies across the country that wish to operate under the government's large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) during the COVID-19 outbreak. PSBB regulation requires that all workplaces, except those in essential sectors, be closed and implement work-from-home policies. However, the regulation also stipulates that manufacturing factories could continue their operation if they receive a license and implement health protocols, because, as the Industry Minister made clear, "The manufacturing sector is the largest contributor to Indonesia's economy with a 19% share. There is no choice but to keep the economic engine running." This explains why textile industries were among the ones receiving the largest amount of permits to continue to operate.
Media report that the Industry Ministry is preparing a soft-loan scheme for hard-hit industries in order to enable them to pay Idul Fitri holiday bonuses (THR), considering that the economic downturn is forcing companies to withhold or cut these bonus payments.
Media report that migrants workers living at a government school at Palsana village in Rajasthan are painting the building to express their gratitude to local residents who are caring for them during the nationwide lockdown.
Myanmar: Media report that State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has confirmed that action will be take against factory owners who have flouted the government's order to shut down factories until COVID-19 inspections have been carried out. The chair of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar reported that four garment factories in Yangon's Hmawbi and Hliaing Taryar townships were still open today [April 22]. "Government officials will take action against these four factories in accordance with the law. The government does not issue statements and instructions for fun", the State Counsellor warned. Also in this article, the Myanmar Times reports that, although most factory owners are complying with the government's instructions, many factories are doing so without compensating workers, as the government did not specify whether owners are required to pay their workers during the period in which they are obliged to close. As a result, workers have been protesting outside their factories. The secretary general of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) urges the government, investors and workers to work together for mutual benefit.
Sir Lanka: Media report that the $5B and 1 million employee Sri Lanka Apparel Industry is struggling to survive amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, as American and European brands cancel orders. Rehan Lakhani, chairman of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exports Association explained that one of the main complications faced by the local industry was that cancellations had been made on seasonal products that will not cater to the following season. Using other governments with large manufacturing sectors as reference, Rehan urged the government of Sri Lanka to offer proper incentives, in order to enable this major industry to survive the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.
UK: Labour Behind the Label released a petition calling on Marks & Spencer, Primark, Next, Asda, Arcadia, ASOS & Boohoo to step up and protect the people who make their clothes.
Since the pandemic erupted, LBL have been working to protect those most at risk, which means both taking steps to limit exposure and ensuring that garment workers surviving on the poverty line are not pushed below it. Their petition calls for all clothing brands to meet seven demands in their response to coronavirus.
1) Honour contracts
2) Pay wages and protect jobs
3) Bailout the workers
4) Prioritise worker safety
5) Respect the right to refuse work
6) Put people before profits
7) Rebuild a more equitable industry
21 April 2020
Global: SOMO, ECCHR and PAX published a paper – Responsible disengagement in the time of corona – exploring what responsible disengagement means in the context of the global public health crisis and economic shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bangladesh: Media report that Bangladesh will sue factory owners that do not pay their staff during the coronavirus lock down, an official has warned, with tens of thousands of garment workers struggling after factories shut without paying March wages. Workers of at least 12 factories continued to demonstrate and block roads in Gazipur yesterday, demanding payment of their wages, media report.
The Bangladesh Bank has extended the deadline for opening mobile financial service (MFS) accounts for the employees of export-oriented factories by six days to 26 April. These accounts are important as they will allow for payment of government support and wages during the crisis. According to the latest data of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) as many as 397 apparel factories have suspended their production due to lack of orders from foreign buyers during the coronavirus pandemic. The factories that employ nearly 100,000 workers and employees were laid off in line with the Bangladesh Labour Act-2013. This means they are not eligible for the government fund meant for workers’ wages of the clothing factories because of their laid off status.
The BGMEA plans factory reopening early next month in phases with safety measure in place for workers. More than 1,100 Bangladeshi garment factories reported cancelled orders worth $3.17 billion in exports as of 20 April, affecting 2.27 million workers.
Cambodia: Media report that the Ministry of Labour estimates that around 30,000 garment workers have been placed in 14-day isolation, 15,000 of which are now in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Here, the Government, in cooperation with the City Hall, has set up 10 temporary locations to conduct health checks for five days. If workers exhibit no symptoms, they will get a letter from a doctor allowing them to self-isolate at home. Others, with no symptoms, or with no place to self-isolate, will stay in the government facilities and get tested. The secretary-general of the General Manufacturers Association in Cambodia urges all workers to comply with the government's directive, as failure to get a health check could be cause for dismissal.
Media report that remittances sent from Cambodian workers in South Korean during the first quarter represented $3.5M with 1,373 transactions, a decrease compared to the $6.2M with 2,270 transactions from the same period last year. In Channy, president of ACLEDA Bank, said that "All manufacturing production chain activity has been reduced because of the pandemic, including in South Korea, where there are many Cambodian workers" and that this has contributed to the clear decrease in remittances.
India: Media report that the Targeted Public Distribution Scheme allows India's poorest to purchase 5 kilograms of subsidized grains per month each. But because the migrant workers are no longer permanent residents, they're left without access to the food doled out from a nearby grain silo. More media report in how India's migrant workers fall through cracks in coronavirus lock down, including in pictures.
Indonesia: Media report that Indonesia's total foreign investment has started declining since mid-March. The Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) reported that the country’s investment grew by 1.2 percent in the first three months of the year, suggesting little impact from the COVID-19 outbreak, it is now clear that this trend has been reversed.
Media report that the Finance Ministry's fiscal policy agency (BKF) has voiced concerns that the government’s stimulus package may be insufficient to counter the severe economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. “We have doubts that the stimulus packages will be enough", Febrio Nathan Kacaribu, head of BKF, warned.
Myanmar: Media report that the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar (FGWM) will help the government take legal action against garment factory owners who reopened their factories before COVID-19 inspections were conducted at their premises. Ma Moe Sandar Myint, representative of the Federation said that "About 80 factories have reopened so far, and two are under our federation. We've made a list of those owners who failed to obey the official rules, and we'll continue to help the government in taking action against them."
Media report that The World Bank has fast-tracked the approval of $50M in loan financing for the Myanmar COVID-19 Emergency Response Project.
Media report that Lee Sang-hwa, South Korean Ambassador shared that all South Korean investments in Myanmar undertaken by the Korean International Cooperation Agency have been either suspended or postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Media report that, after a demonstration outside the factory, a total of 323 workers from the bag manufacturing factory Brightberg Enterprises, located at Industrial Zone 2 in Dagon Seikkan township, have been re-employed today [21 April] and lawsuits against 18 workers have been withdrawn. Work will resume on 27 April.
Pakistan: Experts urge all labour-related departments to start monitoring workers’ safety in the Covid-19 crisis now that factories start reopening.
Thailand: Media report that the Government has approved energy authorities' decision to either waive or cut electricity charges for 22 million households for three months.
20 April 2020
Global: Media report that 13 countries of the informal network called the International Coordination Group on COVID-19 (ICGC) that includes Canada, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, Morocco, Peru, Singapore and Indonesia have agreed to keep supply chains open to cushion the impacts of COVID-19 on global trade and economy.
Asia: Asia Floor Wage Alliance launched a proposal for a Supply Chain Relief Contribution fund in which brands should pay 2% of total annual sourcing to provide for relief for garment workers.
Bangladesh: Media report that the Bangladesh government decided that export-oriented factories which announced layoffs amid the coronavirus outbreak will not have access to the government's financial package of for the payment of workers’ wages. The government rejected the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association’s plea for a Tk 500,0000 loan from the Central Fund to pay workers’ wages for March.
Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, published a call in the Washington Post for global brands not to abandon Bangladesh’s factories and workers in the coronavirus crisis.
Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that some garment factories can resume operation with limited workers, after ensuring their health, safety, accommodation, and transport facilities.
Media report that, according to a survey carried out by Brac James Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH), Brac University and Bangladesh Health Watch (BHW) between 3-15 April, 47% of garment workers have reported to have no income, 11% to be on leave with partial pay and 24% to be on leave will full pay.
The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) has launched a telemedicine service for workers amid the coronavirus outbreak to provide health services over phone.
Cambodia: Media report that many garment workers explain that they had been forced to take holidays over Khmer New Year by their factories, that had been hit with reduced orders from brands. Chanphally, garment worker, explains that she only took the break because her factory made her take leave from April 9 to 20 and stayed inside her home the entire time. She will, however, be forced to go on 14 days quarantine, which will have life-threatening consequences for her. "I think that if the factory or the government does not pay me some money while I am isolated for 14 days, I will not have enough money to pay for food or anything during this time.", she said. Workers are urging factories or the government to provide some money for workers who are isolated.
Media report that more than 10,000 garment workers who recently returned to the capital from rural areas will be placed in mandatory 14-days quarantine.
Media report that, on Friday, the one-party controlled Senate voted to pass the draft 'state of emergency' legislation, a law that has already been widely criticized for giving the government widespread powers to curtail fundamental freedoms and rights, such as freedoms of movement, expression, association and assembly - all assured in the Cambodian Constitution. Although the Justice Minister, Koeut Rith, said that anyone who criticized the law was 'not a friend of Cambodia', Rhonda Smith, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, reiterated that 'the law endangers human rights'.
India: Media report that garment workers across the state of Tirupur have been left without income during the lockdown period as requests of the Prime Ministers and Chief Minister to companies have not ensured any relief from the companies. Moreover, garment workers are covered under the Factories Act and hence not eligible to get cash relief from the Government. Workers are depending on the rations provided by trade unions and other individual donors. The District secretary of Tirupur District Banian Workers' Union made clear that 'The chief minister and prime minister appealed to the companies to provide salary to the workers during the lock down period. But, to our knowledge, no worker has received any relief from the companies they work for. Only a handful of companies have provided advance salary to the workers, which would be deducted once the lockdown ends.'
Media report that tailors at cloth markets in Gandhi Nagar, Asia's largest garment market, with around 15,000 shops and over 2.5 lakh skilled workers, have been left with low or no income, having seen a fair share of crisis this year. First, commerce was affected by the Northeast Delhi riots and now, the coronavirus has demolished any chances of survival, traders have said. Sanjay Jain, vice-president of the Ram Nagar Market Association said that 'Salaries of workers for March have been paid, but that it will be difficult to pay for April.'
Myanmar: Media report that all Myanmar factories will need to close from 20-30 April for inspections by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, the Ministry of Health and Sports and other relevant groups. After passing inspections, factories will be allowed to reopen. The measure has been put in place to assure that the necessary precautions are taken in order to contain the spread of the virus within factory walls. U Myo Aung, permanent secretary of the Labour Ministry, reported that the 'Ministry will conduct inspections at factories with 11 teams in collaboration with the Health Ministry today [20 April] and will continue tomorrow at another 60-70 factories.'
Media report that, despite the Labour Ministry's instructions, several factories opened today, April 20. Ma Moe Sandar Myint, acting chief of the Myanmar Federation of Garment Workers, explained that 'A number of factories are not closed for today as they did not receive the instructions in time and so many workers still had to go to work.' 'The government needs to provide clearer instructions', she added. Also about this situation, Zo Zaw Lin Khine, from Action Labour Rights, shared that 'Some 20 to 30 factories have reopened on April 20, but many factories made negotiations and sent their workers home. Some even announced closures until April 26 while others are closed until April 20'. In agreement with Ma Moe, Ko Zaw urged the government to provide clearer instructions.
Pakistan: Reports from the CCC network confirm that workers from the Ruaf Textile and Printing Mills, that protested in front of their factory on 16 April, have received their salaries. Contract workers were paid in cash and permanent workers were paid through the bank.
Sri Lanka: A newspaper article in Sri Lanka explains how women are bearing the brunt of the pandemic, this includes the many women in garment production in Sri Lankan free trade zones.
The government in Sri Lanka has announced a relaxation of COVID-19 measures, which includes restarting garment factories with a limited number of employees, some of which will start producing PPE. Reports from the CCC network suggests that some factories which have already open have selected employees by disregarding seniority. Some have already unofficially dismissed employees who worked until the curfew was declared but are over 50 - 55 years of age as well as contract employees who have worked less than one year at the factory. Apparel sector employers are saying that they can employ only 30 % of the present employees. Some employers are seeking drastic labour law reform, using the pandemic as a reason.
Vietnam: Media report that the CEO of Vinatex, a manufacturing company with about 200 factories and 100,000 workers in Vietnam, said that the company will have to cut up to 50% of jobs by May if the outbreak's impact persist.
19 April 2020
Bangladesh: In an op-ed, Managing Director of Denim Expert Limited Mostafiz Uddin calls upon Primark to 'do the right thing', stating: "While some brands have offered to pay for all cancelled orders -- whether complete or WIP -- Primark is offering to pay just the wages of affected garment workers on these orders. To offer some perspective here, this represents just 10-15% of the money they owe to their supplier factories. The problem with this is that, while this money will cover wages, it will not cover the suppliers’ financial outlay in terms of raw materials and other overheads. If factories cannot pay these costs, they go bust and workers will lose their jobs. It’s that simple. Offering to pay worker wages in isolation, then, does not help if workers will lose their jobs anyway." He explains that "Primark’s scale is such that it often requires up to 80% of a supplier’s production capacity. This means if Primark walks away from an order, that supplier is massively exposed and could easily go under."
Media report that export earnings in March declined by 18.29 percent relative to last year.
Nearly 400 garment workers from the Mars Design Limited factory in Savar, Bangladesh, staged a demonstration this morning demanding their due salaries, that had not been paid for two months. Five hours after the demonstration started, the factory owner assured workers that they would be paid their due salaries by 27 April.
Several hundred workers of Frank Garments Ltd staged a demonstration in Chittagong on Saturday morning, saying that they were compelled to protest as their wages for March remained outstanding. They were now promised pay by 28 April.
Cambodia: Media report that The Labour Ministry of Cambodia has published a letter confirming that workers who did not report to work during Khmer New Year holidays without permission from their employers will not get paid for 14 days. The letter also said that most workers that went on leave with permission will only be paid wages for 7 days. In addition, the Ministry also shared that workers will have to report to employers about their health every day of the 14 days quarantine and will have to wear a mask once they return to work. If workers fail to follow these directives, they may be fired without compensation.
Italy: According to reports from the CCC network logistic workers at an H&M warehouse in Stradella who protested against the absence of PPE were cut one hour on their March wage slips. The workers process online orders and are contracted by XPO Logistics which has a contract with H&M.
Myanmar: As factories in Yangon prepare to re-open tomorrow, 20 April, media report that factories that have not reached an agreement with their workers on the terms of working conditions during the COVID-19 outbreak will have to shut down. Daw Khine Zar Aung, chairman of the International Workers Federation of Myanmar, said that workers seek more safety measures in the workplace, which have not yet been guaranteed by many employers.
Pakistan: In a joint statement, a group of labour organizations, including CCC network organizations Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, National Trade Unions Federation, and Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), stated that there is a dire need to launch a universal social security programme for all citizens. The statement pointed out that Article 38 of the constitution says that the state is responsible for providing social security, through compulsory social insurance or other means, to the working class. An op-ed by founder of the Centre for Labour Research Iftikhar Ahmad argues that basic labour protections, adequate living wages, decent working hours, social protection and safe workplaces should be available to everyone irrespective of contract/employment status
According to a study by Mazdoor Akath (Labour Collective), more than 1 million textile workers are set to lose jobs in Pakistan because of declining global orders amid the coronavirus crisis. While the Sindh provincial government ordered employers to pay workers for the next three months, the reply of the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan (Sindh) was: “businesses are run for profits and it is the fundamental right of the employer to decide about operating the mills and to hire and fire the labour.” The federal and Punjab governments were less strict and only gave verbal statements to assure ‘no lay-offs’. Industry in Punjab in fact even received a postponement of the lock down, so that they could complete orders. In Lahore, after the lock down began, contract workers were paid for the days they worked and were then told that they would be informed when work would restart, they said. There were no promises for wages for the next month or rehiring.
Workers protested at proper distance from one another outside the Karachi Press Club on Saturday to urge factories owner to pay outstanding wages. The protest was organized by CCC network organizations National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF). "It is either this or starving for these poor workers with families,” said Nasir Mansoor of the NTUF. “Instead of paying them their salaries, workers who demand their dues are being told that they are fired. They have worked for over half of March, till the 17th of the month at least, but the factories or businesses where they worked have chosen to ignore those days and not pay them a rupee for their hard work. The State Bank of Pakistan had offered these employers long-term loans on easy terms and low interest too, but they have turned that offer down, too, and decided to turn their backs on their poor workers.”
UK: NGOs and civil society organizations in the UK such as Oxfam, War on Want and Labour Behind the Label published a letter 'calling on UK fashion retailers to put on public record whether they are honouring their contracts, so that both suppliers and workers can be confident that they will be paid their due.'
US: Media report that more that 2 million Californians have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic and don't have access to benefits. This includes garment workers: “I don’t have access to unemployment or any benefits. It’ll be a really big struggle,” says Pablo, a 38-year-old undocumented worker in Los Angeles’ garment district, who, until his factory closed down in mid-March, was working for piece rates that came out to far below hourly minimum wage. “I’ve never been homeless, but if there’s no way to work I’ll have to sleep in my car. I’ve been limiting food, rationing the food I have.”
18 April 2020
Australia: Oxfam Australia started an option to e-mail Australian brands on its website, to urge them to protect workers.
Bangladesh: A survey showed that 47% of garment workers lost their jobs and are now without any income, another 24% are on leave with full pay and 11% on leave with partial pay. Other media report lower numbers: according to AsiaNews 15,000 workers in the textile industry would have lost their jobs, while many others who might still be employed are not being paid. The article quotes union leader Babul Akhter, who asked industry owners to pay wages and stop layoffs: “The owners of the companies - he says - should help the workers. It's a question of justice, but it's also in their interest."
Media report that hundreds of garment workers have taken the streets of the port city of Chittagong to demand last month's wages.
Cambodia: Media report that garment workers are being fired for not reporting to work during the Khmer New Year holidays. Last week, Heng Sour, Labour Ministry spokesperson, said that workers who did not report to work during the Khmer New Year holidays could be fired without compensation. As Yang Sophron, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, made clear "Factories will take this opportunity to fire workers".
Media report that the Labour Ministry of Cambodia has shared that about 100,000 have already been affected by factory suspensions related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Haiti: Media report that the Prime Minister of Haiti has announced that textile factories across the country will reopen on the 20th of April, this Monday. Charlotte Hammond, researcher from Cardiff University, warns that reopening factories will put workers and their communities at risk as local unions remain unconvinced that sufficient preventative measures against the virus will be enforced within factory walls. However, as Georges Sassine, factory owner and president of the Industries of Haiti Associations (ADIH) made clear "The question was whether to die of hunger or coronavirus" as most workers have only been paid 50% of the minimum wage.
India: Migrant workers and daily-wage earners face an unprecedented livelihood disaster with over 200 calls of stranded workers coming in at the Aajeevika Bureau Labour Line in just the first four days of the lockdown. Since then hundreds more called that they have not been paid their wages.
Indonesia: Media report that thousands of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Indonesia are urging the government to relieve them from paying taxes because of the effects the COVID-19 outbreak has had on their business. Ikhsan Ingratubun, chairman of the Indonesia SME Association, said that the stimulus offered by the governments have been insufficient to keep SMEs from succumbing to the COVID-19 crisis and called for broader incentives for electricity.
Media report that 5.9 million people applied for the pre-employment card program, that has been established by the government to help laid-off workers find new jobs. However, from the 5.9 million applicants, only 200,000 have been accepted to join the first program because of the limited training capacity.
Pakistan: According to reports from the CCC network the factory management of Talal Apparel has sent workers home without notice pay or official lay off notices. This is just one of many factories which have illegally sacked their workers from jobs. It has also become known that the Commissioner of Lahore has allowed a factory to operate to complete export orders during the lock down. CCC network organizations demand that the government of Punjab issue an ordinance which protects the jobs of all workers during the lock down period and asks employers to pay full salaries.
Sri Lanka: Factory owner Chamila Samarakkodi in an analysis explains the effects of the pandemic on the industry and workers and is calling for government support for future payment of wages.
Thailand: Media report the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare has said that thousands of workers have lost their jobs following factory closures amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The number of people claiming unemployment benefits has doubled to 700,000 since December 2019, with 140,000 workers registering in March alone. Also in this article, the director of the Department, shared that 271,446 workers have been affected by factory's temporary closures.
UK: Traidcraft created an option on its website to write messages to UK brands urging them to pay for their orders.
17 April 2020
Global: The OECD Centre for Responsible Business Conduct prepared a note reviewing the challenges the COVID-19 crisis presents for business behaviour and outlines initial responses by governments and companies. It describes the rationale and method for adopting a responsible business conduct approach to address the crisis and sets down the potential short-term and long-term benefits of such an approach.
Bangladesh: Media report that 609 members of the industry’s lobbying group BGMEA missed yesterday's government mandated payment deadline for workers' March wages. “We haven’t got our wages. We aren’t entitled to relief either. Only some selected people where we stay get the aid,” Alyea said. “What will we eat if we don’t get wages or relief?” The BGMEA claimed 1,665 of its members, or 73 percent, cleared the payments, which means 87 percent workers of the sector have got their wages, and stated that the factories facing protests in the past days are not registered with the association. Worker protests and sit ins therefore continued. The BGMEA continued to call upon buyers to take responsibility for worker wages. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced about $590 million in low-interest loans for owners of export-oriented factories affected by the virus so they can pay workers their wages. In the meantime BGMEA, remains intent on opening factories on 26 April, reporting that garment export fell by 83.74 percent in the first 15 days of April compared to the same period last year. Media however report that social distancing remains practically impossible in garment factories because of the habit to pay wages in cash for which workers have to gather in a place and form long queues; dense seating arrangement are still open; and continuation of worker protests.
Cambodia: Media report that 15,726 garment workers from 672 factories will be put in 14-day unpaid mandatory quarantine. Phnom Penh City Hall released a statement saying that they have prepared 699 rooms in 37 schools to quarantine workers.
Media report that the Microfinance Association of Cambodia (CMA) has said that all its members are trying to find solutions for all their clients affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and that they will 'take immediate action to solve all the issues'. They urged customers who are not affected or slightly affected to keep making their monthly payment so that they can stay afloat and help the most affected customers.
Cambodia/Thailand: Media report that the government of Thailand has allowed migrant workers from Cambodia and other neighbouring countries to overstay and work in Thailand until November 30th without being fined. The Ministry of Labour of Cambodia estimates that there are about two million Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand and that, of these two million, only up to 80,000 have managed to come back to Cambodia before the 14th of April.
India: In an op-ed, Indian journalist Smruti Koppikar states that the government of India after forgetting to address the needs of migrant workers in its first lock down announcement sought to address this lapse in a second address on 14 April extending the lockdown. Workers were assured that their basic needs would be taken care of and indeed states have reached out to hundreds of thousands of people stranded in cities. But Koppikar argues that emotional needs such as being with families have not been met. While Indians were flown back from other countries, no transport could be arranged to take other Indians back to their homes.
Indonesia: Media report that the Indonesian government has cut the corporate income tax for the manufacturing sector by 30% and that import tax payments have been deferred. After issuing similar incentives to eleven other sectors, the Finance Minister assured that 'We will continue to make sure that measures to lessen the COVID-19 impacts will have proper budget support.'
Myanmar: Kyaw Thu Zaw, union president of the Rui-Ning Factory, which makes clothes for Zara and Mango, reports in a twitter video that nearly 300 fellow union members have been dismissed and that factory owners are using COVID-19 as an excuse to union-bust, as the factory is planning to hire new workers in order to replace the union members that have been fired. The union president urges brands such as Zara and Mango to make their supplier accountable. Andrew Tillett-Saks, union organizer in Southeast Asia, says to have 'reports of five factories in this industrial zone alone who have seen mass dismissal of union members' and shared a video of workers protesting. He warns that if allowed, union-busting will happen in catastrophic measures for garment workers/unions'. Read more.
Pakistan: Media report that the Sindh provincial government will only allow export-oriented units to resume operations which commit to following prescribed standard operating procedures (SoPs), which include factory owners' responsibility for treatment of workers contracting coronavirus, submission to random tests by health authorities and only calling up workers younger than 55 for work.
Vietnam: Media report that the Vietnamese government's five-month extension of deadlines for tax and land use fee payments have benefited 98% of firms affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in Vietnam.
16 April 2020
Global: Media report that the G20, which brings together the world's largest economies, has agreed to a one-year debt standstill for the world's poorest nations.
Bangladesh: Media report that the employers' association BGMEA has decided to reopen its factories from 26 April, calling it an issue of survival for the industry because factories in main competitor countries Cambodia and Vietnam remain open. Specialist state that factories should reopen in phases with a reduced number of workers per factory to stem the spreading of the virus.
Still many workers continued to be unpaid for the month of March. In the words of garment worker Shirina: "I have almost run out of money in the last few days as my factory has not yet paid our last month's (March) wage. Also, there is nobody to lend me some money here."
Unions in Bangladesh call for reinstatement of dismissed workers, closure of factories for the length of the pandemic with payment of wages, an end to dismissals and food support for workers.
An article on the website of the World Economic Forum predicts that nearly six million workers in Bangladesh’s formal sector will be without steady work for an extended period and that people in Bangladesh's informal sector will be hit even harder.
Reports from the network state that yesterday the BGMEA sent a letter to Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) to consider all garment factories laid off for the moment as they are facing difficulties due to the cancellation of the orders by the buyers and to collect the stimulus package of the government. Under the labour law, in case of fire, catastrophe, breakdown of machinery, or stoppage of power supply, epidemics, civil commotion or any other cause beyond the control of employer any section or sections of the establishment can be stopped, wholly or partly. In such a period of layoff the workers employed less than one year will not get paid. This will affect around 1 million workers. Today, Trade Kendra Kendra protested against the decision of BGMEA that all workers are considered laid off during the general holiday.
Cambodia: Media report that 'T-shirts, skirts and shorts are piling up at the clothing factories of Phnom Penh' as brands such as GAP and Old Navy cancel orders. Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), reiterated that manufacturers only get paid when clothes are delivered. 'We could sue them, but I don't know if we'll be around to sue', he said about buyers refusing to pay for completed orders.
Media report the effects of the microcredit industry in Cambodia. Even though Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, asked lenders to give borrowers a break and allow payment delays during the COVID-19 outbreak, specific guidelines have not been published and workers are still struggling to figure out how they will make loan payments. Chhun Sovath, a 47 years old garment worker, took a microfinance loan of £6,000 in order to pay for her house. The factory she works for has suspended operations until June due the COVID-19 outbreak and she worries about paying her loan. "We want Amret to suspend our payments because we aren't being paid properly by the factory anymore', she said, talking about Amret Microfinance Institution, one of the largest MFIs in Cambodia.
Media report that around 30 garment workers have been injured in a truck crash on their way to work, highlighting the imposibility of social distancing for many in the supply chain and the continued lack of safe transport. According to the annual NSSF report, 1,554 traffic accidents involving garment workers occurred in 2019.
India: The garment manufacturing and exporting companies in Gautam Budh Nagar district have informed the district administration and the state government that they will not be able to pay salaries to their workers for the month of April. Their decision is likely to impact at least 10,000 workers.
The Ludhiana state government has allowed industries to start their operation while following guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Over 415 industries have started their production in the city. In garment sector, many units have started making masks and PPE kits.
International Policy Digest sums up what the COVID-19 crisis means to India's informal workers and how it highlights the gender disparity in the country.
Japan: A new report by CCC East Asia shows that migrant workers under a state-sanctioned internship programme are especially vulnerable during the pandemic because of their cramped living conditions and abusive labour situation.
Pakistan: Reports from the CCC network state that a majority of factories are not paying wages to their workers and hundreds of thousands of workers have been sacked from jobs contrary to the Sindh government ban in dismissals during lock down. Workers of different sectors have started to protest. Workers of Rauf Textile Mills (RTM) and their union representatives tried to ap
proach the owner on their monthly wages due on 1 April but the owner had put their phone off and did not allow workers to enter to factory to speak with the management. The RTM union through the NTUF representative complained with relevent labour department officers but no serious action against factory management was taken. The union then organized a sit-in at the factory gate.
After two days of protest, the district administration, law enforcing agencies and labour department officials intervened and pressurized mills owners and management to accept the workers' demandsand follow the governments' directions to pay wages on time during lock down. The owners today signed a written agreement the dues by 21 April.
Thailand: Media report that Yuttana Silpsarnvitch, chairperson of the National Federation of Thai Textile Industries, estimated that, if the situation in the textile and garment industries does not improve in the next three weeks, as many as 60% of the factories are expected to shut down, leaving up to 200,000 workers with no job or income. "Some companies have said that if they don't get any more orders, their business will die within a month. Some have downsized by 20 to 50%, but they also don't think they will survive in a month or two. (...) I believe that if the situation does not improve by early May, at least 50 to 60% of factories will close", he said.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Thailand announced that the relief package would only cover workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak for one month, which lead to an uproar among applicants. Today, the PM has said that this was a "miscommunication" and that the government would make sure that aid will be delivered for three months.
UK: George/Asda is asking 50% discount to take previously cancelled orders, calling it a sign of goodwill.
15 April 2020
Global: The Guardian reports that The Arcadia Group canceled 'over £100m' of orders as the garment industry faces ruin. The Arcadia Group, which owns brands including Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, is estimated to have cancelled in excess of £100m of existing clothing orders worldwide from suppliers in some of the world's poorest countries as the global garment sector faces ruin. According to data from the Bangladesh Garments and Manufacturing Association (BGMEA), the Arcadia Group has cancelled £9m of orders in Bangladesh alone.
Media reports on the ecconomic shift in the retail sector to ecomerce and the domino effect the ecconomic fall out has had on the global garment industry. Bangladesh and Cambodia garments account for 80 per cent of export and 16 per cent of GDP while Vietnam anticipates 30-50 per cent of its 2.8 million workers employed in the garment and textile industries to be laid off in the coming months. Perhaps the worst hit is the luxury segment, by shutting the doors of 40 per cent of its stores globally, it is revealed that Burberry Group’s sales have fallen by 50 per cent.
Bangladesh: Workers in Bangladesh continue to demonstrate in four different districts in Dhaka, demanding payment of their wages and arrears.
CCC network organization NGWF reports that it distributed safety equipment and food among garment workers and will soon start food distribution among the NGWF members and vulnerable workers.
Media report that, according to the BGMEA, almost 78% of workers have been paid last month's salary. Rubana Huq, BGMEA president, said that 'I am hopeful that 80% of workers will receive the salary by the 16th of April and that, by April 20, all workers will receive the salary.' She also reiterated that it is the small and medium size garment factories that are delaying payments.
Cambodia: Media report that about 60% of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia's (GMAC) factories have been severely affected by cancelled orders, severely affecting around half a million workers and their families.
Media report that, although garment workers have been forced back into factories during Khmer New Year in order to reduce the spread of the virus, many workers have said that not enough precautions are being taken to prevent them from being infected at work. Yang Sophron, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, reiterated that Cambodia's garment factories, with cramped and closed-air conditions and workers passing clothes down production lines, share all the conditions for the virus to spread. Despite this, 'factory owners are still not organizing their work conditions according to the government's measures', she said. Seak Hong, a garment worker at the Horizon Outdoor factory in Kampong Chhnang province, said that, in her factory, with around 8,000 workers, factory owners are limiting measures to scanning workers' temperatures once they are already working together inside. Garment workers, like Eng Luy, from a Phnom Penh factory, made clear that 'Right now, we do not think that the factories are safe' and urged the Ministry of Labour to push factories to protect their workers.
India: The Wire warns that 'with every passing day, the condition of migrant workers has only worsened. Most of them have been without jobs, money or enough food to eat. Many of them are stranded in big cities they cannot afford to reside in without jobs.' Many workers expected to be able to return to their home-states yesterday, but, after the PM's announcement that the national lockdown would be extended until May 3rd, at least 3,000 migrant workers gathered in the streets of Bandra, in Mumbai. Shaikh Mudassir, a worker from Bihar, urged the government to protect them, saying that 'We aren't dying of an epidemic but of hunger. How is the Prime Minister not able to see this?'
Multiple media reports on the impact of COVID-19 on the Textile & Apparel industry in India. The T&A industry is one of the largest and the most important sectors for the Indian economy in terms of output, foreign exchange earnings and employment. The industry contributes approximately 7% to industrial output in value terms, 2% to the GDP and 15% to the country's export earnings. The Indian economy has been hit hard by COVID-19. The trade impact is estimated to be greatest for the chemicals, textiles, apparel and automotive sectors.
Indonesia: Media report that the Indonesian government estimates that up to 4 million Indonesians could fall into poverty and about 5 million could become unemployed during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Thailand: Media report that the Prime Minister of Thailand has said that the government's relief package may only be able to cover workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak for one month, instead of the three months promised.
Vietnam: Media report that Vietnam could become the 'world's face mask factory' during the COVID-19 outbreak as many garment factories switch production to face masks as a solution to stay afloat.
14 April 2020
Global: Worker Rights Consortium has started a brand tracker naming brands that are still refusing to pay for orders placed before the outbreak of the crisis.
The European Coalition for Corporate Justice published a paper calling for human rights due diligence and conditions on corporate bail outs in times of COVID-19.
The Sourcing Journal reports that Ian Grabiner, CEO of the company that operates Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and Burton and Evons sent a letter to suppliers highlighting the company's right to cancel orders, writing: "You will note that we are able to cancel any order at any stage." and that "For any order that is in transit or was in transit on the 17th March 2020, we are prepared to bring in the order at a 30% discount. (...) If you do not wish to accept the proposal, the order will be cancelled." As Mostafiz Uddin, the owner of a denim factory in Bangladesh who posted the letter online, made clear "All manufacturers work with very tight and sharp cost price where around 75% is the cost of raw material. Under such a scenario, a 30% discount will just remove the wages and all operational expenses."
Media report that Arcadia, owner of Topshop, threatens to cancel completed orders which have already been shipped - unless suppliers agree to 30% discount.
Media report that brand cancellations continue to haunt factories. Aruna Kashyap, senior counsel at Human Rights Watch's womens' rights division, worries that garment workers might not get paid their April wages over brands cancellations. "Workers have received their March wages in many cases, but in April I think it's going to be complete chaos", she said. Miriam Saage-Maass, of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, said that under German law it is difficult to reach the legal threshold to get out of a contract this way: "Force majeure cannot be used when contract performance is merely impractical or economically difficult rather than truly impossible". The article also reported that C&A now intends "to accept all goods that have left the factory" and "take delivery of as many orders as commercially viable to enable manufacturers to pay workers their wages", calling the letter cancelling all orders "was an immediate measure." This will however still mean that some orders will remain C&A cancelled.
Bangladesh: Media report that workers in Bangladesh continue to protest for the third day in a row demanding payment of wages for March, and protesting termination and layoffs of workers. The state minister for labour warned that stern legal action would be taken against the factory owners who will fail to pay workers before 16 April. Some of the workers are already out of work since February and have not received wages since. Industrial police said that some 467 out of 1,356 factories in Savar, Ashulia and Dhamrai areas paid workers wages for March. In many factories lay offs continue. Protesting workers state they are afraid of the virus, but even more of starvation.
CCC organizations BGIWF, BIGUF and BCWS in a statement expressed their concerns about the situation of garment workers during the pandemic. Factory owners are ignoring the government ban on retrenchment of workers, leading to nearly 10 thousand workers from different factories in Dhaka, Ashulia, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chattogram. The three organizations are calling upon the government and factory owners to ensure that no workers can be retrenched during the pandemic and organize reinstatement with full wages for those workers retrenched thus far, full wages for workers sent home from closed factories, general leave for workers with full wage for the time the government measures to fight the pandemic last. The labour organizations also spoke out against any brand order cancellations and threatened an international campaign against those brands that do.
Nafisa Tanjeem , assistant professor of global studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Lesley University in the United States, published an op-ed raising how Bangladeshi factory owners refer to the plight of their workers to make their case, explaining that factory owners still have a large deal of control over the workers.
Cambodia: Media report that more than 90% of garment workers, including union representatives, turned up for work on the first day of Khmer New Year. Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, appeals to workers to keep working for all four days of festivities rather than travel, in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus. Employees that did not show up for work and left for their home provinces will be forced to go on unpaid self-quarantine for 14 days.
On their facebook page CCC network organization Central shared videos of garment and footwear migrant workers returning to work.
India: The Clothing Manufacturers Association of India warns that 10 million jobs might be cut in the country's textile industry without government support, as 80 per cent of the garment industry are small and medium enterprises, which do not have the kind of reserves to see them through 3-6 months of this crisis. A study by the All India Manufacturer's Organisation (AIMO) estimates that about a quarter of over 75 million small and medium enterprises in India will face closure if the lock down due to COVID-19 goes beyond four weeks and this figure and 43 per cent if the situation extends beyond eight weeks.
Indonesia: Media announced that just a day after the Indonesia's unemployment benefit programme was launched, 1.4 million people applied. The benefits amount to Rp 3.5 million (US$223) for four months. 2.8 million people have lost their jobs, more than half were furloughed of paid or unpaid leave.
Myanmar: Media report that around 20,000 migrants have returned from Thailand last month after losing their jobs due to factory closures. The same article reports that 684 workers were fired from a garment factory in Yangon due to brands cancelling orders. They made products for H&M, Next and others.
Pakistan: In an op-ed Zulfiqar Shah of CCC network organization PILER states that out of 65.5m workers in Pakistan, approximately 72 per cent are in the informal sector, 'which means there is no monthly pay cheque to fall back on if they do not show up for work'. He indicates it is laudable that the Sindh provincial indicated banned dismissals and ordered employers to pay their workers during the lock down, but adds 'regardless of the good intentions behind issuing such orders and follow-up notifications, it is unlikely that the workers will be paid while they are away, unless the provincial government comes up with a practical mechanism to ensure implementation of its directives and addresses legal loopholes.' This could only be done through the Labour Ministry, which however does not maintain a proper registration of workers.He calls for a tripartide cooperation to solve these issues in the short term, as well as long term processes towards more appropriate systems.
An article in the Daily Times raises that the monthly assistance of Rs 3,000 per month or one-time payment of Rs 12,000 for the workers who have lost their jobs as well as the vulnerable segments of the society is significantly lower than the minimum wage and inadequate to meet the needs of any household in this situation. The article calls it understandable that the government has its limitations, but suggests that a tax reduction to help businesses deal with the economic impact of COVID-19 is made conditional on the beneficiaries providing job protection for the workforce.
Media report that thousands of employees at garment factories in the Punjab province have been laid off without receiving their half month salary. Some daily wagers were not even paid for their work on that day.
Thailand: MAP foundation report that factories are starting to close “temporarily” and paying workers less, somer factories without orders started to make face masks. Regular updates on the situation in Thailand are available here.
13 April 2020
Bangladesh: Media report a steep dip already in garment export and the expectation of even further decline. Garment export earning in the first week of April fell by 77.76 percent to $129.40 million compared to the corresponding week of the last year, according to data from Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
“We also have a cumulative liability of the unfinished goods, so the liability is probably going to be running up to almost $10 billion,” Dr. Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told Sourcing Journal.
Yesterday, hundreds of ready made garment factory workers in Savar, Narayanganj and Gazipur took to the streets demanding wages of the previous month and arrears.
Monnujan Sufian, State Minister for Labour and Employment, urged workers to stay home and to follow the government's advice and directed all factory owners to pay last month's salary by 16 April. 'Legal action will be taken if any owner fails to follow the directive', she made clear in a statement published today.
The Labour Ministry has formed crisis management committees to manage the labour situation during the pandemic. Media report that: 'The committees will work to ensure payment of wages of the workers, inspection of factories if there is any possibility of labour unrest, settlement of labour unrest through arbitration, ensuring that workers are following corona related health rules and coordination between local administration and industrial police.'
India: Trade unions in India today wrote a letter to the Labour Ministry objecting to government proposals on three labour codes (Industrial Relations Code 2019, the Code on Social Security 2019 and the Occupational Health, Safety and Working Conditions Code 2019) and the proposal to increase working hours from 8 hours to 12 hours a day. The unions argue that the Industrial Relations Code undermines the right to freedom of association and the right to strike, and that the two other codes also dilute existing worker rights. The unions state that employers are taking advantage of the lock down by not paying workers or only partial wages for the month of March. The later states that: 'Nearly half the working population who are migrants and work as casual and day labour have received no wages at all for this past month.'
Indonesia: Media report that Indonesia's factory production has reached a record low as a result of weak demand and disruption to supply chains. The same newspaper shared that about 2.8 million people have lost their jobs in Indonesia as a result of business suspending operations.
Myanmar: Media report that Myanmar's government is pushing ahead with an economic stimulus package that 'from one vantage point looks to be unprecedented but from another does not appear to be up to the job of combating the economic impact of the novel coronavirus.' More than 120 garment factories, or at least one-fifth of the total, now reportedly has halted operations.
Pakistan: Media report that the Ministry of Human Rights, UN Women Pakistan and the National Commission on the Status of Women (NSCW) have released a report raising serious concerns over the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the lives and livelihoods of women and vulnerable groups, worsening the already existing social and gender inequalities in Pakistan.
Serbia: Reports from the CCC network state that in Olimpijas, a Benetton supplier in Niš, workers continue to work 3 shifts, including on Saturdays and Sundays – despite the governments lock down during weekends. Protective equipment is provided for workers, in some parts of the production lines the minimum distance of 2 metres between workers is not provided. Workers are also at risk in the buses that transport them to work, as well as on their breaks when safety measures are not implemented. In several other factories of the same factory group the situation is also serious and workers are reportedly being pressured to come to work so even some workers that have symptoms that could even be from infection with COVID-19 are coming to work. It has also been reported that the workers believe that in one of those factories there are up to 14 workers that are infected and that the management is covering this up – and the work has not been stopped and the space of this factory is not being disinfected: workers continue to come to work.
Thailand: Media report that the Thai government's 5,000 baht ($152) monthly grant for Thai nationals working in the informal sector, affected by the COVID-19 outbreak might not be able to be provided for the six-month period expected. The Finance Minister said that the government expected to deliver cash handouts to 9 million people, but more than 24 million have applied for the program so far.
Media report that, in Thailand, 10 million people might lose their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak. Kalin Sarasin, head of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said that 'We think about 7 million jobs have been lost already, and the figure will hit 10 million if the outbreak drags on for 2-3 months.'
Vietnam: Media report that PouYuen, the world's largest manufacturer of footwear, producing for brands such as Nike and Adidas, which has about 70,000 employees, will have to suspend production for two days from tomorrow after failing to meet social distancing standards.
12 April 2020
Bangladesh: Media report that hundreds garment workers from at least 11 factories in Savar, Bangladesh, demonstrated in front of factories this morning demanding to be paid the wages they are owed from the previous month. Khairul Mamun Mintu, organising secretary of Garment Workers Trade Union Kendra, said that some factory owners assured workers that they would be paid within a short time.
Bangladesh wants factory owners to pay their garment workers digitally, but media report that a BGMEA survey found that only 9% of garment factories pay wages through mobile financial services and 4% through banks.
The union federation Bangladesh Garment Sramik Shamhati reports the deaths of three garment workers tested positive for, or with symptoms of COVID-19. The union indicated that the government indecisiveness about closure of the factories allowed the spread of the virus among workers. Additionally to risks to their health, garment workers face layoffs, extended probations and unpaid. The union calls upon the state, factory-owners and foreign buyers to take responsibility for workers' lives and livelihoods.
India: Former finance Minister of India P Chidambaram urges in a column to ensure cash is given to poor families in India to safeguard their livelihood.
Myanmar: Media report that, according to the Union of Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), more than 1600 companies from the garment and tourism industries in Myanmar have applied for government COVID-19 loans, but only 88 applications have been approved because of discrepancies between financial reports and loan amounts.
The Philippines: Partido Manggagawa reports that on Friday night the police dispersed the picket-line of economic zone workers in Dasmarinas, Cavite, using the lock down as an alibi. From 8:00 to 9:00 pm, police and security guards threatened two workers in the picketline, Jackie Elorde and Amer Taluba, with arrest if they would not leave the picket-line. Workers of Korean-owned Sejung Apparel Inc. in the First Cavite Industrial Estate (FCIE) have been on picket-protest since December for non-payment of the 13th month and union busting. The dispersal followed a three-week period during which attempts to bring food and water to Jackie and Amer were barred by security guards.
11 April 2020
Global: Worker Rights Consortium and the Maquiladora Health and Safety Solidarity Network (MHSSN) have developed recommendations for protecting the health and safety of garment and textile workers from risk of transmission of COVID-19 in those factories that remain in operation during the current pandemic. These recommendations are meant as resources for garment and textile worker unions and other occupational health and safety advocates, factory owners, and buyer brands. This is of utmost importance as there continue to be factories that remain in regular operation, but are not taking meaningful steps to protect to protect workers from transmission of COVID-19.
United Students Against Sweatshops have started a petition to call upon Nike and Under Armour to pay for orders.
BBC reports on the failure of brands to pay for their orders and the difficult situation this puts workers and factory owners in.
Bangladesh: A factory owner explains what this crisis looks like from a supplier's perspective, giving insides on why factories give the discounts buyers are asking for. Tipu Munshi, Commerce Minister of Bangladesh, asked factory owners not to dismiss their employees, even if factories should remain closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Cambodia: Reuters reports that Cambodia's garment factories remain open despite the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Khun Tharo, programme coordinator at the Center for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights, potential strikes have been discussed and there were partial walk-outs in factories this Thursday, 9 April, after the travel ban was issued. He finished by saying 'I don't want to comment on how many factories might shut down after the [Khmer New Year] holiday, but it won't be pretty'.
In Cambodia the declaration of the state of emergency was approved by parliament. The law says it will last for no longer than three months -- though this period can be extended indefinitely. Possible punishments to violating the state of emergency include prison time and fines up to 10 million riel (roughly $2,500).
Myanmar: The Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) has decided to accelerate approvals for investments in labour-intensive projects, such as manufacturing, in order to reduce the impact of lay-offs. The commission's secretary, U Thant Sin Lwin, said that 'currently, we are still receiving investment proposals and permit applications from the garment manufacturing sector' and 'will prioritise investors who are able to provide more jobs'.
Union busting while citing COVID-19 as a reason to lay off workers remains a pervasive problem in Myanmar, reports Solidarity Center, listing several examples of factories dismissing only union members.
Indonesia: The Manpower Ministry of Indonesia released data showing that over 1.2 million workers in both the formal and informal sectors have been told to stay home with no pay or have been laid off. Ida Fauziyah, Manpower Minister, urged factory owners to keep the dismissal of workers as their last option, suggesting reducing salaries or working hours instead. 'The situation and conditions are indeed challenging, but this is the moment for the government, business people and workers to work together and find a solution to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.', she said.
Vietnam: According to the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (VCCI) survey, a record number of nearly 35,000 garment businesses have stopped operating. More than 75% said they would have to dismiss workers, and about 10% would have to reduce their workforce in half. The Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association warned that 'if wages were paid in full, most garment businesses would run out of capital within the next three months.' The VCCI decided, therefore, to allow factories to apply new articles of the Law on Labour 2019 sooner than the scheduled time of applicability, allowing them to reduce their workers' salaries during the outbreak.
US: Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles is distributing food packages to garment workers in need as well as collecting information on working conditions of workers who continue to make PPE.
10 April 2020
Global: The Clean Clothes Campaign network has presented a list of demands upon brands, retailers, and governments in order to protect garment workers during and after the pandemic. In a statement the CCC network calls upon brands to pay for existing orders and make sure workers receive wages during the crisis.
OECD Watch urges OECD action on the COVID-19 crisis, underscoring the key responsibility of corporations to respect human rights in how they address both the public health and economic impacts of the crisis.
British fair trade group Traidcraft Exchange asked fashion brands and retailers to honour their contracts as they continued to cancel those or stop payments to suppliers from "poorer countries" including Bangladesh over the Covid-19 outbreak.
A podcast created by Livia Firth and Lucy Siegle aims to reach a broader audience on the crisis COVID-19 has caused for workers in the garment industry.
Asia: Asia Floor Wage Alliance intends to publish periodic reports from Asia during the COVID-19 crisis, with a focus on analysing ground-level information. The first report at The Emperor Has No Clothes: Garment Supply Chains in the Time of Pandemic has now been published.
Bangladesh: Media report that the government of Bangladesh considers an increase in export benefits for the garment sector to soften the Covid-19 blows to key employment-intensive industries.
Media report that local garment accessories makers have urged the government to include them in the proposed TK 50 billion fund for export sectors or allocate a separate fund for the industry to help them overcome the ongoing virus outbreak impact.
The garment factory owner associations today announced they decided to keep factories closed to 25 April, in line with the government's decision to extend the ongoing closure. If any factory owner wants to pay the workers during this time they need to inform the BGMEA, BKMEA, and Industrial Police, according to the statement. Earlier, both the associations suggested their members complete the payment of March salaries to the garment workers by 16 April.
Cambodia: The European Branded Clothing Alliance, an alliance of European companies, has urged the EU to postpone its February decicion to withdraw part of its trade preferences towards Cambodia because of systematic human rights violations in order to help the industry recover from the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. Ignacio Sierra Arms, president of the alliance, said that this would 'enhance certainty and allow us to keep supporting our employees in the EU, as well as the workers in manufacturing countries.'
India: Media report that millions of home-based garment workers in India who are part of major brand's global supply chains, mostly women and girls from minority or marginalised communities, risk missing out on aid during the COVID-19 outbreak. 'Home workers are last in line to benefit from any help being provided by brands, manufacturers and governments', Janhavi Dave, international coordinator for HomeNet South Asia warned. Sonia Wazed, head of programmes for the Society for Labour and Development, says that 'The rules for aid need to be relaxed to include them'.
Indonesia: Media report that tens of thousands of workers across Indonesia have lost their jobs as economic activity slows due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Myanmar: More than $25M is being provided by foreign donors to support Myanar's response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Media report that a big part of the donations will go to vulnerable groups through cash transfers. In the same article, the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association shared that, of an estimated workforce of 700,000, about 350,000 are at risk of either being suspended without pay or losing their jobs permanently.
Pakistan: A government decision in Pakistan has excepted the garment industry from the lock down status allowing factories to start operating again, according to media reports. Employer associations appreciate the decision.
CCC organization NTUF continues to be a part of relief efforts. This week 5,000 food bags were assembled for distribution of food all over Balochistan. Other consignments were are spread in other cities. NTUF & HBWWF volunteers actively participating in relief operation along with Edhi volunteers all over Pakistan.
Turkey: Media report that the Turkish government will ban lay-offs for three months in order to protect workers lacking job security and limit economic consequences due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The bill would apply to anyone who has been laid off or put on unpaid leave since 15 March and workers will be paid $5.80 by the government. For businesses suffering from the outbreak, the Turkish government has offered to pay 60% of the wages of employees and state banks have offered loans to companies in order to make sure that they do not fire workers during this period.
US: As garment manufacturers reorient production towards making personal protection equipment (PPE), many do not offer that protection to their own workers. Victor Narro, Garment Worker Center Board member, warns that 'For garment workers, including undocumented workers making PPE, we need to make sure this comes with protection, health and safety protection and protection against wage theft'.
9 April 2020
Global: The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights today published the paper Human rights due diligence in times of (economic) crises: Garment supply chains in intensive care? explaining how transnational textile companies fall back on exactly what their supply chains are designed for: externalizing costs, outsourcing economic risk, and shifting the responsibility for workers’ social rights to suppliers. The policy paper explores how proper human rights due diligence by textile companies and retailers should have looked like in the years preceding the current COVID-19 crisis to ensure a protection of workers and how companies should act now in terms of human rights due diligence to protect workers in the current situation. It also suggests which measures brands and retailers should undertake now to improve global supply chain workers’ rights in the future.
Research by King’s College London and the Australian National University said that a 20% drop in income as a result of a recession caused by COVID-19 would push an additional 548 million people below $5.50 a day – one of the World Bank’s definitions of poverty.
Cambodia: Ken Loo, GMAC's general secretary, told the Khmer Times that the majority of buyers of Cambodian garments and textiles have cancelled their orders.
Oxfam warns the Cambodia's Prime Minister’s announcement that suspended factory workers would only be paid $70 per month, which equates to $2.33 a day for a normal 30-day calendar, could “push hundred of thousands of garment workers and their families back below the poverty line”, as it is only 43 cents a day above the World Bank's 2015 definition of extreme poverty. Solinn Lim, Cambodia Country Director of Oxfam, has said that their COVID-19 response plan will be published this week.
The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training of Cambodia has announced that workers who are absent during the now cancelled Khmer New Year festivities (14th-16th of April), will have to undergo a mandatory 14 days self-quarantine, which will be considered unpaid leave.
India: On the 24th of March, Narenda Modi, the Prime Minister of India, announced that borders would shut down four hours before closing them. The Guardian describes this brief period as a moment of 'chaos'. Medical School professor Vikram Patel said that 'the constantly changing announcements on social restrictions, the abandonment of government responsibility to secure supply chains, the threatening of desperate people with military-style responses, and the crushing of small businesses which define rural Goa' have created a crisis that social activist Harsh Mander has defined as 'man-made'. 'We could have avoided this violence, the complete annihilation of poor people, if we had just worked together to approach the problem. But no conversation was possible.', he said.
Media report on the impact of COVID-19 in Rural India. No Jobs or payments as economic activity in Tamil Nadu's garment hub has come to a halt, with workers and farmers struggling to make ends meet.
Media report that COVID-19 has created a $2 billion hole in India's apparel industry. Hit hard by the economic fallout of the COVID-19, the Indian apparel industry looks poised for a slow death, and if the situation does not improve by May, many companies will be shuttered. India's exporters also face a crunch as COVID-19 pummels the economy. Abrupt national lockdown has put 50m jobs at risk in textiles, shoe-making, jewellery and other consumer goods sectors. Apparel exporters warn that an industry relief package is urgently needed to prevent millions becoming jobless.
Media report that millions of home-based garment workers in India are at risk of missing out on support to compensate for the loss of their livelihoods during the COVID-19 lockdown measures. Many factories in India subcontract part of their production to home workers who are often unregistered, ‘hidden’ workers, and have no right to a minimum wage, social security or healthcare from employers.
Malaysia: Upon recognition of COVID-19 as an occupational disease Malaysia’s Social Security Organisation (SOCSO) has clarified that: “Workers may be affected due to their nature of work, which increased their risk to infection, such as frontline workers, or it may affect workers in relation to their employment, such as from exposure to infected persons while doing their work.” SOCSO confirmed that employees who contract COVID-19 due to direct exposure as a result of the nature of their work can claim for compensation. Similarly, employees who are infected due to their exposure arising out of, and in the course of their employment, will be covered under the Employment Injury Scheme. SOCSO’s move comes after a group representing 51 different work unions and societies called for the Malaysian government to recognise COVID-19 as an occupational disease to allow public assistance in the event of infection or worse. The group also pushed for laws compelling employers to provide safe working environments for their staff.
Myanmar: The EU has announced a 5 million euro cash fund to support garment workers affected by COVID-19.
Media report that the protests which were taking place under the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar (FGWM) in six factories in Myanmar have been called off in order to comply and cooperate with the government's instructions. However, 'if their demands are not met when normal conditions prevail, workers will resume their protests by reopening the camps.', the head of FGWM made clear.
The Philippines: Partido Manggagawa reports that workers of garments factory Sejung Apparel Inc. have been on picket-protest since December. In recognition of the need to maintain social distancing, the number of people at the picketline was reduced by the union. From 27 March on, attempts to bring food and water to Jackie Elorde and Amer Taluba, the two workers at the picketline, have been stopped by security guards. The guards said that this was upon the orders of FCIE estate manager Raffy Malanyaon and alleged due to the COVID-19 quarantine. However, workers continued to go in and out of the FCIE that day as the export processing zone was not shuttered. That night, FCIE guards stopped water from being given by friends from nearby factories allegedly upon the orders of the estate manager. The labour dispute is due to union busting and also non-payment of the 13th month and the last salary. For more than four months, the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) provincial and regional office has not acted on the clear case of labour standards violation despite undertaking an inspection. The case has dragged on for so long that the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting quarantine has further aggravated the sufferings of the workers. Sejung Apparel has declared temporary shutdown for three times since October. The first shutdown occurred just one week after the union submitted a collective bargaining proposal and just three weeks after the union won the certification election. Again, the circumstances point to union busting by management. Partido Manggagawa calls on the DOLE to act immediately to bring food and water to Jackie and Amer and stop the harassment of the Sejung workers and respect the right to peaceful picketing.
8 April 2020
Global: Media report that six garment producing countries have jointly called upon global brands, retailers and traders to consider all potential impacts on workers and small businesses in the supply chain while taking significant purchasing decisions. Furthermore, factory owners' associations from Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Vietnam called on their global partners to honour the terms of purchasing contracts, fulfill obligations therein, and not re-negotiate price or payment terms.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) released the 2nd edition on 'COVID-19 and the world of work', calling the COVID-19 outbreak 'the worst global crisis since the Second World War'. The organisation informs that 2.7 billion workers, representing around 81% of the world's workforce, have now been affected by full or partial lockdown measures and projects that 195 million full-time workers could lose their jobs. Based on the ILO's data collection, workers from the labour-intensive sector of manufacturing, which includes garment workers and employs 463 million workers, will be among the most affected by this crisis.
A lot of media report on brand and retailer commitments to pay for existing orders and brands and retailers that continue to refuse to do so. Primark, for example, after extensive criticism has now announced it will start a fund to help pay the wages of the garment workers that make their clothes was received with confusion, as the brand reiterated that the wage compensation would be adjusted to take into account government support packages. Rubana Huq, chairperson of the BGMEA, said that 'While we welcome Primark's announcement (...), it is not clear enough what they mean. Wage compensation should not take government loans into consideration. These brands have existing business commitments with their suppliers that are their responsibility to honour.' Paying just the workers wages directly will not keep the jobs intact that these workers depend on. Reuters reports that several other brands that have been under intense criticism for cancelling orders or even demanding discounts might be making a turn.
Responsible Business Association amfori has come up with guidelines for their members indicating that they should proceed as much as possible with payments as usual, not cancel orders, not put undue pressure on suppliers, consider impacts for workers and consider supporting suppliers in financial trouble.
Bangladesh: Media report that despite the employer organization's decision to close factories until 14 April, nearly 100 textiles and clothing factories remained open yesterday, while less than 300 garment factories had paid wages for March.
An op-ed in the Daily Star sums up the situation of workers over the past weeks, the reasons that they returned to their jobs on Sunday and the suffering that the indecision and lack of clarity of the government and factory owners have caused.
CCC network members in Bangladesh report that four trade unions yesterday called for 1. Payment of wages and arrears for the month of March without any delay; 2. full salary payment to workers as long as the COVID-19 crisis lasts; 3. ending worker lay-offs; 4. starting of a rationing system for garment workers.
IndustriALL Global Union reports that the confusion about the return to factories triggered spontaneous wage protests. A group of protesting workers were blocking the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway after seeing their factories shut down without prior notice. A clash erupted and two workers were crushed by a truck.
El Salvador: Trade union SITRASACOSI reports that garment workers are at home in quarantine, where they are entitled to salaries, but much lower than what they would usually earn. Staying confined to the home for women does not mean that they stop working but rather face increased family care. There is no entitlement to extra state support, as employers are expected to pay these workers. The union therefore demands that: the large corporations and private companies comply with the quarantine decrees, paying decent wages on time; the government give special support to small businesses; multinational textile brands participate in financing the payment of quarantine wages and do not demand deliveries on time or penalise suppliers; employers act responsibly and not press for the normalization of economic activities as long as it is not safe for workers.
India: On the 24th of March, Narenda Modi, the Prime Minister of India, announced that borders would shut down four hours before closing them. The Guardian describes this brief period as a moment of 'chaos'. Medical School professor Vikram Patel said that 'the constantly changing announcements on social restrictions, the abandonment of government responsibility to secure supply chains, the threatening of desperate people with military-style responses, and the crushing of small businesses which define rural Goa' have created a crisis that social activist Harsh Mander has defined as 'man-made'. 'We could have avoided this violence, the complete annihilation of poor people, if we had just worked together to approach the problem. But no conversation was possible.', he said.
Media reports on the impact of COVID-19 in Rural India. No Jobs or payments as economic activity in Tamil Nadu's garment hub has come to a halt, with workers and farmers struggling to make ends meet.
Media reports that COVID-19 has created a massive $2 billion hole in India's apparel industry. Hit hard by the economic fallout of the COVID-19, the Indian apparel industry looks poised for a slow death, and if the situation does not improve by May, many companies will be shuttered. India's exporters also face a crunch as COVID-19 pummels the economy. Abrupt national lockdown has put 50m jobs at risk in textiles, shoe-making, jewellery and other consumer goods sectors. Apparel exporters warn that an industry relief package is urgently needed to prevent millions becoming jobless.
Media reports that millions of home-based garment workers in India are at risk of missing out on support to compensate for the loss of their livelihoods during the COVID-19 lockdown measures. Many factories in India subcontract part of their production to home workers who are often unregistered, ‘hidden’ workers, and have no right to a minimum wage, social security or healthcare from employers.
Italy: CCC network organization Abiti Puliti informs that in the logistic hub where workers continued to work for H&M and reported dangerous situations now two positive cases of COVID-19 were identified. Workers are calling for immediate closure of the warehouse.
Myanmar: Media report that according to a survey conducted by the European Chamber of Commerce Myanmar (EuroCham Myanmar), most European companies in Myanmar will be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, expecting to lose more than 50% of revenue. In accordance with Chinese and South Korean stakeholders, European companies also said that the preventive measures taken by the Myanmar government have had little impact on their business operations and urged the government to revise import and customs clearance procedures, create subsidies and relief for importers and exporters and develop a corporate tax rebate for 2020.
Pakistan: The Pakistan Workers’ Federation states that since March, nearly half a million textile and garment industry workers have been dismissed in Punjab province alone. Sindh province had issued a directive in March that banned companies from laying off workers.
South Asia: The International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) makes clear that vulnerable workers in supply chains need urgent protection in order to survive the COVID-19 outbreak and urges government and companies with supply chains in South Asia to protect migrant and informal workers, including Dalits, by assuring that they can buy essential goods and services for themselves and their families.
Sri Lanka: CCC network organization FTZ GSEU reports that in the current crisis the apparel industry is especially vulnerable as it is dependent on important raw materials. Apparel suppliers claim that they have lost 5 billion US$ and that they are not in a position to pay wages for the month of May and will have to retrench at least 30% of their employees. Over 80% of garment workers are women and the vast majority of them migrated from villages and live in boarding houses in the city. Immediately upon curfew the majority female employees in the Katunayake, Biyagama and Seethawaka Free Trade Zones were faced with the problem of how to get back home. This was facilitated by union intervention on 27-28 March 2020, but their financial problems continue. Despite the health risks, many workers for financial reasons want to return to their factories as soon as possible. As there is no social security system in Sri Lanka and there is no employment in villages their future is at risk if indeed factories decide to dismiss workers.
7 April 2020
Global: Brands and retailers that are refusing to pay for existing orders continue to justify this decision with the difficulties they are in, as well as a decision to prioritise saving jobs in their home countries, reports Der Spiegel. Vogue Business reports that even as some brands and retailers now publicly agree to take existing orders, they still try to bargain, and fears exist that despite commitments brands will not pay suppliers or will take a very long time doing so, as none are public about their timelines. Vogue reached out to C&A, Bestseller, Gap, Inditex, H&M and Target asking for a timeline regarding the commitments they have made, but most did not respond.
Traidcraft Exchange published a policy paper describing issues behind the current crisis and listing demands upon brands, retailers and international institutions.
The Fair Labor Association has started a resource listing country specific worker provisions around the world.
Bangladesh: Daily Star reports that factory owner associations BGMEA and the BKMEA are recommending closure of all factories until 14 April, but according to Mahmud Naser Jony, additional superintendent of police of Dhaka Industrial Police-1, 130 factories are still operating in Dhaka's Savar and Ashulia areas. He stated that worker unrest was reported at the Ha-Meem group, demanding closure of factories and salary. The article also reports that according to the BGMEA as of Sunday, $3.04 billion worth of garment export orders were cancelled by international retailers.
Media also continue to report, now including video and images, on the chaotic situation in Bangladesh on Sunday, when many workers returning to work and claiming their March wages were surprised by a prolonged closure of factories.
Media report that Bangladesh Bank has instructed workers and employees of export-oriented industries and factories to open up mobile banking accounts within the next 14 days, as the stimulus package announced by the government as well as salaries and allowances will be sent to these accounts. Read more.
Cambodia: After employer organization GMAC told the government that it would not be able to pay 40% of workers' wages, the Prime Minister of Cambodia has announced that suspended garment workers will only receive $70 per month, instead of the $120 that were promised and already considered too low to ensure essential goods and services. The government will pay $40 and the other $30 will be covered by factory management. Asia Floor Wage Alliance makes clear that 'this decision is going to have a huge impact on garment workers' lives'.
Malaysia: According to information from the CCC network more than 100 Cambodian workers, students and Khmer Islam informal sellers were refused on a flight to Cambodia after Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen announced they would not be accepted. He encouraged around 150 Cambodian workers, students and Khmer Islam vendors to remain in Malaysia. They are now stuck in Kuala Lumpur airport. Most workers' work permits are about to expire and it is hard for them to stay in Malaysia. Read more here.
Malaysia’s Social Security Organization (SOCSO) has clarified that COVID-19 is considered an occupational disease under Malaysian law.
Myanmar: Media report that garment workers in Myanmar have joined an online campaign calling on the government and employers to suspend operations in garment factories and arrange for workers to receive paid leave, but most employers are resisting this idea because of the uncertainty of how long this shutdown could last and how that would impact their business.
India: WIEGO reiterates that 90% of India's workforce are informal workers, but little has been done by the Indian government to make sure that they will be able to earn income, buy essential goods and services or protect themselves.
Indonesia: Media report that Jemmy Kartiwa, chairman of a textile association in Indonesia, is concerned about the crisis where in a sector that employs more than 3 million workers, 'demand is declining sharply'.
Pakistan: Media in Pakistan report on the country's 1.25 trillion COVID-19 bail out package, which includes Rs200 billion designated for labourers who lose their jobs or are seeing a reduction in employment opportunities; Rs100bn tax refunds to export industry to provide them liquidity as soon as possible so that their work isn't completely halted; Rs3,000 a month for 4 months for 12 million most affected families; selling of five basic food items at lower prices at utility stores.
Media report that as industries in Pakistan struggle to stay afloat, Zubair Motiwalla, Chairman of the Council of Textile Associations, calls on the government to support industries by paying 50% of workers' salaries: 'The government should share 50% of the salaries of our employees out of the Workers Welfare Fund (WWF). The money in this fund, amounting to billions of rupees, is our money and should be utilised at this time of crisis', he said. Business owners also urged the government to look into the possibility of reducing all tax and interest rates, utility charges and petroleum prices for three months.
Thailand: According to information from the CCC network garment factories are still operating as long as they have orders from brands, but orders are starting to slow down. There is concern that some factories will use COVID-19 as an excuse to close down. These factories will be obligated to give proper advanced notice or pay proper severance pay. Employers can also use Section 75, which allows an employer to temporarily halt work or remain open with reduced hours when economic conditions are out of their control such as under force majeure, but must pay its workers 75% of the legal wage. They must give three days advanced notice. The determination of the legitimate use of Section 75 must be assessed by the local Labour Protection Office. Under the current situation, the ability to file labour complaints has been disrupted. The ability to submit labour rights violation complaints has been moved on-line, but is out of reach to migrants because it is in Thai language and they only have cell phones. So far, one factory has temporarily suspended operations under Section 75. Some factories have laid people off as work contracts and work permits expired. However, the government has given an amnesty extension for all migrant registration until 30 June without penalty. In factories that are still open, there are thermal checks on workers as they enter the factory, and workers have been encouraged to make their own cloth masks with material provided. People continue to work and live close together and the factories and dorms have terrible ventilation. As most factory compounds are gated, worker mobility is controlled and a ban on gathering further limits workers' chances to organize.
Turkey: Videos of the attack on workers refusing to get to work in a factory where other workers were diagnosed with COVID19 have now been published by a newspaper and on social media.
Vietnam: Media report that a textile industry body in Vietnam estimates that the sector could take a $467 million hit, predicting a dip from 7% to 4.9% for Vietnam's baseline 2020 growth.
6 April 2020
Bangladesh: At the start of the Bangladeshi working week, yesterday, there was lack of clarity over whether factories would reopen, with workers walking long distances in order not lose their jobs after the 10 day closure and then being turned back at the door or even being told they were laid off. Garment worker unions are calling on the government, buyers, or factory owners to pay workers who will struggle to feed themselves and their families with no income, reports Reuters. Many workers were especially eager to return to work as they have not yet been paid for March and hoped to receive their salaries. Journalist and University of Dhaka lecturer Towheed Feroze urged the government in an op-ed to provide for a plan including the upcoming Ramadan month, adding: "As for business people, it’s time they use a little empathy and logic. Sometimes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too." In the meantime factory owners continue to disagree on whether garment factories should be closed and the government does not enforce factory closure. This means some factories continue to operate and workers are left in uncertainty, reports the Daily Star. Today the Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA) announced closure of all factories under the eight EPZs in the country from 6-14 April.
Cambodia: The Cambodia Manufacturers Association (GMAC) has reiterated the appeal sent to all buyers through an open letter posted late last week. 'This will save 750,000 jobs and enable factories to pay their workers and ensure the livelihoods of millions of Cambodians', GMAC said. As of yesterday, according to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training of Cambodia, approximately 90 of Cambodia's garment factories had suspended their operations, accounting for 60,000 job
The GMAC also said that owners had complied to continue paying workers 40 percent of the 190$ monthly minimum wage, but Cambodian trade union leaders have said that they are 'sympathetic, but also sceptical about the request'. In addition to these 40 percent, the government said it would pay 20 percent of the minimum wage. However, garment workers have said that some factory owners believed they would not be able to cover the costs of 40 percent of the salaries after the April 13-16 break for Khmer New Year, as foreign orders dry up. Also today, Dork Sovann, head of the women's department at the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Union (CATU), urged the government to 'close all factories for a period of time in order to prevent COVID-19 spreading and help secure workers pay in time.' Sovann also made clear that, considering the fact that workers travel to and from home provinces for Khmer New Year, there will be added risks if factories reopen after the break.
Myanmar: Media report that according to Industrial Workers Federation Myanmar (IWFM), a government factory has fired 686 of its 904 employees. This lay off is far from one-off, being part of a thread of similar cases in the country. Since January, 22 cut-make-pack garment factories have shut down, according to the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population of Myanmar. The remaining factories have reduced the number of employees working in their facilities.
The COVID19 fund announced on the 18th of March by the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry of Myanmar is not accessible for foreign businesses. Of Myanmar's approximately 600 garment factories, 400 are Chinese-owned, 100 South Korea-owned. These owners are now urging the Myanmar government to review this decision and allow them to apply for loans through a stimulus package for foreign investors in the local garment industry, according to media reports.
Hong Kong: The Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) today called on the Hong Kong government to create 50,000 temporary jobs, like cleaning, and building repair and maintenance to provide a lifeline to those who have lost their livelihoods due to the coronavirus outbreaks in the city. The union said the government should also look at ways to give people cash directly. It said those who have lost their jobs or been put on furloughs should be given 80% of the pay they were getting before, as well as subsidise employers affected by the government's two-week mandatory closure of establishment
Pakistan: Media report that the Punjab government has started to allow for the reopening of various businesses, including businesses related to the textile industry, sports wear and leather.
According to media reports, more than a million garment and textile workers in Pakistan are set to lose their jobs because of the coronavirus crisis and most will get no financial support to ease the blow, according to trade union leaders.
Turkey: According to information from the CCC network COVID19 cases were detected in the Akar Textile factory in the İzmir province with over 1800 workers. Four workers diagnosed with the virus and 17 workers who worked in the same area were sent home for a 14 day quarantine. The factory received permission from the government to continue to work, but several workers tried to make use of their legal right to deny unsafe work. They were attacked by guards. Video footage of this is available but was removed from the social media platform it was posted on.
5 April 2020
Global: An article in the Financial Times quotes Scott Nova, executive director of the US-based Worker Rights Consortium, on Primark's annoucement of a worker wage fund. Nova 'said he was “very sceptical” that most of the affected workers would ever actually see any of the promised cash and questioned why the company did not simply pay for the orders it had cancelled. “By refusing to pay for the orders, it will be doing so much financial damage to the factories that they will fire a lot of these workers anyway,” he said. He added that the labour costs represented about a tenth of factory prices. “Even if Primark paid every penny of labour cost, which I’m certain it will not come close to doing, it would still be paying 10 cents on the dollar.” “This pledge is intended primarily to protect the company’s reputation,” he concluded.'
Bangladesh: The Dhaka South City Corporation (DSSC) Mayor Sayeed Khokon on Saturday called upon the Commerce Minister to consider shutdown of garments factories to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In the meantime, media report that garment workers afraid to lose their jobs if they do not show up for work walk over 100km to their factories in absence of any public transport. Also on Saturday, the employers' organization BGMEA suggested that garment factories should be closed until 11 April. On its own Facebook page the BGMEA declined responsibility for factories remaining open during the lock down:
"1. BGMEA cannot close factories. We don’t have the authority. Only Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) does.
2. A formal meeting was held on 21/3 and many ensured that their factories could remain open as they would assure that highest precautions could be maintained.
3. Even then, BGMEA went ahead and recommended closure again on 26/3 and added that clause again
4. We made no announcement from BGMEA to reopen factories after that.
5. Today after seeing the wave of people, we again recommended closure
We recommended closure from 20/3 and till date we have not changed our position."
After working very long distances because factory owners had told them factories would reopen this Sunday, many workers were now told that factories will only reopen on 12 April and have to walk all the way back to their home towns and villages as they have no livelihood in Dhaka, reports Dhaka Tribune.
Cambodia: Employer organization GMAC says that 80% of buyers, including those from the US, Europe, & Canada have postponed purchases from Cambodian suppliers. They demand a review of the government policy that demands that employers pay 40% of worker wages during the lock down, reports AFWA.
Myanmar: Workers of a factory producing for Zara and Mango, where union members were first dismissed in the wake of the COVID19 crisis while others remain employed, are camping outside the factory demanding reinstatement.
Sri Lanka: Media report that due to the coronavirus the garment industry in the country might lay off 30% of the workforce.
4 April 2020
Global: Fibre-2-Fashion reports that "companies suffered significant cancellations or postponements, and on an average, orders dropped by 8 per cent, according to a survey by Zurich-based International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF). The fall in orders ranged from 4 per cent in South America to 13.3 per cent in Africa. The turnover in 2020, on an average, is expected to be 10.5 per cent lower in 2020 than last year. While North America is expected to witness an average decline of 7.5 per cent, companies in Europe are expecting a drop of 17.5 per cent, ITMF said."
Bangladesh: Thousands of people -- many of them garment workers -- are returning to Dhaka due to the lock down. People travel in cramped lorries or walk the distance in groups and are unable to keep social distancing, reports the Daily Star.
India: The plight of many migrant workers does not stop upon their return home, as media report. Often they face stigma of potentially carrying the virus.
Indonesia: Many garment factories in Sukabumi Regency, Java, Indonesia stopped production for 14 days due to the shortage of raw materials, the inability to ship finished goods and cancellation of orders by brands.
Italy: According reports from the CCC network organization Abiti Puliti logistic workers at the logistic hub of Stradella are still working to process online orders -- non-essential goods -- for H&M. They reported the dangerous situation and are calling upon the prefect to intervene and close the warehouse. 500 workers are working without safety measures.
The Philippines: Labour NGO Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) calls on the government to implement pro-poor policies and clearer guidelines as the lock down continues, calling for free testing and treatment for free, guaranteed income, immediate support to the poor and upholding freedom of association, collective bargaining rights and occupational health and safety.
US: Labour rights organizations Worker Rights Center and International Labor Rights Forum have sent a letter to apparel companies -- co-signed by a range of organizations, including CCC -- with recommendations on how to protect garment workers.
3 April 2020
Global: An op-ed by Adam Minter argues that "all parties would benefit if retailers and brands committed to a shared responsibility for paying garment workers for completed work, and contributed to a reasonable severance during the inevitable virus-driven slump."
Bangladesh: The Guardian reports that Primark and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill are among retailers that have collectively cancelled £1.4bn and suspended an additional £1bn of orders as they scramble to minimise losses. This includes nearly £1.3bn of orders that were already in production or had been completed. In the meantime fabric is piling up in mills because of the restrictions and cancelled orders. The Bangladesh Bank asks exporters to apply for loans from the stimulus package immediately, the option is open until 20 April.
The Daily Star also reports on a home-based workshop owner and his wife using their own facilities to produce face masks from left-over material.
India: Media report that 10 trade unions call upon the labour minister to stop retrenchment of workers, salary cuts, and forced unpaid leave.
Al Jazeera reports on how migrant workers in dire circumstances feel forgotten during this crisis. Migrant workers' plight prompts the UN to call for ‘domestic solidarity’ in the coronavirus battle.
An analysis in the Wire argues that the Indian textile industry needs government support to overcome this crisis.
Pakistan: Human Rights Watch urges Pakistani authorities to take urgent steps to mitigate the economic impact of COVID19 on its most vulnerable workers, realizing the enormous economic consequences social distancing, quarantines, and the closure of businesses will have for garment and textile workers, domestic workers, home-based workers, and other workers in low-income households.
CCC network organization NTUF reports its is continuing relief work with around 350 food bags delivered to focal persons in different localities of Liyari town, Karachi yesterday. From today they will deliver food supply to district central, Karachi. Hindu community focal persons received food bags from Faisl Edhi at Edhi Center on yesterday to deliver to needy families in their localities
South East Asia: CCC network organization Mekong Migration Network reports on the vulnerable situation of migrant workers in this crisis. The governments of Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia have urged migrant workers to stay put and avoid travelling back to their countries of origin. However, many migrants have been compelled to return, as remaining in Thailand, for many, means no job, no food and a real risk of homelessness. A significant number of migrant workers will not qualify for exitisting government initiatives as they are either undocumented or ineligible to register on the grounds that they are in the informal sector. Migrants who have returned to their countries of origin also face a host of challenges. Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos have all begun quarantining migrant returnees. Many migrants no longer hold documentation in their country of origin making it difficult for them to access social protection, including basic healthcare. The sudden influx of returnees is also the cause of hardship at the household level, as families must feed and accommodate returning relatives at short notice. MMN calls on the relevant authorities to announce free access to public healthcare in Thailand for migrants, start an information campaigns aimed at migrants on COVID19 in migrant languages including health and safety guidelines for those continuing to work, to relax documentation requirements in countries or origin to ensure that all migrant returnees have access to public healthcare.
Sri Lanka: CCC network organization FTZ-GSEU has written a letter to the Sri Lankan President on the violation of COVID19 preventive measures by some employers and state officials.
FTZ-GSEU also reports that a factory owned by NEXT has announced that because of COVID19 the company is undergoing financial difficulties and therefore it has decided to pay only 50% of the annual bonus.
2 April 2020
Global: Global Unions released a statement calling upon the Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank to produce a plan to coordinate economic stimulus, public health action and debt relief.
An op-ed by Minh-Ha T. Pham at Truthout points out that workers should not be forgotten behind the brand promises to produce PPE: "When fashion designers and CEOs of fashion firms promise to make masks, they don’t mean that they will be personally making the masks. They mean that the local and international garment workers they employ in factories where they contract apparel production will be taking on this new task."
Bangladesh: Solidarity Center reports that in Gazipur, factory-level unions and worker union leaders representing 10,000 garment workers at Hop Lun Ltd. factories negotiated key pay and safety measures. Workers will receive their full month’s salary for March as the factory closes from 26 March–5 April during the government lock down. And at Natural Denims Ltd. 8,200 workers signed a collective bargaining agreement in January, SGSF worked with factory management to ensure workers receive their full pay during the factory closure. 3,000 garment workers at 4 A Yarn Dyeing Ltd. are receiving 20 days’ salary through the March 26–April 5 factory closure, and SGSF is providing education about the novel coronavirus and discussing more safety steps with management.
Media report that factories can pay wages for 3 months from a stimulus package for which the finance Ministry has sent around implementation guidelines.
Cambodia: Reuters report that 91 garment factories have suspended work due to COVID19 with 61,500 workers affected. Khmer Times raises that crowds of more than 10 people are banned to curb the COVID19 pandemic, but factory workers are daily being packed into vans and trucks to commute to work.
Malaysia: CCC network organization Tenaganita reports that it has been disseminating factual information on COVID19 in the languages of migrant communities since the beginning of the crisis as well as lobbied for making tests available for them. Fear of arrests prevent undocumented workers from seeking health care.
Myanmar: Reports continue to come in that the COVID19 crisis is used by factory as a front for union busting.
Action Labour Rights reports that earlier this week the Chinese Textile and Garment Federation stated in a meeting with union federations that buyers are massively reducing their orders: Primark is reducing orders with 40%, H&M with 60% and Spanish and Italian brands are cancelling all orders.
Sri Lanka: According to media reports, a government representative said that the apparel sector will lose USD 2 billion for the three-month period starting from March because of the disruption to supply chain in Europe and the US following the COVID-19 outbreak, Cabinet Spokesman and Minister Bandula Gunawardene said yesterday.
The Philippines: Media report that President Duterte threatened to order the police to shoot anyone who "makes trouble" during the lock down after residents of a slum in Manila's Quezon City staged a protest along a highway near their shanty houses, claiming they had not received any food packs and other relief supplies since the lock down began more than two weeks ago.
Turkey: The Istanbul Apparel Exporters Association (IHKIB) published a statement predicting that the cancellation of orders and suspension of payments by trading partners will cause dramatic results, stating this will result in social turbulence because a high number of workers will be unemployed or unpaid. The association requests its business partners to pay as normal for orders under production and finished products, offering flexible payment methods.
US: Garment Worker Center is reporting on the unsafe and unsanitary conditions in sweatshops in Los Angeles.
1 April 2020
Global: In a statement, Human Rights Watch states that apparel brands’ business practices in response to COVID-19 are exacerbating the economic plight of millions of garment workers in Asia and are contrary to brands’ human rights responsibilities outlined in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector.
After damaging reports on brands cancelling orders to the detriment of factories and workers, media report that more and more brands are now committing to paying existing orders, including Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Target, and Polish clothing company LPP. Other brands, including Primark, stick to nor paying for already produced orders.
Bangladesh: IndustriALL reports that ACT signatory brands have expressed their commitment to maintain responsible business practices and social dialogue, and in majority agreed in principle to pay for completed orders, and are discussing various incentive and stimulus packages for suppliers to ensure workers are paid. Media report that employer association BGMEA welcomes that new brands have ensured to commit to orders: ‘Spanish clothing company Inditex, British multinational retailer Marks and Spencer, French retail company Kiabi and US retail company PVH and Target have come forward and have informed us of their decision to take the ready goods along with the goods in production,’ Rubana told New Age.
Media report that the Finance Ministry in Bangladesh has announced a stimulus package for the export-oriented sectors. Factories can loan funds at 2% interest to pay their workers' salaries for up to three months. The borrowers will get a six-month grace period, meaning that they will start paying back the borrowed money in instalments to the government from the seventh month of receiving the money.
An Al Jazeera report once more illustrates the issues in the garment industry in Bangladesh.
Cambodia: CCC network organizations report that COVID19 continues to cause cancellation of orders, while factories are still operating. Some brands have said they will continue to pay for orders, but more factories are shutting down with now over 50 factories under suspension. Workers should get 40% of wages from their employers and another 20% from the government. Trade unions are in discussions with employers on top ups. Furthermore, organizations report that the government is trying to place the country under a state of emergency, a law draft will be issued on Friday. Estimates are this will take about two weeks to pass and be signed off by the king. There are fears that this might affect union's freedom to organize.
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has said that factory owners cannot afford the payment of 40% of worker wages during the COVID19 lock down as instructed by the Cambodian Prime Minister because of suspension of orders. Over 70 factories have filed for dismissal of workers.
Indonesia: CCC organizations report that most factories still produce. Factories are trying to implement the COVID19 guidance from the government, but getting the right protective equipment is difficult in many places. Some workers are reported to have been infected. Unions fear that dismissals might follow during Ramadan when it is common to renew worker contracts and that workers might not receive their religious allowance. Social dialogue is hindered by obstacles to in-person meetings. Already now 1,200 workers of the Kahatex (adidas supplier) were sent home without clarity whether they can work again and no pay. 80 workers of an underwear factory in Bogor were dismissed.
Garment workers at Sukabumi in Indonesia demand paid leave. With factories continuing to work, garment workers say they receive only 2 masks a week, which they have to use till it stinks. They say social distancing is impossible, with only 50 cm gaps between workers. The fear of losing pay and jobs is what is forcing them to work, though they are scared of contracting COVID19, reports AFWA.
Lesotho: Three unions in Lesotho today in a press release express concern over the absence of a decision on payment of workers during the 21 day lock down. The unions have regularly appealed to the Department of Labour demanding that workers who are at home observing the lock down must be paid their wages in full for the 21 days, workers who are medically diagnosed for coronavirus must be paid full wages until they recover, workers whose children‘s schools or day-centre are closed because of the coronavirus and who needs to take of those children must be paid full wages, workers who advised by the doctors not to report to work because of underlying conditions must be paid full wages, and workers who are caregivers to relatives who tested positive for the coronavirus can be released on full pay until alternative arranged can be found to take of those relatives.
Myanmar: Media report that unions in Myanmar call for closure of factories in April with payment of full wages.
Pakistan: Government measures to provide financial support to workers are hampered by the fact that there is no reliable data on formal and informal workers in the country, according to media.
South Asia: HomeNet South Asia published a charter with demands for immediate action from South Asian governments for home based workers, including income support, free rations, door-to-door delivery of services, access to free-of-cost tests and healthcare facilities at public hospitals.
The Philippines: CCC organizations report that garment factories are closed and factories didn’t give any advance payments to workers. Production was already slowing down before the lock down. For many workers this means: no work, no pay. The Labour Ministry promised around 100 USD (5000 pesos) subsidy for workers. Some workers received government subsidies, but others, for example in Export Processing Zones, are not receiving the subsidies.Unions are demanding for quarantine payment. Last week, a state of emergency was passed, granting extra power to the president.
US: Garment Worker Center started an emergency relief fund for garment workers in Los Angeles.
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