Live-blog: How the Coronavirus affects garment workers in supply chains

This blog aims to collect daily information about how the new Coronavirus COVID-19 is influencing garment workers' rights in supply chains around the world. It will be updated as new information comes in from media and the Clean Clothes Campaign global network. Information is posted as it comes in from the network and cannot always be double-checked.

7 August 2020

Asia: The Guardian reports on how, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRCC)'s report, the coronavirus pandemic has led to "brutal crackdown" on garment workers' rights. According to activists, some of Europe's biggest retailers, such as Primark, Zara and H&M, are failing to stop COVID-19 being used as a pretext for union busting. "Workers face a brutal crackdown when exercising their most fundamental rights, and brands aren’t stepping up enough to ensure workers in their supply chains are protected", Thulsi Narayanasamy, senior labour rights lead at BHRRC, made clear.

Bangladesh: Media report that the police violently attacked garment workers who were protesting unpaid wages and allowances, injuring 12 workers. This took place in Dhaka, on the 25th of July, when thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers from Viyellatex and Shofi Tex blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway to demand wages for July, festival allowances and a 12-day festival holiday. Police violently attacked the protesters using batons, gunshots, teargas and sound grenades.

Media report that orders for apparel items from international retailers are coming back. "My factories are fully booked until the end of September and my customers have also booked 60 per cent of my capacity from October towards the end of December", Mostafa Sobhan Rubel, managing director of Dragon Sweaters, said, adding that they have been able to completely reinstate more than 90 per cent of the cancelled orders. Although some factories are running at above 50% capacity, the BGMEA made clear that many are still struggling. "It's too early to make a positive remark on the inflow of new orders since many factories are still struggling to survive due to financial hardships", Arshad Jamal Dipu, vice-president of the BGMEA, said. 

Cambodia: Media report that the Justice Ministry has warned that it would act against activists who defy a ban on holding protests to demand the release of union leader Rong Chhun, who, as previously reported, was arrested over statements about the Cambodia-Vietnam border demarcation. According to the Ministry, those who continue to protest and demand the release of Chhun could face legal action from authorities. Meanwhile, another article reports that yesterday's protests were met with violence from the authorities, as guards were seen pushing, dragging and kicking protesters. Ny Sokha, from human rights group Adhoc, made clear that authorities were violating protesters' constitutionally-guaranteed rights by using violence against a crowd that was peacefully protesting. 

India: Media report that the Telangana cabinet announced that it will form a special welfare scheme for migrant workers in light of the problems they faced during the lockdown period. The main goal of this policy is to create employment. 

According to reports from the CCC network and Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), 134 more children have been rescued from a spinning mill in Tiruppur, India. Following an inspection in which authorities rescued 40 minors, sources shared that there were more children in the spinning mill. Based on this information, a new inspection that took place yesterday night rescued 134 children - including 119 girls between the ages of 13 and 18. Inside the mill, no one was wearing masks or following social distancing measures. "The purchasing practices of brands, which forces suppliers to find cheaper sources of labour, has led to continued employment of child labour", the AFWA wrote in their post. 

Indonesia: Media report that the World Bank criticised Indonesia's planned reforms to make environmental and labour rules more business friendly, warning that they could have adverse effects, especially amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The planned exemptions of minimum wage and reforms to phase out severance pay “could weaken the protection of workers and increase income equality”, especially during heightened unemployment due to the coronavirus crisis, the Bank wrote in the report. According to the article, green activists and labour groups have raised similar concerns. In a joint statement, labour unions complained that their views had not been incorporated in the parliamentary debate and accused lawmakers of siding with companies.

Myanmar: The Guardian interviewed Soe Min Thu, a member of Amber Stone factory's union, who was attacked by men who, he believes, were hired by factory management to send a warning. "We do not like you much in the factory, we’ve been watching you", he recalled them saying. "If you keep working with the union … then next time you’ll die." He was left with his arm in a cast and gashes on his head and leg. Soe Min Thu reported his attackers to the police, but says he doubts they will be caught. Workers from this factory also told the Guardian that factory supervisors were abusive in their language, particularly to female workers, and that lax fire safety at the factory.

OCHA Myanmar (The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Myanmar) reports that around 142,000 migrant workers have, so far, returned to Myanmar. Most are returning from Thailand and have humanitarian needs, especially during the quarantine period. 

Media report that garment workers' rights campaigners have praised Inditex (Zara), but criticised Bestseller, after a trade union claimed victory following a two month dispute with a supplier in Myanmar. The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) says Inditex was instrumental in persuading the Huabo Times factory to reinstate 26 union members, including four union leaders, and 81 co-workers sympathetic to the union, but that there was a lack of transparency concerning Bestseller's involvement in resolving the case. 

SMART Textile & Garments reports that the EU Myan Ku Fund has disbursed over 45,000 payments during the first three months, which amounts to €2.5 million in support of laid-off garment workers. According to the EU-funded project, most workers are women, including hundreds of pregnant workers and thousands of internal migrants from conflict affected regions. SMART further reports that the EU Myan Ku Fund cash transfer programme has been extended until 30 November. In this sense, cash transfers will continue to be provided to garment, textile and footwear industry workers who have lost their jobs until this date. 

Spain: IndustriALL reports that Inditex, the company that owns Zara and other high street brands, and IndustriALL Global Union, have signed an agreement to cooperate on a recovery plan for the global garment industry amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The organisations pledged to do this in a joint declaration signed on 4 August. "The COVID-19 pandemic caused a crisis in the textile and garment industry that led unions to experience mass job losses, unsafe working conditions and attacks on workers' rights. Many of our members saw their livelihoods collapse entirely. The manufacturing suppliers need stability and predictability so that employment and income can be preserved. That’s what this commitment entails. We are working together to help the industry to develop the resilience to recover from the crisis, saving jobs and preserving the rights and income of workers", Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary, said. 

Sri Lanka: Media report that hundreds of migrant workers from Sri Lanka are still stranded in the Middle East, where at least 44 have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Thousands of migrant workers have lost their jobs and have no feasible way of returning to Sri Lanka, particularly as those who wish to return must face the barrier of paying for a mandatory PCR test, which many do not have the funds to afford. According to the article, around 1700 migrant workers from Sri Lanka are still stranded abroad.

Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) reports that the Ceylon Mercantile Industrial and General Workers’ Union (CMU) has written to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment with regard to the over 500 Sri Lankan migrant workers who have lost their jobs at two garment factories (Vega Textile Co., Ltd. and Camel Textile International Corporation) and have been stranded in Jordan, with no income, since April. The Union urged the Bureau to advice the Sri Lankan Embassy to actively provide adequate support for the workers while they remain stranded in Jordan.

Petitions and relief efforts

Labour behind the Label focusing on UK brands.

Oxfam Australia focusing on Australian brands.

Public Eye petition in German and French.

Abiti Puliti petition in Italian.

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:

Resources

Demands, recommendations, proposals

CCC list of demands upon brand and retailers.

Global union and employer joint call to action.

WRC and MHSSN safety recommendations.

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

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

Information trackers

WRC's brand tracker on which brands pay for orders

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

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

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 COVID-19 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

6 August 2020

Global: Media report that, according to a new study by UN Women, women workers have been disproportionately affected by the slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The study also found that the hardest-hit sectors are the retail, garment and tourism sectors, where female workers are overrepresented. "The COVID crisis has demonstrated once more how women and girls bear the brunt when our societies and economies come under pressure", Hilde Hardeman, head of service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) European Commission, said. 

Bangladesh: Media report that recent surveys indicate that over 1 million garment workers in Bangladesh have already been dismissed or furloughed due to order cancellations and refusals to pay in full for current orders. According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), orders received by Bangladesh's garment factories declined by over 45% over the first quarter of 2020, with an 81% contraction in April alone.

Media report that it is encouraging to see that there has been a 44% increase in export earnings in the month of July, particularly because this increase in export earnings was not primarily driven by the garment industry, but by the better performance of agricultural products, pharmaceuticals, jute and jute goods, and the home textile sectors. "This diversification of our export basket has been the need of the hour for Bangladesh for a long time", the article reads. The article further reiterates that  leather and frozen fish sectors are still struggling. 

In an op-ed in the Daily Star, Bangladeshi factory owner Mostafiz Uddin describes the issue of waste amidst the coronavirus pandemic, referring to the mountains of clothing that are currently piled up at ports, in warehouses and on factory floors, which may never be sold. Uddin reports that George, the clothing arm of UK retailer Asda, has cancelled a lot of school uniforms, and that this will be hard or even impossible to resell. "Bangladesh as a garment hub depends on people purchasing things they often do not need. We may not have worried about this in the past, but this is an issue our leaders surely ought to consider moving forwards", he wrote. 

Cambodia: Media report that the Phnom Penh police violently cracked down on a group of around 20 peaceful protesters yesterday, who were demanding Rong Chhun's release in front of the court where he was charged, leaving at least two young women badly injured. 

China: Media report that China's 290 million migrant workers have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, as they had already been under pressure from the US-China trade war. Garment workers who have worked in the industry for over 20 years are losing their jobs as the coronavirus crisis and the US-China trade war cause the closure of factories in China's export-oriented manufacturing industry. Due to the current situation, workers express that "It will be very difficult to find another stable factory to work for many nearby factories are closing down or laying off workers." The article further stresses that factory closures also affect the local community, such as the small restaurants, hotels and numerous shops who rely on workers for their own income. 

Guatemala: Media report that the KP Textil factory, a garment factory supplying Gap, American Eagle and Amazon, was at the centre of one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Guatemala, where over 200 workers tested positive and at least one worker died. This case exposes the dire working conditions inside the country's maquila system of free trade zones. At the time of the outbreak, the factory was making masks for export to the US. In statements to the Guardian, Gap, American Eagle and Amazon said their suppliers had been issued with detailed guidance on COVID-19 and reiterated that they are committed to rigorous labour standards. American Eagle and Amazon expressed sympathy for the death of the garment worker and Amazon said that it had launched an investigation. "It has become a butchers’ shop for the poor maquiladora people", Luis Armando López, general secretary of the Central Guatemalan Workers Confederation (CGTG), said, as he referred to how the coronavirus pandemic has been handled within factory walls. Most maquilas have not followed health measures imposed by the government and workers have had to buy their own masks and hand sanitiser.

India: Media report that, according to a study by India Spend, 34% of surveyed migrant garment workers in Karnataka said that they felt financially constrained when buying basic amenities since the COVID-19 lockdown. The study also found that:

  • Before COVID-19, 89% of the workers sent home, on average, 41% of their salaries. During lockdown, only 8% of workers sent money home;
  • Workers faced greater stress, as 46% reported being more worried about future employment post-lockdown and 41% were worried about greater health risks once factories reopened.

Indonesia: CNV Internationaal reports that garment and footwear trade unions federations and employers' associations in Indonesia have signed an agreement that commits to protect workers' health and safety amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Myanmar: Union organiser reports that Mango has denied that it is supplied by Dihuali factory in Yangon, which fired 700 union members in a clear union-busting move. In response, workers sent images from inside the factory that show Mango labels. "Looks pretty clearly to be Mango (...) Fashion brands do a lot to disown their workers", the union organiser wrote. 

According to reports from the CCC network, the union at the Huabo Times factory in Myanmar has signed an agreement with factory management after more than two months of fighting against union discrimination. The signed agreement means that the 26 dismissed union members will be reinstated and union demands will be met and sets a clear precedent for the success of worker organising. The union members, supported by the CCC and CCC member organisations Let’s Help Each Other and Solidarity Center, reached out to the main buyers: Inditex (Zara), Bestseller and Primark. Inditex played a key role in the negotiations between the union, factory management and brands, and were supported by Spanish union CCOO. While Inditex took a leading role in negotiations, the other brands were less forthcoming, and there was a lack of transparency concerning Bestseller's involvement in resolving the case. The resolution of the Huabo Times case, with local union involvement at its centre, represents another important step towards establishing a robust labour movement in Myanmar.

Huabo Times Myanmar

Saudi Arabia: Media report that undocumented migrant workers in detention centre are living in insanitary conditions which have sparked COVID-19 fears. Detainees are held in a crowded series of bunk bed-filled halls, which each hold around 80 people. "We are packed as animals. We sleep on metal beds with no mattress, no proper sanitation. We drink water from the toilet. If you have money you can buy clean water. If don’t have any, you just take dirty water from the toilet", one of the migrants explained. According to workers, some are developing COVID-19 symptoms. "There are sick people, fever, vomiting and coughing, and nobody taking care of them. It is possible they have COVID-19", another migrant worker said. Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabian government's Centre for International Communication (CIC) did not respond to a request from the Guardian for comment.

Singapore: Media report that there has been a spate of suicides and attempted suicides involving migrant workers in Singapore, which has heightened concerns over the mental health of thousands of low-paid workers who have been confined to their dormitories due to COVID-19. Some dormitories have remained under quarantine since April and even migrants who have been declared virus-free have had their movements restricted and face uncertainty over the jobs on which their families back home depend. Yesterday, Singapore's Ministry of Manpower announced that it was monitoring recent suicides and attempted suicides involving migrant workers in dormitories and working with its partners to enhance mental health support programmes for them.

Thailand: Media report that migrant workers from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos will be allowed to enter Thailand to work under disease control regulations. Thai authorities have coordinated their efforts to enforce regulations such as mandatory 14-day quarantine, health certificate verification and contact tracing procedure. Meanwhile, media also report that the Thai cabinet has allowed over half a million migrant workers from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos, with proper travel documents, to continue working in the country until the end of May 2022. These guidelines aim to ensure the country maintains the labour force needed to strengthen the economy, but also reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections associated to migration. 

5 August 2020

Asia: The Business and Human Rights Research Centre (BHRRC) has published a report on how thousands of garment workers making clothes for some of the world's biggest fashion brands are being fired for being part of a union. The reports looks at nine cases in garment factories in India, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar supplying nine global fashion brands: H&M, Primark, Zara (Inditex), Levi Strauss & Co., MANGO, BESTSELLER, Michael Kors, Tory Burch and Kate Spade (Tapestry) and concludes that these nine factories have sacked nearly 5000 workers. The dismissals have been linked to union-busting, as factory management used COVID-19 to cover the dismissal of union members. Six brands said that they are investigating or in dialogue with suppliers. However, months later, most cases remain unresolved. Three brands (Michael Kors, Kate Spade and Tory Burch) have not responded to the allegations. The BHRRC's press release makes clear that these nine cases are simply "the tip of the iceberg", reiterating that the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has reported a global crackdown on trade unions, with at least 53 countries restricting human and labour rights during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Bangladesh: Media report that Bangladesh's exports in July reached the highest-ever earnings in a single month in the country's history due to an increased shipment of garment products as global buyers started reinstating their orders. Experts and exporters observed that it was a good sign as the country's export earnings rebounded amidst the pandemic but expressed uncertainty regarding if the trend would sustain or not. Meanwhile, exports earnings from leather and leather goods and leather footwear decreased by over 15% and 17%, respectively, compared to the same period last year. 

Media report that over 5 million poor and vulnerable families have, so far, received the government's assistance, send in order to help households overcome their livelihood related difficulties, triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, around 2 million vulnerable families have bought rice at a reduced price through the Open Market Sale (OMS), in an effort to mitigate their crisis caused by the pandemic.

India: Media report that 135 garment workers, most of whom are women, from the Himmatsingka Linens garment factory located in the special economic zone of Hassan, in Karnataka, have tested positive for COVID-19. Most of these workers were made to stay inside a building within the factory premises, where they lacked access to treatment and beds; at least 30 workers had to sleep on the floor "in biting cold". A video highlighting the conditions inside the factory went viral, which made the authorities intervene and take workers to a COVID-19 care centre. The garment factory has about 2500 workers and most of the workers who contracted the disease are from North Karnataka.

Media report that unions have warned and protested against the fact that changes to the labour laws will put most workers out of legal protection, as the amendments tilt the balance in favour of the factories. The sweeping changes brought to Factories Act, Industrial Disputes Act, and Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, unions fear, will put over 70% of factories in the State of Karnataka outside the purview of the labour laws. "The factories were already circumventing the law by reducing the permanent workforce and increase contract labour, and changes to the Industrial Disputes Act will only push workers into penury", M.D. Harigovind, general secretary, All India Trade Union Congress, Bengaluru, said. Unions have announced that "Save India", a massive protest organised by workers has will take place on 10 August to protest dilution of labour laws.

Indonesia: Media report that Better Work Indonesia developed an online stress management training to create positive working and living environment for garment workers and manufacturers during the coronavirus pandemic. As the garment industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors in the country, Better Work warns that job insecurity and loss of income could lead to mental health issues and that fear and anxiety about COVID-19 can be overwhelming and cause workplace stress. In this sense, Better Work created an online training mechanism, which aims to help participants prevent stress, understand how people's mind and body react to both negative and positive environment and manage our own well-being and that of others at work. 

Myanmar: Union organiser reports that the union president of the Rui-Ning garment factory has been reinstated after workers fought a 4-month battle against union-busting. "With persistent union actions inside the factory and strong international solidarity, they’ve won justice", the union organiser wrote on a social media post. 

Netherlands: SOMO reports that the Complaints and Disputes Committee of the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textiles has announced that it will take up the complaint filed by SOMO, Action Labor Rights and the Clean Clothes Campaign against C&A last month regarding the mismanagement of complaints from workers at the Roo Hsing factory in Myanmar. "Now that the complaint is under consideration, the organisations hope that C&A will take its responsibility and address the management of Roo Hsing in order to guarantee trade union freedom and reinstate both the unfairly dismissed employees and those who were forced to leave", SOMO wrote. 

Pakistan: IndustriALL reports that APFUTU, in Pakistan, expressed solidarity with the 1200 workers who were sacked by union-busting at H&M supplier Gokaldas Exports.

Sri Lanka: According to reports from the CCC network, the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union has called on Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, Head of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak, to make arrangements to bring back workers from the Indo Jordan Clothing Company and VEGA Factory, who have been stranded in Jordan since March.  Workers are waiting for the Sri Lankan Government to make arrangements to bring them back to Sri Lanka and for the Sri Lankan Embassy in Jordan to intervene and get their wages and other dues, which they are entitled to. According to the union, the Sri Lankan embassy in Jordan has failed to take any fruitful action regarding these cases. As a result, workers are stranded without jobs or income and their situation is getting aggravated day by day. The union urged the Lieutenant to draw immediate attention to the tragic situation these Sri Lankan migrant workers are undergoing and requested that urgent arrangements to bring them back to Sri Lanka without prejudice to their rights to pursue their entitlements be made.

United States: Media report that US textile and apparel sales could shrink by more than 50% amidst the coronavirus pandemic, unless trade improves sharply during the holidays. According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), sales were down by almost 84% in April, 62% in May and 24% in June.

4 August 2020

Bangladesh: According to reports from the CCC network, the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation (BIGUF) expressed solidarity with GATWU members in India, as 1200 workers were illegally dismissed by H&M supplier Gokaldas Exports on 3 June.

BIGUF solidarity

Cambodia: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has joined 141 Cambodian civil society groups and several opposition parties, including the dissolved CNRP, in condemning the arrest of Rong Chhun, president of the independent Cambodian Confederation of Unions and called on Cambodian authorities to release the trade union leader and rights activist immediately. Rong Chhun was arrested at his home on the eventing of 31 July without an arrest warrant, alleging he was committing an in flagrante delicto (caught in the act) offense. Meanwhile, media report that Chhun's arrest sparked protests outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Saturday, which continued Sunday and Monday. The police prevented a group of around 20 people from protesting outside the court on Monday, after which the group decided to walk to the Justice Ministry. Chin Malin, Justice Ministry spokesperson, defended the arrest by saying that the it wasn't warranted because he had been caught in the act of committing the crime, referring to the unionist’s statements as an "obvious crime." According to another article, Ouk Chhayavy, president of Cambodian Independent Teachers' Association, who attended Saturday’s protests, urged international stakeholders to intervene over Chhun’s arrest. Relating this case to the withdrawal of the EBA agreement, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for HRW, said that "The European Union should certainly make Rong Chhun’s arrest and ongoing plight an issue that Cambodia must address as part of their response to the EBA, as Rong Chhun is one of the most prominent labor leaders in the country and what happens to him affects the labor movement as a whole."

Media report that, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Cambodia could lose more than 15% of its international remittances amidst the coronavirus pandemic because hundreds of thousands of workers, mostly from Thailand, have returned home. In its report, the ADB further estimated that the economic recession caused by COVID-19 threatens the job security and wellbeing of more than 91 million international migrants from Asia and the Pacific. According to the ADB, total remittances to Asia are expected to drop between $31.4 billion (baseline scenario) and $54.3 billion (worst-case scenario) in 2020.

China: The China Labour Bulletin reports that China's workers are paying the price for growing global demand for face masks. Once the coronavirus outbreak was determined to be brought under control, the demand for face masks in China dropped off dramatically, which lead to mass layoffs and wage arrears. However, as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe, international demand for face masks and other PPE continues to grow, which has led to lucrative contracts for large-scale Chinese manufacturers. As factories switch production to face masks and other PPE, however, workers are made to work in intense working environments for which they lack training, which has led to employee exhaustion and a spate of accidents, including frequent conflicts between workers and security guards. In mask-producing factories, workers only have one day off and are working from 8AM to 8PM everyday with only one hour for lunch. They must wear dust-proof overalls which inside the factory. It is clear that, "after three months of continuous work, everyone is feeling really bad", the article reads. 

Ghana: Media report that the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, announced that garment factories in Ghana have produced around 15 million face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) amidst the coronavirus pandemic, which have been used by frontline workers in the country and have created jobs for thousands of people.

India: Based on clinical interview, academics found that the exodus of migrant workers in India amidst the coronavirus pandemic has created emotional concerns because migrants, in the absence of public transport, walked or cycled for hundreds of miles - during which many suffered abuse at the hands of police who were ordered to stop all movement and some have even died from exhaustion or trauma. 

Media report that the Central government has started to map the skills of migrant workers in 30 districts of UP and Bihar in order to provide them with employment in areas near their hometowns and also helping the industry, especially the MSME sector, amidst labour shortage. 

Nepal: Media report that Nepali migrant workers have started going back to India due to lack of food and employment at home. "It’s easier to fight the virus than hunger. So I am going to work in India as a migrant worker", one migrant worker expressed. Dinesh Thakhulla, an official at the Citizen Help Desk at Trinagar border in Dhangadhi reported that, "[i]n recent times, more than 100 migrant workers are returning to India for work and more than 200 Nepali migrant workers are coming back to Nepal a day."

Sri Lanka: Media report that garment workers from the Katunayake Free Trade Zone (FTZ) are being denied their right to vote in tomorrow's General Elections as the FTZ authorities told workers that they could depart to their respective hometowns in order to vote, but would have to be back on time for their Thursday shift or face a pay cut on daily wages. This timeframe makes it impossible for workers to cast their votes, particularly amidst the coronavirus pandemic, as there is lack of public transport. "Nearly 300 – 400 employees work at per garment factory in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone. We faced this same issue during the last Presidential election in November 2019. Many faced a pay cut of up to Rs. 4000. No alternative solution has been provided. Most of us live in distant areas where there is a lack of transport preventing us from returning to work on time. We cannot afford to face a pay cut. We do not have the necessary funds to travel back and forth to cast our ballots", one of the workers explained. According to the article, the Election Commission has failed to address the issue or provide an alternative solution. According to workers, this inadequate timeframe to vote has been intentionally provided by management as an attempt to downsize their workforce amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

United Kingdom: Media report that shares in fast fashion retailer Boohoo lost a third of their value after reports showed that workers in its UK supply chain were paid £3.50 an hour. A Financial Times reporter found that 20 "sustainable funds" were amongst those who had put money into Boohoo, including products from Legal and General Investment Management and Man Group. Aberdeen Standard Investments' employment opportunities fund, which invests in companies with “good employment opportunities and practices”, had Boohoo as its biggest holding as recently as May. Many dumped the stock after the allegations, but it makes it clear that "sustainable funds must work harder to vet their investments."

Asda is refusing to accept up to 20% of orders that suppliers have already shipped and demanding 40-70% percent price reductions on orders completed but not yet shipped while Walmart, Asda's owner, is making massive profits under lockdown. 

Vietnam: Media report that, with the second wave of COVID-19, Vietnam's textile and footwear industries, still reeling from the impact of the first, are likely to see things worsen, as even the country's biggest garment and footwear companies keep reporting major losses. TNG Investment and Trading JSC., which manufactures clothing and footwear for various domestic and international brands, reported first half revenues and net profit were down 10% and 29%, respectively; and the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) reported a 15% decrease in revenues and 25% decrease in profits despite partially switching to manufacturing face masks and protective clothing and retaining all its workers. Meanwhile, the article also reports that the International Textile Manufacturers Federation said if the coronavirus pandemic lasts until the end of 2020, the global textile and garment trade would likely decrease by 15-20% this year.

3 August 2020

Global: Media report that, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, apparel continues to be the worst hit segment in retail amidst the coronavirus pandemic, as store closures have severely affected seasonal spending. Furthermore, the rising unemployment and threat of a global recession has been predicted to exacerbate the contraction of the consumers' expenditure on apparel. GlobalData forecasts that COVID-19 will wipe $395.6B from global clothing and footwear sales in 2020, a 19.5% decline compared to 2019.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that there are 164 millions migrant workers across the world and that they have been "very impacted" by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Cambodia: According to reports from the CCC network, civil society groups have released a statement condemning the arrest of Rong Chhun, the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) and called on the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to immediately drop all charges against the union leader. 

Media report that the government of Cambodia announced that it will continue to provide out-of-work allowances to garment, footwear and hospitality workers for the next two months, as these are the the "hardest-hit sectors", which have not yet fully recovered. Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, explained that garment workers' livelihoods are still badly affected by the pandemic. "So far, COVID-19 still continues to affect workers’ livings. We do not know how long the government will continue to give out-of-work allowances to suspended workers", Saly said. According to the Labour Ministry, it paid over 8000 suspended workers last month. As announced in April, the government will provide $40 in allowances per month to each worker and another $30 is to be paid by factory owners.

Media report that Cambodia's Footwear Association reports that it doesn't expect the second half of 2020 to turn out better than the first, as none of its member factories report an increase in orders and most estimate a 40-60% drop in orders compared to last year. 

India: According to reports from the CCC network, five out of the 40 child workers who were rescued from a private spinning mill near Avinashi, in Tiruppur, have been tested for COVID-19, as they showed symptoms. In the mill, 40 children aged between 15 and 18 years old, were brought from four different districts without e-passes and were made to work against their will. Action will be initiated against the spinning mill, an investigation on the case will be opened and efforts to send the 40 children back to their hometowns are underway. 

Media report that, according to a study that surveyed 4835 households, nearly two-thirds of migrant workers, who had left home due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown, have either returned to cities or wish to do so in absence of employment in rural areas. The study found that:

  • 29% of migrant workers who had left for villages, are now back in cities;
  • 45% of migrant workers want to return.
  • More than one-fourth of the migrant workers are still searching for work in villages;
  • 43% of households still reported reduction in meals, while 55% said they have reduced the meal items.

Media report that the Tiruppur Exporters' Association (TEA) requested the Prime Minister and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to extend the moratorium on loan repayment for another six months, as the Tiruppur garment sector is not in a financial position to repay loans and interests. In the first quarter, the Tiruppur's garment exports suffered a decrease of over 60%.

Thailand: Media report that Thailand has announced that it will ease travel restrictions for migrant workers. Non-Thai nationals with a certificate of permanent residency, non-Thai nationals with work permits and migrant workers whose employers have been allowed to bring in workers will be allowed to enter Thailand starting tomorrow. In terms of COVID-19 measures, migrants must have a health certificate showing they are COVID-19 negative and a health insurance policy. Upon arriving, migrant will be quarantined 14 days at state venues or alternative quarantine locations.

Vietnam: Media report that, according to the Ministry of Labour, the number of workers forced to take unpaid leave or lower working hours could be up to 5 million in the third quarter of this year, as up to 70% of businesses in Vietnam report being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In the worst-case scenario, the number of workers losing their jobs could increase by 60,000-70,000 per month. Workers in the manufacturing sector are amongst the most affected. In response, the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs has proposed that the government ease conditions for businesses to access soft bank loans so that they can pay workers' wages.

United States: Media report that L.A. County's tracing system has repeatedly failed to detect coronavirus outbreaks at workplaces. According to experts, the County’s programme has been throttled time and again by slow turnaround times for test results from labs, language barriers, uncooperative employers, as well patients who provide inaccurate or incomplete information. Many of those getting sick are low-wage workers who fear financial repercussions if they stop working and are too afraid of retaliation to report unsafe work conditions. 

2 August 2020

Global: Forbes explores how worker's 'value' depends on location, explaining that brands care (and act) when the exploitation is on their doorstep, but not when it is further afield in Asia. The article compares two different cases - one in Bangladesh and the other in the UK. It concludes that the proximity of the factory to Boohoo operations in Manchester and UK retailers was "too close for comfort". Despite both news stories being shared in the UK media, the lack of action in the case of the Bangladeshi workers suggests a "lack of empathy and interest in their plight", the article reads. 

Cambodia: Media report that Cambodia's Footwear Association has reiterated its call to the EU urging for the EBA withdrawal to be postponed, as 80,000 jobs at risk. According to the Association, up to 40,000 employees in the footwear manufacturing sector have already been impacted as a direct impact from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which shows no signs of respite. A further 40,000 workers in the industry are at risk of losing their job. "Based on existing order volumes for the second half of 2020, even before August 12 EbA partial withdrawal takes effect, 70% of member factories are preparing for further reductions in employment or a complete suspension of production", the Association made clear.

India: Media report that migrant workers are returning from rural areas to the industrial sites, as they have been unable to find work back home and need to pay for essential services. The article states that an estimated 12 lakh migrant workers from UP, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh left Surat during lockdown in trains and private buses. Now, after two months, some of those migrant workers have started returning to Surat.

1 August 2020

Global: Media report that order cancellations by brands and retailers amount to an estimated $40 billion in refused payments owed to factories. Factories have responded to this by cutting wages or laying-off workers. The impact of order cancellations has left millions of workers without jobs and wages, in countries with minimal social safety nets. 

Media report that the findings of two surveys, pre and post-COVID, by the US-based NGO Better Buying, revealed that high-pressure cost negotiations by apparel buyers have the greatest impact on textile suppliers' business profitability, which then overflows onto workers and the environment. Apparel buyers are "demanding level prices be maintained from year to year with no consideration for inflation" and follow a much maligned "take it or leave it" approach, insisting that if a target cost is not met, they cannot "win the order".

Cambodia: According to reports from the media and CATU Cambodia, Rong Chhun, the president of the Cambodian Union Confederation (CUC), was arrested last night for alleged incitement over long-running border demarcation issues with Vietnam, after he issued a statement on border issues. The Court said that Chhun was arrested for "Incitement to commit felony", punishable under article 495 of the Criminal Codes by imprisonment from six months to two years and a fine from 1 million to 4 million Riels if found guilty. Chhun was sent Phnom Penh municipality court this morning. This is the latest crackdown against opposition voices in the country. 

India: Media report that, according to the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India (CMAI), the garment industry in India had a "disastrous first quarter" (until 30 June), as 74% of factories reported a 90% drop in sals. The second quarter projections are not looking any better, as 95% of factories expect operating at less than 50% of capacity. "All these findings reflect an extremely grim future for the garment industry, and survival of many of the smaller players looks extremely doubtful", Rakesh Biyanisaid, president of the CMAI, said. Based on findings, the CMAI estimates that 25-30% of garment factories in the country are likely to shut down amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and that over 25% of jobs would be cut. The industry employed around 12 million workers pre-COVID. 

Malaysia: Media report that the government of Malaysia has announced that migrant workers will only be allowed in three sectors: construction, plantation and agriculture, in an effort to reduce the country's dependence on migrant labour and reduce the pandemic's impact on local employment. Another article reports that this measure will affect migrant workers from other Asian countries, particularly Nepal, a majority of whom work in manufacturing and services.

Myanmar: Union organiser reports that 700 workers from the Dihuali Garment Factory in Yangon, which makes clothes for Mango, have been locked out and dismissed by factory management after going on strike to demand union recognition and COVID-19 safety measures. 

Media report that millions of vulnerable families in Myanmar have received the first cash handouts under the COVID-19 relief scheme. Relief has been distributed in the form of cash handouts totalling K40,000 to alleviate the impact of COVID-19, but some appear to be falling through the cracks, as it has not reached all the families in need. Some families that did not receive the food handout in April had expected to receive a cash transfer but administrators administrators said that the cash transfers were going to the same families that received the package of five basic commodities in April and that they were unable to add names to the list. 

United Kingdom: Media report that Boohoo has vowed to "act decisively" when the results of its third-party supply chain investigation are published. The article further states that the results of the investigation will be published four months ahead of originally predicted, with an update set to be provided alongside the firm's half-year results on 30 September.  

31 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that most garment and knitwear knitwear factories paid workers their Eid festival bonus and July wages yesterday. According to the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, only a few factories in the industrial zones in Gazipur and Chattogram are yet to pay their workers. The article expresses that the factories were able to pay workers thanks to the government aid they received. So far, the export-oriented sectors, which are largely dominated by apparel and textile factories, have received Tk 10,500 crore in bailout funds from the government. 

Media report that the Ministry of Finance released Tk 1,000 crore in order to create an employment generation programme in response to the COVID-19 economic downturn.  

Solidarity Center reports that Talisman Limited factory workers, who are amongst the tens of thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers who have lost their jobs because of declining clothing orders worldwide following the COVID-19 outbreak and after taking to the streets of Ashulia and rallying at the Dhaka Export Processing Zone, have seen factory management and the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority agree to compensate them with one month's wages and the annual Eid festival bonus. "I did not think we would get it, but when we united together management had no other choice. I am quite happy with the money I have received", one of the workers explained. Reiterated in the same post, media report that, according to reports from the government of Bangladesh, 29,369 garment workers have been laid off, but union leaders have said that the numbers are much higher.

Cambodia: Media report that the government-funded cash scheme launched to assist poor and vulnerable households amidst the coronavirus pandemic will be extended to two more months. "[The government] will continue the aid scheme to poor and vulnerable families during COVID-19 for the months of August and September", a government guideline released today said. The statement further identified workers from the garment, tourism and aviation sectors as being the hardest hit amidst the coronavirus crisis. As such, the government decided that it would continue to disburse $40 to each of the workers laid-off workers from the said formal sectors until the end of September. 

Central Cambodia reports that the 28 Cambodian migrant garment workers have been safely repatriated to Cambodia from Jordan today and are currently in quarantine after successful cooperation between CENTRAL, Gap and the Cambodian embassy in Egypt.

Media report that over 1000 workers from the Dignity Knitter and Eco Base garment factories, which have the same owner and are located in Takhmao, are struggling to make ends meet as they wait for the government to help them find a solution since their factories suspended operations in March and failed to pay them their dues. A worker explained that, for months, she has tried to make ends meet by sewing clothes at a private shop and working at a mint farm, but that it has been a struggle. "I appeal to the authorities and the government to help solve this faster", Sophat, one of the workers, said. The article further points out that thousands of other garment and footwear industry workers in Cambodia are in a similar situation to those at Dignity Knitter and Eco Base. 

Media report that the Cambodian government has announced that it is preparing 5 year development strategies for the garment, footwear and bags sector (2020-2025) that aims to set common development directions, increase independence, strengthen the appraisal and stability of the garment, footwear and bags sector to further promote the sector's sustainability and environment.

Lesotho: Media report that a garment workers at a Precious Garments factory in the country has tested positive for COVID-19 and that the infection has raised concerns over the safety of workers in the sector as it employs around 50,000 people, who often work in congested spaces and find themselves unable to maintain social distancing. According to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, workers who have come into contact with the worker who tested positive have also been isolated, tested for COVID-19 and are now awaiting their results. Tšepang Makakole, the deputy secretary general of National Union of Clothing and Textile Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), accused factory operators of ignoring safety precautions in the workplace. "I am yet to confirm the Precious Garments' issue but we have generally observed that many factories are not abiding by the COVID-19 safety precautions. A lot still needs to be done to ensure the safety of workers in the workplace", Makakole said. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Lesotho has suggested that factories introduce night shifts to reduce the number of workers at their premises at the same tame. 

Myanmar: Media report that It is estimated that 600,000 undocumented migrant workers from Myanmar are currently in Malaysia, many of whom have have lost their jobs due to the economic impact of COVID-19 and are desperate to return home. However, without papers, they are struggling to access help from the government and their embassy. 

Nepal: Media report that, with thousands of Nepali migrant workers forced to return home amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the country is facing serious challenges, particularly as Nepal is the fifth-most remittance-dependent economy. The article makes clear that COVID-19 is likely to induce a long and pervasive global economic crisis, which will have disastrous consequences for low-paid migrant workers and the welfare of their families, as their source of income dries up. In terms of figures, the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies estimates that 20-25% of the current Nepali workers abroad are likely return home due to the pandemic. 

South Asia: Media report that the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, such as the shutdown of companies, the tightening of borders, the lack of safety nets and labour rights, have aggravated the miseries of South Asian migrant workers, including garment workers in Gulf countries. The article makes clear that the South Asian labour force forms the backbone of the Gulf economies, but has no social security protection or labour rights. 

Thailand: Media report that Human Rights' groups are calling for the government of Thailand to aid around 700,000 migrant workers in the country, who have been left in limbo amidst the coronavirus pandemic by renewing their work permits and sealing other legal loopholes. 

30 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that activists and researchers have stressed the need of a concrete action plan for a proper distribution of incentives, aid and relief amidst the coronavirus pandemic, as 10 to 20 million people, who belonged to the lower middle class before the outbreak, have become "new poor". Raja Devasish Roy, the Chakma Chief, explained that more than 50,000 women in Chittagong work in garment factories and are in need of aid and new jobs as they have become unemployed amidst the coronavirus pandemic. He further explained that the aid distribution was not clear, as some workers received 20kg of rice, other 9kg, other 5kg and some didn't receive any. The government needs to draft a clear and concrete action plan in order to truly aid the workers who lost their jobs amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cambodia: Media report that the Cambodian government has encouraged newly laid-off workers from the garment industry and migrant workers who returned to Cambodia to work in small-scale farming, as the government shifts its focus to this sector amidst the coronavirus pandemic. This has been seen as a strategy to support the continuation of the benefits from the EU's tariff-free trade privileges under the "Everything But Arms Agreement" (EBA), as the EU will continue to support  Cambodia's rice and agricultural products. Researchers, however, argue that Cambodia's recent shifts in focus on agriculture amidst the coronavirus pandemic may be of little benefit and likely will not be enough for all laid-off workers from the affected sectors. Instead, this boost will likely benefit companies with privileged access to land for rice cultivation and agriculture crops. 

Myanmar: Media report that, frustrated by a lack of reform, 11 activists are competing as independents in the upcoming Myanmar election in a bid to secure a voice in parliament for workers and farmers. The independents plan a challenge in seats that the National League for Democracy won convincingly in its 2015 landslide. They expressed that it was time that workers and farmers were given a proper parliamentary voice, and pledged to support the reform objectives of the grassroots organisations they belong to, such as the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM) and the Myanmar Farmer Union (MFU), such as ensuring land rights for smallholder farmers and overhauling the system for resolving workplace disputes in a way that protects workers.

North Macedonia: The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) reports that the garment industry in North Macedonia, which constitutes the largest part of the national exports and around 37% of workers in the manufacturing sector, has been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. According to official figures, export-oriented industries, including the garment and textile industries, are the hardest hit after the tourism sector. Although most factories are continuing to work, many have faced order cancellations. A survey by the Employers Association of Macedonia on the impact of COVID-19 on Macedonian businesses revealed that: 

  1. 46% of respondents reported a decrease in economic activities of over 50% in recent months;
  2. 85% reported decreased sales volumes due to cancelled orders from foreign buyers;
  3. 10% reported having to shut down their business amidst the pandemic;
  4. 10% reported layoffs of workers and the rest kept workers on reduced working hours or using annual or forced leave. 

According to the report, "[o]ne thing that is clear is that there will be no company left unaffected by the situation caused by this pandemic."

Pakistan: Social media posts report that workers from Artistic Garment Industries, in Pakistan, who produce for Jack and Jones and Bestseller, protested against unpaid wages. 

Sri Lanka: The Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) reports that AFWA's Sri Lanka Country Coordinator
will be live on the Globe Tamil's Facebook page discussing the situation of Sri Lankan garment workers in Jordan at 7:30 (IST). The live can be joined here

United States: Media report that many garment workers who are making PPE are still lacking basic protections. "While Maria was sewing hundreds of face masks each day at a Los Angeles factory, she never received one herself", the article reads. As a result, many workers have become sick with COVID-19. The exact number of garment workers who have gotten sick or died from COVID-19 is unknown, but the Garment Worker Center says it hears daily from workers about outbreaks at factories. It has documented cases of workers getting infected at facilities that manufacture for fast-fashion mainstays Fashion Nova, Francesca’s, Lulu’s, and Papaya, among others. As headlines focus on the outbreak at Los Angeles Apparel, where over 300 workers tested positive and 4 lost their lives, experts say that many outbreaks at other garment factories and subsequent deaths are going undetected. "We’ve heard through our networks that there are COVID deaths in indigenous communities and (undocumented) communities. These workers are fearful of coming forward about the outbreaks because they need to work, and there is no other work. They live below the poverty line and don’t get sick leave, so some are forced to work even when they have COVID symptoms", Janna Shadduck-Hernandez, a labor scholar and project director at UCLA’s Labor Center, explained. 

29 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that the Government has, in an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country, instructed garment workers not to travel to rural areas during the upcoming Eid-ul-Adha holidays. Manufacturers said that they will call on workers to stay near their workplace during the holidays and that salaries and allowances will be paid for the month of July. The President of the National Garment Workers' Federation (NGWF) explained that the Federation has told workers not to go home, but pointed out that the reality is that workers in other industries are being allowed to go and that many garment workers may try to go home too. 

IndustriALL reports that the Bangladesh Textile & Garment Workers League sent a solidarity message to union workers fired from Gokaldas Exports in India, after the company illegally laid off 1200 workers at its only unionised factory. 

Cambodia: Media report that local rights groups, such as the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (Central) and Adhoc, have called on the government of Cambodia to take the EU's concerns regarding human rights seriously, in order to preserve the EBA scheme. Moeun Tola, executive director of Central, made clear that the EU's concerns over human rights, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression were well placed and that, particularly during a time in which Cambodia is suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential that the government preserve the EBA scheme by addressing the issues raised by the EU. "We have seen some factories shutting down and gradually suspending operations, while the tourism sector has faced a severe collapse due to the COVID-19 crisis. Cambodia's economy will get worse if the government ignores these steps", he said. Soeng Senkaruna, senior investigator at civil rights group Adhoc, made clear that the Government's decision to ignore the EU's demands shows that it intends to continue its path of rights abuses. "As of now, we have seen no positive signs that the royal government intends to reopen free space and respect human rights", he said. According to the World Bank, Cambodia stands to lose as much as $650 million if the EBA were to be suspended in full.

Media report that the government of Cambodia has allocated $28 million for the second round of payments for the equity card scheme, set to benefit some 610,000 poor and vulnerable families. 

Media report that traffic accidents involving garment and footwear factory workers continue to pose a major problem in Cambodia. Kim Pagna, director of the Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation, said that every day, traffic accidents cause many deaths and injuries, which also bring hardships to the victims' families. According to a National Social Security Fund (NSSF) report, in 2019, there were 698 road accidents involving garment and footwear workers, causing 15 deaths and 138 serious injuries. Garment workers in Cambodia mostly travel in overcrowded and unsafe vehicles, that are not appropriate for passengers, to work. 

Malaysia: The Human Rights Watch (HWR) has called for the immediate release of Mohamed Rayhan Kabir and for his work permit to be reinstated after he was arrested for speaking out on an Al Jazeera documentary. "The Malaysian authorities' arrest of a Bangladeshi migrant worker who was featured in an Al Jazeera documentary was clear retaliation for his criticism of government policies towards migrants", HRW said. 

Myanmar: Media report that the Myanmar government has announced that citizens with urgent business abroad, such as need to report to work, will be allowed to fly out of the country for the first time since a ban on all international commercial passenger flights was put in place on 30 March. Meanwhile, another article reports that, since 30 April, Myanmar has arranged around 60 relief flights and brought 9105 stranded migrant workers home from more than 10 countries including India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore. 

Sri Lanka: According to reports from the media and the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), 200 Sri Lankan migrant workers who worked at Vega Textile Co Ltd and Camel Textile Corp., located in Jordan, have not been paid wages since April and are not receiving adequate food and water. When they tried to meet Sri Lankan embassy officials, workers were brutally beaten and tear gassed. The Embassy's support has not been adequate to cover for basic food or to assist workers in receiving their wages or return to Sri Lanka. In an article, a worker explained that over 20 workers have been hospitalised. "We do not want to die here. Please take us back to Sri Lanka", the worker said. The AFWA demands that the Sri Lankan embassy in Jordan and the Jordan government provide immediate support for these workers. Meanwhile, the AFWA reports that women's rights groups in Sri Lanka and relatives of the stranded migrant workers are currently protesting in front of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) demanding urgent support for Sri Lankan garment workers in Jordan. Their demands include a specific date for workers' repartition and an immediate investigation into their current situation. The Colombo Gazette reports that, following discussions with members of the women's rights groups, the SLBFE has assured that it will address the immediate requirements of Sri Lankan migrant workers stranded in Jordan. 

28 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to a report by the Bangladesh Civil Society for Migration, migrant workers' families in Bangladesh are in "dire straits" as over 60% of households surveyed did not receive any remittance over the last three months. In addition, the report found that, for 57% of families, remittance is the only source of income. According to the report, female migrants experienced nonpayment of wages, increased workload, job losses and reduced communications with family. Male migrants faced challenges regarding health, mental stress and financial hardship. Based on these findings, the  Bangladesh Civil Society for Migration recommended extended cash support to the distressed families.

Cambodia: Media report that the UN released a letter challenging the government of Cambodia over alleged "intimidation" against a Licadho official, as the government continued to attack the group. Am Sam Ath, the rights group's monitoring manager, said that some of the arrests over COVID-19-related Facebook posts were likely politically motivated. Two days later, the Prime Minister warned that Sam Ath could be arrested for his comments. The UN seeks answers over government actions that could create a "chilling effect on freedom of expression", the letter reads. 

Media report that Hor Nam Hong, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister, announced that Cambodia and China will sign a free trade agreement before 12 August, ahead of the European Union's partial withdrawal of the Everything-but-Arms (EBA) agreement. 

Media report that the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training met with employers and union representatives to continue discussions on draft amendments to the Labour Law, where union representatives made clear that the amendment would hurt workers. Ath Thorn, President of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), made clear that the proposed amendments to the Labour Law signify a crucial loss of benefits for workers as it would reduce workers' night shift pay, reduce public holidays for workers and give more power to employers in dispute resolutions because they would be allowed to choose to solve issues through the court or arbitration. There will be two more meetings to further discuss the amendment in August. 

India: Media report that craftspeople, including weavers, dyers and toymakers, all over the country have been hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown. As there is no database of artisans and most are self-employed and unorganised, these workers have been left out of relief packages, which they desperately need. But Gita Ram, chairperson of the Crafts Council of India, Chennai, explained that "[t]he numbers are unreliable. There is no database of artisans and so their actual contribution to GDP is unknown. However, we do know that most of the production is by self-employed artisans in the unorganised sector and they are in dire need of relief."

Myanmar: Union organiser reports that garment workers from the San Yuan factory in Yangon, who make clothes for Bershka (Inditex) are demanding an agreement that COVID-19 won't be used as an excuse to union-bust. Workers are in blue union headbands and union T-shirts, demanding that the factory owner and Bershka sign the agreement. 

Meanwhile, the union leader of VIP 1 sporting goods factory in Yangon reports that the factory was shut down on the 30th of June due to lack of orders amidst the coronavirus pandemic. As the owner also owns two other factories, workers requested to be transferred to VIP 2 & 3. Following the workers’ request, the factory owner made a list of union members and non-union members and reinstated all non-union members in the other two factories. The union at VIP 1 was very strong and workers explain that it was no coincidence. The owner used COVID-19 as a pretext to union-bust. The union leader demanded that the owners of the VIP factories, Wilson and Mizuno (brands for whom they produced goods) take action for unfair dismissals and union busting.

Sri Lanka: IndustriALL reports that textile and garment sector workers from the Free Trade Zone Union in Sri Lanka showed their solidarity with union workers fired from Golkaldas Exports in India, after the company illegally laid off 1200 workers at its only unionised factory. 

United Kingdom: Media report that UK manufacturing exports reached an all-time low in the second quarter of this year, according to the Lloyds Bank International Trade Index. 93% of manufacturers that reported a downturn in overseas orders said that the decrease was due to the impact of coronavirus pandemic. 

United States: Media report that Los Angeles Apparel, the factory which was closed in June after more than 350 of workers caught COVID-19, leading to the deaths of four workers, has reopened and been tipped to become a gold standard for garment manufacture amidst the pandemic.

Media report that workers and activists have expressed that the coronavirus pandemic has worsened the long-standing issues of the garment industry in Los Angeles. The experience of garment workers that worked at LA Apparel amidst the pandemic highlights bigger problems in the garment industry, especially poor working conditions and low pay. Daisy Gonzalez, a lead organizer with the workers’ rights group, Garment Worker Center, explained that garment workers desperately need a guaranteed minimum wage, which bill SB1399 would ensure. The legislation, also known as the Garment Worker Protection Act, eradicates the piece rate, sets a guaranteed minimum wage, and holds fashion brands accountable for workers' unpaid wages.

27 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that over 10,000 garment workers have been laid off from various factories in Gazipur in the last six months. Most layoffs occurred amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garment Workers Unity Forum, described the dismissals as "inhumane". Many workers have had to change jobs in order to survive. Some have become masons’ associates, vegetable sellers or even small-scale shopkeepers. Other haven't been able to find jobs, as opportunities are scarce due to the economic impact of the ongoing global pandemic. Many workers have been forced to return to rural areas, as they are unable to find new jobs in the urban areas. Zillur Hossain, who worked at a garment factory for 12 years, was fired on 1 June, despite there being no complaint against him. He has not received his salary from the factory and explained that fifty more workers from his factory are in the same situation. "My family and I are facing problems because of the lack of jobs. I can’t find a new job. I don’t know what to do", he said.

In an op-ed in the Daily Star, Bangladeshi factory owner Mostafiz Uddin describes how the prices being paid for apparel goods are being kept artificially and, as has been proven, unsustainably low. In a post-COVID world, Uddin argues that "we need to readdress this imbalance and, together with our business partners establish a fair pricing system for apparel produced in the country."

IndustriALL reports that the National Garment Workers Federation in Bangladesh (NGWF)
showed solidarity with workers at Gokaldas Exports in India, after the company illegally laid off 1200 workers at its only unionised factory. 

Cambodia: Media report that Cambodia will temporarily ban all flights from the Malaysia and Indonesia, starting on 1 August, as the Ministry of Health reports a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country, predominantly workers returning from the two countries. 

Media report that the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) has approved the construction of a new garment factory in Cambodia, which is expected to create almost 400 jobs. According to the CDC, the $2.1 million investment demonstrates the "confidence of foreign investors in Cambodia (...), especially during this COVID-19 crisis."

China: Media report that the Better Cotton Initiative's (BCI) review into its cotton sourcing activities in the Xinjiang region of China has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and won't be published until at least October 2020. The BCI suspended all activities in the region in March after widespread allegations that the Uyghur population was being forced to manufacture cotton goods in Xinjiang prisons. 

India: Media report that, in Mumbai's small manufacturing neighbourhoods, broken supply chains and rent burdens hamper recovery. Indeed, manufacturers have been forced to continued to pay the rents for their work units even as their incomes disappeared during the lockdown period. As a result, their debts are mounting. In addition, supply chains have broken down, as it becomes harder to source raw materials, and the availability of labour has also decreased, as many migrant workers are unable or unwilling to return to Mumbai. 

Malaysia: Media report that Malaysian authorities have arrested a Bangladeshi migrant workers who criticised the country's treatment of undocumented migrant workers amidst the coronavirus pandemic in a documentary that aired on Al Jazeera. In the documentary, Rayhan Kabir said that the Malaysian government discriminated against undocumented migrant workers by arresting and jailing them. An arrest warrant was issued for Mr Kabir, whose work permit was revoked after the programme aired and he was arrested on Friday. A group of 21 Bangladeshi civil society organisations demanded Mr Kabir's release and the Human Right's Watch also issued a statement, making clear that "Malaysia shouldn’t persecute outspoken migrant worker." 

Nepal: Media report that Nepal's garment industry, which employs thousands of people in the country, has suffered losses worth $1.25 billion, mainly due to order cancellations or deferred payments by foreign buyers. 

Thailand: Media report that international labour NGOs have estimated that about 50,000 Myanmar and 30,000 Cambodian migrant workers have returned to their home countries amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Unable to find jobs in Myanmar and Cambodia, many migrant workers are attempting to cross the border, as some sectors in Thailand have resumed operations. In recent weeks, migrant workers sneaking across the border, many seeking a return to work, have been intercepted by police. The Thai government has yet to reopen the border, and the Immigration Bureau (IB) is doubling down on efforts to curb illegal crossings. 

United Kingdom: Media report that Boohoo has announced plans to set up its own "model factory" to ensure workers are "treated fairly". The company expects to employ 250 people at a new Leicester factory it hopes will start producing clothes for its PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal brands by September. 

26 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that a UNDP working paper has suggested that over 60 million people in Bangladesh need to receive time-bound temporary cash payments in order to cope with the devastating financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The UN organisation recommends Tk 2,100 per month for the next few months so that the beneficiaries, mainly poor and the newly impoverished, can stay at home which will help to slow the spread of the virus. According to the report, the hardest hit are those in the informal sector. Meanwhile, another survey, conducted by BRAC, revealed that the earnings of 51% households in Bangladesh plunged to zero amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

India: Media report that the Garment Exporters Association of Rajasthan (GEAR) has expressed that the sector is "in a mess" due to labour shortage, as migrant workers are either unwilling or unable to return to the garment factories where they used to work before the government-imposed lockdown. According to the Association, many factories have offered workers accommodation, insurance and/or a 20% raise, but to little avail. Manufacturers said that, as a result, most of the orders placed have been deferred to the next season, as there are no workers available at the moment. Some migrant workers, however, want to return, but, due to lack of transport, are unable to do so. 

Myanmar: Media report that a Myantrade survey on the impacts of COVID-19 on exports found that 76% of export companies have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic and that more than half of the companies in the survey are facing a decline in orders of 50% or more. In addition, more than half of export companies said that they are expecting a further drop in orders in the next three months. The Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) further reports that around 100 cut-make-pack (CMP) garment enterprises reported closures between 1 January and 21 June. 

25 July 2020

Austria: Clean Clothes Austria has published a video showing solidarity with workers at Euro Clothing II, in South India. They called on H&M to pressure their supplier to reopen the factory and give the workers their job back. 

Bangladesh: Media report that workers from Viyellatex Ltd, a garment factory in Tongi, protested today, demanding full salary for July and 12-day vacation for the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha. According to workers, the factory authorities recently announced that workers would get 15 days' salary, Eid bonus of July and eight-day vacation on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha. Factory authorities said that the factory was  following government guidelines regarding holidays and that they would follow the BGMEA's recommendations after discussion. 

Media report that, according to a BGMEA survey, only 35% of the production capacity of Bangladeshi garment manufacturers has been booked from July to December this year. In July, 56% of the total production capacity has been booked. In addition, the prices of apparel goods booked by global retailers have fallen by an average of 14%. "Factories have had less of their capacity booked and factories operating below capacity will not be able to recover operating costs. On top of that, orders that have been placed at significantly lower price points compared to last year", a BGMEA spokesperson explained.

Cambodia: Media report that the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) has announced that it will establish a $200 million credit guarantee fund to provide loan guarantees to ease the cash flow and working capital pressures of businesses in all sectors and provide additional financing of up to $300 million to promote growth in key sectors, such as the apparel sector, during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

India: Media report that the Central Government has declined to share details on the ticket fares charged to migrant workers amidst the coronavirus pandemic, which appears to be a confirmation of the fact that the Centre was indeed making migrant labourers pay for their train journeys. 

Maldives: Media report that 80 migrant workers have been arrested in the Maldives for demanding their unpaid wages. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the country to drop charges against workers. "Instead of suppressing protests, Maldives authorities should address and remedy the violations of migrant workers’ rights that are spurring people to the streets", Patricia Gossman, HRW director, said.

United States: Media report that the Los Angeles County's department of public health has allowed LA Apparel factories to reopen and resume operations after a COVID-19 outbreak led to more than 300 workers contracting the virus, resulting in the death of four people. The county said that the factory is now in compliance and that inspectors will make unannounced visits to ensure proper safety measures are in place. Any coronavirus case must be reported to the Department of Public Health. "They're ensuring their employees are trained, physically distanced, wearing face coverings and that the facility is following enhanced cleaning regimens. They're also now screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms, something they hadn't done before", L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis, said. 

Meanwhile, media report that activists have expressed concerns regarding other garment factories in Los Angeles, particularly small enterprises - many of which are not being monitored. Marissa Nuncio, director of the Garment Worker Center, noted that the type of "insufficient" protections against the virus at Los Angeles Apparel are "most definitely the case or worse in other LA garment factories", many of which are sweatshops employing undocumented immigrants.

24 July 2020

Albania: According to reports from the CCC network, the Gender Alliance for Development Center (GADC) has, during the month of July, purchased and donated personal protective equipment, such as masks and disinfectants to over 1500 garment workers from four different factories, located in Lushnje, Shkozet, Lezha and Shkodra. During these visits, GADC has also provided workers with a general overview of Albanian legislation regarding women's labour rights. This action is part of the project "Emergency Assistance Funds for Garment Industry Workers during COVID-19", which is financially supported by Public Eye, with headquarters in Switzerland through the Clean Clothes Campaign. 

Bangladesh: Media report that the Bangladesh Bank (BB) has created a loan fund of Tk3,000 crore to pay for garment workers' wages for the month of July, which will be disbursed to the mobile banking wallets or bank accounts of workers. Of the Tk3,000 crore stimulus package, Tk1,500 crore will be financed by the central bank itself, while the rest will be disbursed from the funds of various disbursing banks. In addition, media report that the BB has extended the tenure of its policy support for the garment and textile industries for their export and import trade. The policy support, which was scheduled to end on the 30th of September, has been extended until the 31st of March 2021. 

Media report that the BGMEA and Maya have signed an agreement to provide free services to help prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19, while also addressing general medical and mental health related issues amongst garment workers. 

Cambodia: According to reports from the media and the CCC network, nearly 100 garment workers from the Violet Apparel (Cambodia) Co Ltd, which produces for Nike and Matalan, protested in front of their factory demanding unpaid benefits following the factory's closure. According to Central, 15 workers' representatives entered the factory to discuss with the factory owners. Workers tried to reach the Prime Minister's house in order to submit their petition to the Prime Minister's Cabinet requesting his intervention but were blocked by authorities. Workers demanded compensation in lieu of prior notice, seniority indemnity, payment in place of unused annual leave and five days' worth of unpaid wages during the Khmer New Year holidays in April. "The company suspended operations for two months in May and June. On the first of July, it announced that it was shutting down operations due to a lack of orders. It did not pay for our benefits or wages", Oung Chanthoeun, one of the workers, explained. As a result of the protest, workers were met by deputy municipal governor Mean Chanyada, who promised to coordinate with relevant parties, including the Ministry of Labour and factory representatives, to find a solution. Meanwhile, the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) released a statement reiterating that the company's failure to pay workers' benefits constitutes a violation of the Labour Law.

Media report that 33 civil society organisations, including the Fair Labor Association (FLA), Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) and Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), have urged national governments including the UK, USA, France, Germany and the Netherlands to rally behind the EU in calling for transformative change within Cambodia, as systemic human rights issues have forced the country's partial suspension from the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement, which is set to come into play from 12 August. It is hoped that Cambodia would be pressed to address the unlawful imprisonment of human rights defenders, journalists and members of the political opposition and to significantly amend laws to enable freedom of speech and ultimately the resumption of free trade via the EBA scheme, as suspension threatens to plunge hundreds of thousands into poverty.

India: Media report that the government of India has decided to expand the definition of "inter-state migrant worker" to ensure that no one gets left out of the social security net in the future. The definition will now include all workers whose monthly family income is less than Rs 18,000 and who go to another state. "Expanding the definition will ensure that no migrant worker who leaves his native place and comes to work in cities and towns is left out of the government’s social security net", Bhartruhari Mahtab, chairman of the parliamentary panel on labour, said. 

Media report that, according to a study by the labour rights organisation Aajeevika Bureau, migrant home-based women workers are working for as little as Rs 10-15 for over eight hours a day amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In Ahmedabad, one of India’s textiles hubs, home-based workers explained that they were struggling to survive because their wages had gone unpaid and debts were mounting. The study also found that workers are not entitled to any public provisioning or basic labour rights, including food, shelter, wage, health and employment security because they lack the identity and residence documents essential for accessing welfare schemes. Indeed, the study reveals that over 95% of the households surveyed had no documents to be eligible for the public distribution system, pushing them to near-starvation during the lockdown. 

The Fair Wear Foundation reports that a group of garment brands has signed and sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing grave concern over newly-proposed changes to state labour laws that pose significant threats to essential labour rights. Brands requested that the Indian government:

  1. Ensure that the restrictions on labour laws promoted by the state governments are not implemented;
  2. Encourage those governments to consult with affected stakeholders, including trade unions, before proposing additional changes to state labour laws;
  3. Ensure that all eight fundamental ILO Conventions are implemented in India.

Myanmar: Media report that, after Thailand announced that migrant workers from neighbouring countries would be able to enter the country for work, migrants' rights activists are concerned that workers' salaries will be cut in order to cover the cost of mandatory quarantine and COVID-19 tests, as the Thai government has announced that these should be covered by employers. U Myo Aung, permanent secretary of the Myanmar Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population (MOLIP), said that they need to discuss the details with the Thai Labor Ministry in order to be certain of who will cover the cost of COVID-19 tests and quarantine for workers.

Nepal: Media report that even though government has announced that it will to pay for repatriation flights for workers stranded overseas due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are just not enough flights to bring back the estimated 300,000 workers in the Gulf and Malaysia who want to come home. Only 30,000 Nepali workers have flown back in repatriation flights since 15 June. 

Philippines: Media report that, according to the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development, up to 400,000 Filipino migrant workers are likely to lose their jobs or take a pay cut amidst the coronavirus pandemic, a reality which has affected many families who depend on remittances, which account for nearly 10% of the country's GDP. Migrant workers loss of income has affected many households as, according to the UN, one in nine people globally benefitted from international remittances in 2019. 

23 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that around 600 garment and textile factories are yet to pay monthly wages, bonus allowances and resolve leave issues. According to the Industrial Police, many factories might face labour unrest ahead of Eid-ul-Adha for these reasons. Industrial Police data shows that a total 756 RMGs and textiles factories have not payed workers' salaries for June. Of those, 279 are BGMEA factories, 391 are BKMEA factories and 86 factories are under the BTMA.  

The Dhaka Tribune explores how fashion companies abandoned RMG workers in Bangladesh, focusing on C&A, and argues that it is "about time the big buyers were held accountable." The author explains that "The power lies in the West" because, when suppliers go against big customers like C&A, brands simply move their orders to another country.

Brazil: Media report that migrant workers producing PPE in São Paulo are working in exploitative conditions, as workers are paid R$ 0,05 (US$ 0.0097) per mask. At the beginning, workers were paid R$ 0,20 per mask; then, it decreased to R$ 0,10; now, workers are paid R$ 0,05 and explain that they have no other choice, as rent is due and jobs are scarce. "Se não trabalhamos, não comemos" ("If we don't work, we don't eat"), workers explained. Even though the price of PPE has increased with the increase in demand amidst the coronavirus pandemic, manufacturers are taking advantage of the increase in labour supply caused by the economic crisis to lower workers' salaries. Migrant workers, mostly from Bolivia and Paraguay, tried to negotiate payments, saying that it was too low, but manufacturers said that there were other migrant workers willing to work at this price and refused to increase wages.

Cambodia: Media report that union leaders have called on the government of Cambodia to make sure that the survey on garment workers' working and living conditions actually reflects their experiences and interests, urging them to involve unions, NGOs and independent groups. They warned that many garment workers are scared of speaking freely when asked about their working conditions, as they fear repercussions from factory management, which will affect the accuracy of the government's findings. Yang Samean, leader of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers at Akeentext PTE, a factory in Phnom Penh, further warned that if the Labor Ministry managed the survey without the help of union representatives or NGOs, its results could not be trusted. Ath Thorn, president of Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC), said that, if the survey is conducted with transparency, its impact will be positive for workers, but warned that if, on contrary, it is done without transparency, it will fail to represent workers' interests. According to Thorn, "it is necessary to have an independent group [oversee the survey]."

Media report that, for Cambodia, the impact of COVID-19 is similar to a simulation of the possible EBA withdrawal. Thus, in the current situation, if EBA is withdrawn, it would signify "a nail in the coffin" of the already struggling garment industry. Indeed, an estimate was made that, with the EBA withdrawal, 43% of workers (nearly 225,000 people) plus 20% of workers in footwear factories (more than 20,000 people) would become unemployed. The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has, so far, affected over 150,000 garment workers.  

China: The Guardian reports that, according to a Human Rights coalition, credible investigations and reports suggest that many of the world's biggest fashion brands and retailers, including Gap, C&A, H&M, Nike, Adidas, Muji, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Inditex (Zara) and Uniqlo, are complicit in the forced labour and human rights violations being perpetrated on millions of Uyghur people in the Xinjiang region. "Virtually the entire [global] apparels industry is tainted by forced Uighur and Turkic Muslim labour", the coalition said in a statement issued today. Media further report that the End Uyghur Forced Labour initiative has urged brands and retailers to cut all ties with suppliers implicated in forced labour involving Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region within 12 months.

India: Media report that Punjab's garment industry has seen a 70% drop in orders amidst the coronavirus pandemic, with massive losses for winter wear, which are normally produced during this time. Most factories are running at just 30-35% of their capacity. The sharp fall in orders for winter garments is a double blow for the industry, which already suffered a setback with buyers cancelling or putting on hold orders for summer wear due to the coronavirus pandemic, garment manufacturers said. In response, manufacturers have urged the government to extend moratorium on the payment of loan instalments and to waive fixed electricity charges.

Media report that the states of Punjab and Gujarat have amended the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 in order to allow factories that employ less than 300 workers to close without seeking permission from the country's labour department in advance. Previously, the Act only allowed factories employing less than 100 workers to close without official permission. It is feared that the relaxed terms could create a greater margin of power between workers and factory management, and that many jobs could be lost without contention.

Myanmar: Media report that, according to a report by the Myanmar Trade Promotion Organisation (MTPO), under the Ministry of Commerce, the tourism and manufacturing exports in Myanmar have been hit the hardest amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The study found that 30% of businesses have been severely hit and that 46% have been moderately hit by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses in these sectors have urged the government to reduce tax rate, suspend tax measures temporarily, provide a budget plan and reduce rental fee and electricity charges.

Thailand: Media report that, faced with labour shortage in construction and agriculture, Thailand has agreed to let in about 120,000 migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos in the next phase of easing coronavirus restrictions.

United States: Media report that Dov Charney, the owner of Los Angeles Apparel, is denying that there is a COVID-19 outbreak among his workers, despite the fact that 375 workers have tested positive and 4 have died. Another article reports that, in response, Ayesha Barenblat, the founder of workers' rights organisation Remake, has called on Dov Charney to take accountability for his failings in protecting workers, instead of deflecting blame. 

22 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that Western clothing retailers have yet to renew normal orders with Bangladesh's garment factories, which are still only working at half their capacity. Garment factory owners have expressed uncertainty about the future of the industry. Indeed, another article reports that, according to the BGMEA, Bangladesh's garment industry has seen orders worth around $3.18 billion suspended or cancelled since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, affecting over 2.2 garment workers from 1150 factories. As a result, Dr. AK Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, has urged European ambassadors to support Bangladesh in addressing this situation. 

Cambodia: Media report that, following criticisms from the Cambodia Microfinance Association (CMA), the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) has once again defended the report's methodology, including criticisms about how it had protected the identities of interviewees, but agreed that it would be best for independent researchers to also contribute to the research and called for further studies to clarify the issue. Another article makes clear that, along with the other civil society organisations involved in the report, Am Sam Ath, director of monitoring at Licadho, reiterated that the reports won't be changed and encouraged the CMA, ABC and relevant institutions to read and review the reports. "Carefully read to understand the real purpose of this report. Our reports do not serve the interests of any political party. Our report would like to highlight some of the impacts on the human rights sector arising from some parts of micro-finance loans", he said.

Media report that, as a result of Thailand's tightened border control, dozens of Cambodian migrant workers have been arrested for trying to enter the country illegally. The article states that most of those attempting to cross the border are doing so in an attempt to find work and support their livelihoods. 

Media report that the Prime Minister of Cambodia has announced that government has identified another 50,000 poor households, raising the total number of poor families affected by the COVID-19 over 610,000. As a result, the spending on the cash handout programme for poor and vulnerable families amidst the coronavirus pandemic has increased to $28 million. 

China: The New York Times reports that an investigation reveals that at least 17 Chinese companies producing PPE amidst the coronavirus pandemic are participating in labour transfer programs involving Uyghur forced labour. "Any company that is procuring masks or other personal protective equipment that wants to avoid forced labor content in those products should not be sourcing them from Xinjiang", Scott Nova, WRC's Executive Director, said in the video. 

India: Media report that union leaders have said that companies are skimping on health and safety whilst reopening factories as they keep putting business before workers' rights. As India's coronavirus cases exceeded one million last week, unions point out that similar spikes in infections in reopened factories are putting workers at risk. "Workers need the wages but we have great concerns about what is happening on shop floors in factories. There is not much optimism that the industry will look at the workers well-being. They have not demonstrated that through the pandemic", Gopinath Parakuni, from Cividep, said. 

LabourStart has launched a campaign in partnership with IndustriALL and other civil society organisations and global unions against the fact that many states in India are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to suspend labour laws and attack workers' rights. The petition can be signed here

Media report that the protests outside ECC-2 Unit of Gokaldas Exports Gokaldas Exports continue every day and that, based on an investigation, it is clear that garment factories are using the global pandemic to break down trade unions among their workers, ECC-2 being one of these cases. 

Malaysia: The Labour Law Reform Coalition (LLRC), a broad coalition of 58 Malaysian trade unions and NGOs, has released a press statement condemning the Home Minister for harassing the chairperson of LLRC for exposing the bad labour conditions in rubber glove factories in the country. The coalition urged the Prime Minister to end harassment against social activists immediately and to respect the democratic rights of union and NGO leaders to voice the concerns of workers and marginalised communities.

Myanmar: Media report that the Myanmar government's labour attaché in Thailand has introduced a survey in order to get accurate numbers on remaining Myanmar migrant workers in the country, assess their needs and accurately inform government policy. In the meantime, however, those with little work or other means of support will continue to suffer. "For many migrant families in Thailand, the everyday financial and health risks brought on by COVID-19 are becoming untenable", the article makes clear. 

Nepal: Media report that, since March, over 810,000 migrant workers have returned to Nepal from India alone and an additional 25,000 have returned from 21 other countries, mainly in the Gulf and Malaysia. Migrant workers have returned after losing their jobs abroad, but they have returned to a jobless Nepal and face uncertainty amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Singapore: Media report that Singapore has recorded a total of 48,434 COVID-19 cases, 45,647 of whom are migrant workers living in dormitories. The article further states that migrant workers that tested positive for COVID-19 are being told to go back to their rooms in dormitories, which they share with workers who tested negative. 

Thailand: Media report that the Thai government has said that it will introduce a system whereby workers from Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Malaysia can legally enter the country, but they will have to be tested for COVID-19 and carry out the required quarantine.

Meanwhile, media report that many migrant workers are still stranded in Thailand and that, according to a Bangkok-based Migrant Working Group, now that work is scarce, migrant workers are facing the prospect of heightened abuse and precarity. The Thai government has made attempts to ease the burden for documented migrant workers, extending free visa status for migrant workers until at least 31 July, but many workers have lost their jobs, are struggling to find new jobs amidst the coronavirus pandemic and face mounting debts. The government implemented a cash relief program, but its restrictions mean that many of the most vulnerable, including most migrant workers, are left out. 

United Kingdom: Media report that a whistleblower told the BBC that some factories had almost doubled their staffing to cope with the surge in online orders during the UK lockdown. According to workers, firms that had a workforce of around 50 people pre-COVID, worked with 80 or 90 people during the lockdown period. During this time, there had been "no social distancing whatsoever in factories."

United States: Media report that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved a proposal for worker-led "health councils" in the workplace to monitor business compliance with public health orders. "Employers are simply not doing what is needed and what is necessary to adhere to public health orders. Workers need the right therefore to monitor their own workplaces so they can prevent the spread of COVID-19", Marissa Nuncio, from the Garment Worker Center, said. In addition, the LA County has announced that it will be adding another $1.2 billion to funds for coronavirus relief services. 

21 July 2020

Asia: Media report that a report published by UN Women shows that the coronavirus pandemic affects men and women differently, which is why, according to the organisation, "it is so crucial to respond to the crisis using gender data to inform evidence-based solutions". The report reveals that:

  • 53% of women in formal employment have seen their paid work hours reduced, compared to 31% of men;
  • 63% of women saw increases in their time spent doing unpaid domestic work, compared to 55% of men;
  • 66% of women have seen their income decrease, compared to 54% of men; 

Bangladesh: Media report that the government of Bangladesh has asked garment factory owners to complete payments of festival bonuses for the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha and half of July's salary by 27 July and 30 July, respectively. The article further reports that, according to the State Minister for Labour and Employment, many factory owners do not want to pay the salary and bonus on time. In addition to the deadline announcement, the Minister and union leaders urged factory owners not to fire workers. 

The Dhaka Tribune has published an op-ed which shows how garment workers have been disregarded by global brands, factory owners and the government, as non are taking clear and solid responsibility for the workers who have lost their jobs amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Media report that, according to the BGMEA, Bangladeshi suppliers are facing problems in France as two brands fully cancelled their orders and filed applications for bankruptcy.

Cambodia: Media report that the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training plans to carry out a study concerning the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on workers in the textile, garment and footwear sectors ahead of a meeting on the 2021 minimum wage. The study will take the form of a survey into how the virus has impacted garment workers' livelihoods. Meanwhile, Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) made clear that COVID-19 has dramatically affected workers who have been suspended from work and lost benefits, requesting that the minimum wage be raised. 

Media report that the Prime Minister of Cambodia has said that garment workers who have lost jobs due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can still take up farming because they have parents or family members working in the sector. According to the PM, the agriculture sector in Cambodia is able to absorb recently-unemployed workers from the garment and tourism sectors and migrant workers returning from Thailand. 

Media report that, according to Vong Sauth, Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation, the cash transfer programme for poor and vulnerable households amidst the coronavirus pandemic has reached 94% of recipients in the first round of distributions. As of yesterday, around 530,000 out of 560,000 poor and vulnerable households had received the financial support. 

Germany: Social media posts show that activists in Freiburg, Germany, for a solidarity action with the struggle of garment workers of the Dragon Sweater Factory in Dhaka. The protest took place in front of a "New Yorker" store, which sell the clothes produced by Dragon Sweater. Members of the anarcho-syndicalist union FAU, feminist organisations and socialist party "Die Linke" demanded the management of "New Yorker" to urge their supplier to pay and rehire the workers and respect their right to unionise.

India: Media report that many industries have resumed work after the coronavirus lockdown and are working at just half of their capacity as most migrant workers are yet to return. Many migrant workers are, however, returning to the industrial cities in order to return to work. Meanwhile, local workers, who demand higher wages than migrant workers, are being trained to "fill the immediate gap".

IndustriALL reports that workers and activists, from all over the world, are standing in solidarity with the 1200 garment workers who were laid-off for joining a union by the H&M supplier Gokaldas Exports' factory. 

Malaysia: Media report that, amidst the news exposing the labour practices of the Top Glove Corporation, the glove maker said it was recently accorded an 'A' rating during a social audit by Amfori. Despite the rating, Top Glove has been repeatedly linked to reports of underpaid and forced labour, including amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Myanmar: Media report that the government of Myanmar has announced that it will allow migrant workers with contracts to work abroad to take flights to their destinations. The Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation pointed out, however, that workers wanting to travel to Malaysia will have to wait, as there are no job vacancies at the moment. So far, at least 10,000 Myanmar migrant workers have lost their jobs in Malaysia due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and have requested to return to Myanmar.

Pakistan: Media report that, in Pakistan, the coronavirus pandemic has driven workers from their machines and to the factory gates, manifesting their outrage at unpaid wages. Their employers, who supply international brands, responded with mass layoffs and gun fire. According to Nasir Mansoor, the General Secretary of The National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan, the grassroots organising such as wild cat strikes that is currently taking place has been unprecedented in over three decades. "It’s a paradigmatic shift. Previously, we would have mobilised them, now they are doing it themselves...the protests begin as small rallies on the factory floor, then they move onto the streets, then up onto the roofs of the buildings. And they are getting more militant", he said. 

Thailand: Media report that Thailand has ordered that border control be tightened after concerns surged over a possible second wave of coronavirus infections, following the arrests of thousands of undocumented migrant workers in the past month. Since June, authorities have arrested around 3000 migrant workers for overland entry attempts. 

Media report that labour rights advocates are pushing for the establishment of a "labour bank" that would offer low-interest loans to workers, many of whom are currently in the clutches of "loan sharks" that charge high interest rates. 

Vietnam: Media report that Vietnam's textile and garment industry is among the country's hardest hit sectors by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, mainly due to order cancellations. According to Vietnam’s Textile Association, 70% of garment manufacturers started reducing shifts and rotating workers in March, with an additional 10% following in April and May. By June 2020, the estimated loss to the industry is set at $508 million.

20 July 2020

Asia: The Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising (WIEGO), HomeNet South Asia (HNSA) and HomeNet Southeast Asia (HNSEA) have published a joint statement demanding that global brands address the extreme vulnerability of garment workers during the coronavirus pandemic by making a Supply-chain Relief Contribution (SRC) to all garment workers in their supply chains. The SRC should be a quantified amount (an additional 2% of total sourcing by the particular brand in the preceding 12 months from the respective factory) and must be paid to all workers including time-rated, piece-rated, subcontracted and home workers and is based on the total labour cost of garment production, including the labour costs of aspects of production that are subcontracted to homeworkers. "The SRC is a relief contribution and in no way substitutes brands’ existing contractual commitment or obligations to pay severance contributions in cases of downsizing, retrenchment and closure", the joint statement makes clear. 

The Morning Star explores how the coronavirus pandemic is being used to fire unionised garment workers and shutdown factories with strong unions in Myanmar, Cambodia, Bangladesh and India. As Pav Sina, a Cambodian workers' leader, made clear: "In the past, factories couldn’t do this, but COVID-19 has given them the opportunity."

Bangladesh: Media report that representatives of labour organisations, including the Garment Workers' Trade Union Centre (GWTUC), held rallies on Friday (17/07) urging garment factory owners to pay workers their wages of July and Eid allowances before 25 July. Razequzzaman Ratan, president of the Socialist Labour Front (SLF) explained that workers will not be able to celebrate Eid if they are not paid at least a week before the celebrations.

Media report that, according to the the BGMEA's most recent data, the garment industry in Bangladesh is likely to lose or face deferred payments worth over $3 billion amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Overall, $1.93 billion of order cancellations or delays have been made by buyers from the European Union, $574 million by US buyers, $52 million by Canadian buyers, and $620 million from other markets.

Media report that experts and economists have recommended the government to consider an employment guarantee scheme that would last for the next six months for people who became jobless due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cambodia: Media report that thousands of workers from 12 closed garment and footwear factories have protested amidst the coronavirus pandemic because owners failed to pay workers' the salaries and benefits that they are owed. According to the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (Central), the 12 now-closed factories employed nearly 15,000 workers; some workers received compensation, others did not. The article states that the workers that held demonstrations are from Hana (Cambodia) 1 factory, New Best Global Textile Co., Ltd, Dignity Knitter and Eco Base factories and Thai Ya Garment factory. According to representatives from Hana 1 and New Best Global Textile, all payments owed to workers were settled on 10 July and, according to workers from Thai Ya factory, payments were settled on 15 July. Workers from Dignity Knitter and Eco Base factories, however, are yet to receive their wages or benefits. They have been waiting for payment since March. Khun Tharo, program manager of Central, explains that one of the main reasons why garment workers are not being paid benefits is related to a directive sent by the Labor Ministry to GMAC in June which stipulates that factories that suspended operations or closed due to the coronavirus pandemic did not need to provide workers notice payments or compensation. 

Media report that 19 migrant workers from Cambodia who had crossed into Thailand illegally have been arrested and charged with illegal entry as they were heading to the border to return home. According to police, migrant workers said that they were returning to Cambodia and had paid 3000 baht each for transportation costs.

Myanmar: SMART Textile & Garments, an EU-funded project that aims to build capacities for better social and environmental performance across Myanmar's garment industry, reports that 289,515,000 MMK have been distributed to garment workers in Myanmar through the EU Myan Ku Fund. According to SMART, this week is the second consecutive week during which total payments have increased, which reflects the continued distress of Myanmar's garment industry, as many factories continue to suspend operations or operate on part-time production schedules. In total, the EU Myan Ku Fund has issued 36,802 emergency support cash transfers of around 75,000 MMK to 25,169 workers. 

Union organiser reports that, on Friday (17/07), the Rui-Ning factory union in Yangon won the reinstatement of 300 fired union members, including the union's president, after months of struggle. 

Nepal: Media report that, according to experts, the coronavirus pandemic has prompted a major decline in employment opportunities for Nepali migrant workers abroad, which is harshly affecting the country's highly remittance-based economy. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, migrant workers have been forced to return to Nepal, where employment opportunities are also scarce.

Pakistan: HomeNet Pakistan reports that 25 home-based workers working in the garment and textile industry have received raw materials through the CCC's COVID-19 emergency fund. They are now making different saleable products for income generation. 

Thailand: Media report that five select groups of foreigners and migrant workers are expected to be allowed to enter the country as the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) considers the 6th phase of Thailand's COVID-19 easing this week. Migrant workers in the construction and food export industries are expected to be the first groups of migrant workers to be allowed in Thailand during this phase. 

United Kingdom: Media report that, following reports of staff at factories in Leicester being underpaid and unprotected from COVID-19, over 50 MPs and peers have written to the Home Secretary urging her to do more to protect UK garment factory workers from exploitation. The letter was also signed by investors, charities and retailers such as Asda, Asos, M&S, Morrisons, New Look, River Island and Matalan said that concerns around unethical use of labour in the UK's garment industry had been raised "multiple times" in the last five years by academics, retailers and MPs, but that little had been done. The letter urged Home Secretary Priti Patel to bring in a new licensing scheme for garment factories that would:

  • Protect workers from forced labour, debt bondage and mistreatment, as well as ensuring the payment of the National Minimum Wage and holiday pay;
  • Prevent rogue businesses from undercutting compliant manufacturers;
  • Encourage retailers to source their clothing from the UK, supporting the development of an "ethical, world-leading industry".

Another article reports that, on Friday, John Lyttle, from Boohoo, also wrote to the Home Secretary, urging her to adopt the proposals above. "We're taking action to investigate allegations of malpractice in our supply chain and we ask government to take action too", he said.

Meanwhile, media report that, according to several advocates in Leicester, a government task-force and proposed factory licensing scheme, such as the one announced by the Home Secretary last week, are unlikely to prevent labour abuses in Britain's garment industry without the involvement of trade unions and community groups to help workers, as garment workers in supply chains of retailers such as Boohoo need local support to report exploitation. "We need a community development approach, to work door-to-door for people to be able to organise, get support within the community and have a decent standard of living", Mark Mizzen, from the Leicester Unemployed Workers Centre, said. 

United States: Media report that Kohl's, which refuses to pay its suppliers and garment workers while paying out $110 million to its shareholders amidst the coronavirus pandemic, has been recognised by Ethisphere as one of the 2020 World's Most Ethical Companies. 

19 July 2020

Bangladesh: In an op-ed in the Daily Star in response to the Boohoo scandal in the UK, Bangladeshi factory owner Mostafiz Uddin describes how he believes consumers are complicit in workers' conditions, because of their buying habits and the continued demand for unreasonably cheap clothes.

Cambodia: Media report that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) predicts Cambodia will suffer 390,000 job losses this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Media report that 19 migrant workers were arrested in Sa Kaeo’s Khok Sung district in Thailand and charged with illegal entry as they were heading to the border to return home, according to police.

India: Oh So Ethical developed an action page to support the 1200 dismissed garment workers in the Euro Clothing factory in India, offering the option to directly tweet to major buyer H&M.

UK: The Sunday Times today reported on how Edinburgh Woollen Mill, owned by billionaire Philip Day and parent company of Peacocks, is leaving suppliers across the world, in Asia, but also in Europe without payments and is facing campaigning by labour rights organisations.

18 July 2020

Global: Media report that brands and retailers use contractual loopholes to avoid paying for orders, which is made possible by meagre legal regulation of the garment supply chain. Suppliers often do not have the position to hold brands to account, although they could use their collective power to do so.

Asia: The Wall Street Journal explores how the pandemic is bringing poverty to hundreds of thousands of primarily female workers who found employment in Asian countries' growing garment industries.

Cambodia: Media report that according to new statistics more than 150,000 workers have now lost their jobs during the pandemic. Factory owners and trade unions called on the government to do more to support the industry and former garment workers.

On Thursday, human rights and labour organisations the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), and Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) wrote an open letter to the Cambodia Microfinance Association (CMA) and the Association of Banks in Cambodia (ABC) acknowledging their open letter on the CMA Facebook page on the night of 15 July and declining the CMA and ABC's request to change any of the three reports regarding human rights abuses in Cambodia’s microfinance and microloan sector. The four organisations stand by their reports and protect the privacy of people interviewed for the report.

Laos: Media report that thousands of Lao migrant workers who recently returned from Thailand after losing their jobs to COVID-19 are staying in crowded, undersupplied quarantine camps where they hacve to pay for their own food and lack basic facilities.

UK: The Guardian reports that campaigners say that the labour abuses and sweatshop conditions reported in factories in Leicester "are occurring “at scale” across the UK’s garment, manufacturing and farming industries". Similar conditions can be found in garment factories in Birmingham, Manchester and London, and workers in sectors such as furniture, construction, contract cleaning, recycling and domestic work also face wages below the minimum wage and exploitative working conditions.

Another Guardian article reports that Boohoo has urged the government to introduce a licensing scheme to ensure textile factories are "fit to trade". The article reports that home secretary Priti Patel is considering new laws on modern slavery in face of the failure of current legislation. 

US: LA Times reports on the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles's garment factories, describing how more and more workers disappeared from their workplaces in the Los Angeles Apparel factory as the crisis continued. While the factory owner said that management informed employees who may have been exposed on time, garment workers say they received no information, or the information was late or vague. When they heard that several workers had died, dozens of workers decided to take action and refused to sew for nearly two hours, demanding better sanitation. “We got up, and we said we’re not going to work until you promise to clean the machines,” said Mariana, who agreed to be identified by her middle name for fear of retaliation. “We wanted them to practically close the factory so they would clean.”

17 July 2020

Albania: According to reports from the CCC network, the Gender Alliance for Development Center (GADC) is purchasing and donating personal protective equipment (PPE) as masks and disinfectants and distributing them to workers in the garment and sportswear industries. This action is part of the project "Emergency Assistance Funds for Garment Industry Workers during COVID-19", which is financially supported by Public Eye, with headquarters in Switzerland through the Clean Clothes Campaign. 

Bangladesh: Media report that the Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, Home Minister of Bangladesh, has announced that garment workers will not be allowed to leave their workplaces during the upcoming holidays for Eid-ul-Azha in a bid to stop further spread of coronavirus. The announcement was made during a meeting held to discuss the present situation of the workers, their wage and Eid bonus issues with garment factory owners, trade union leaders, and law enforcement agencies. The minister also urged factory owners to pay the Eid bonus and June's salary before the end of this month. According to the BGMEA, as of yesterday, a total of 1465 garment factories had paid their workers for June, while workers from 461 factories were yet to receive their salaries. Meanwhile, The Daily Star reports that garment manufacturers have sent a joint letter to the Finance Minister urging the government for another round of low-cost loans for another three months in order to help them pay wages to workers as the sector is still struggling to stay afloat amidst the coronavirus crisis. The letter, sent by the BGMEA and the BKMEA, made clear that the garment sector in Bangladesh is facing financial hardship because of order cancellations and suspensions from buyers and that factory owners are struggling to pay workers. Thus, the Associations urged the government to give funds to apparel exports on "easy terms". Also on this topic, another article reports that Bangladesh's garment manufacturers have said that the $41-billion export earnings target set by the government for the fiscal year of 2020-21 is only achievable if the government provides the necessary policy support to exporters, such as the ones mentioned above, amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Media report that hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh are struggling amidst the coronavirus pandemic as many have undergone drops in income and, at the same time, essential services, such as utility bills, transport fares and the price of medicines are rising. According to the economists' findings, the lives and livelihoods of a large majority of the population have become vulnerable amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Media report that, according to the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), over 100,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers are stranded due to coronavirus pandemic, currently waiting to leave the country. 

Cambodia: Media report that Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central), made clear that migrant workers returning to Cambodia from Thailand have faced many obstacles, such as having to pay bribes to Thai and Cambodian authorities in order to return to Cambodia. "They do not have money, they are unemployed, and they have no money to pay the bank. To tackle this issue, some workers illegally crossed the border to work abroad while some went to Phnom Penh to find work", Moeun Tola, said. The executive director of Central called on the government to list returning workers and give them IDPoor cards so that they can get supporting funds. The budget of $25 million per month, he said, should give priority to the poor and those who returned from Thailand.

Canada: Media report that Canadian garment imports have decreased by by nearly 54% in May 2020, harshly affecting the country's main garment exporters, China and Bangladesh. "Canada, one of the emerging apparel markets in the world which has over $28 billion worth of apparel market size, has been failing to cope with the low consumer spending and closed retail stores amidst COVID-19, resulting in declining apparel imports", the article reports. 

India: Media report that, according to Railways officials, around 80 migrant workers died between 9 May and 27 May on Shramik Special trains meant to ferry migrant workers home. As the article states, the plight of migrant workers stranded by India's sweeping coronavirus lockdown, and often forced to walk long distances to reach their hometowns, has emerged as a major humanitarian challenge amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Myanmar: Media report that, although Myanmar trade volumes are expected to grow amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the lack of new cut-make-pack (CMP) orders in the garment industry is a concern. “We have yet to receive any major orders beyond August. International demand continues to be disrupted by COVID-19 and we cannot say for sure when this will return”, U Khin Maung Lwim, assistant secretary at the Ministry of Commerce, said. Meanwhile, the chair of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, U Myint Soe, said that the “lack of new orders is the most worrying as it can lead to permanent shutdowns.” According to the Chinese Textile & Garment Association in Myanmar, a growing number of factories are likely to announce further layoffs or closures due to the lack of new orders beyond August and September.

United Kingdom: Media report that campaigners are calling on the UK government to provide practical support to protect all workers in the Leicester garment industry, including the payment of unpaid wages and benefits. Labour Behind the Labour (LBL), along with key stakeholders, have called on the government to provide for garment workers who have been victims of wage theft, furlough fraud, unsafe environment and modern slavery. “It’s a scandal that over a decade has passed since reports of exploitative work conditions in Leicester first emerged, with very little action from the government. We need the government to take immediate actions, protect workers and make exploitative labour a thing of the past”, Meg Laws, campaigns manager at LBL, said. The letter further made clear that neither the government nor the responses from Boohoo or Quiz have offered any remediation to workers. LBL called for an urgent independent investigation of the situation of garment workers in factories in Leicester and other high-risk UK locations and for the government to ensure dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders, including local communities, those working on modern slavery, immigration and those with expertise in due diligence legislation.

Media report that, according to the data from the British Fashion Council (BFC), the UK fashion industry could be hit “twice as hard” in the COVID-19 recession compared to other countries. The article further reports that many fashion businesses have not been able to access the government’s COVID-19 support schemes, particularly SMEs. As a result and in order to ensure employment within the industry, the BFC has called on the UK government to consider seven measures, which include interest free loans to SMEs and tax reliefs.

Vietnam: Media report that, according to a recent report by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Vietnam’s textile and garment sector could see more job losses in the second half of the year due to order cancellations by global buyers. Another report by the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) revealed that, so far, 80% of businesses in the garment industry laid off personnel in April and May, and that more cuts are expected in the third quarter.

16 July 2020

Asia: Media report that, according to the London-based research agency Fitch Solution, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam will remain dominant players in textile manufacturing in the region, as the ongoing global supply chain shift away from China is expected to benefit the garment industry in these countries.

Bangladesh: Media report that the government of Bangladesh has urged factory owners to pay due salaries and Eid festival bonus to workers by 25 July, ahead of Eid-ul-Azha, and to refrain from terminating workers. Union leaders also called on factory managers to pay salaries and bonuses well ahead of Eid, in order to allow workers to go home safely, as workers mostly go to their village homes to celebrate the Eid-ul-Azha. The deadline of 25 July has been set for all formal and informal sectors, such as hotels, textile, transport, garment, etc. 

Media report that Bangladeshi authorities have arrested the owner of a hospital who sold migrant workers thousands of certificates showing a negative result on coronavirus tests, when in fact many tests were never performed. According to the authorities, Mohammad Shahed's hospital in Dhaka has been selling thousands of fake coronavirus certificates at $59 a piece. 

Media report that Kuwait, where 3.5 lakh Bangladeshi migrant workers currently live, has proposed a bill that, if passed, may compel two lakh Bangladeshi migrant workers to return home. The MPs who introduced the bill want to institute an expatriate quota system, under which Bangladeshis must not exceed 3% of Kuwait's total populace, to rectify a "great imbalance in the country's demography". Bangladeshi migrant workers, many of whom are still in debt, now risk being sent back home to a depressed economy, with little prospects. This will also lower remittances, on which the Bangladeshi economy depends. 

Cambodia: Media report that new data released by the Ministry of Interior shows that the coronavirus crisis forced more than 100,000 Cambodians returned out of Thailand over a three-month period. Khun Tharo, a program manager at labor rights group CENTRAL, warned that, without stronger social security programs, Cambodian migrant workers returning to the country are left to fend for themselves at a time when jobs have become scarce. Meanwhile, media report that the United Nations has provided $1 million for a joint programme with the Cambodian government in order to provide support to returning migrant workers in three provinces (Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap). "The programme is also to ensure the provision of necessary social and economic services to the migrant workers as well as contributes to an effort to manage and address impacts caused by COVID-19 toward the migrant workers", Sar Kheng, Interior Minister, explained. 

Media report that nearly 700 workers from the Thai Yamaen Industry Factory (Thai Ya Garment) protested for unpaid salaries, remaining annual leave, seniority remuneration and seniority allowance, which the factory owner initially promised to pay. Workers organised a protest march to the Prime Minister's house calling on the intervention of the factory owner to pay workers, after the factory announced termination of contract on 28 June. According to workers, the factory owner initially agreed to pay 50% notice, but then changed his mind and failed to pay. Workers and management have been in negotiations but the owner has failed to pay workers according to their demands. Workers are demanding the five points in accordance with the law. 

Media report that at least 15% of the country’s garment workers are currently out of work and that many of the affected workers have still not received any money from the government, which announced that it would pay $40 per month to workers whose employers had registered their companies’ suspension with the Labour Ministry. The Labour Ministry last week said it was currently processing payments for 30,189 workers from nearly 100 factories. In the meantime, garment workers are left with no income amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Social media posts reveal that Vera Bradley is still refusing to take responsibility for imprisoned workers who make their bags, such as Soy Sros, from the Superl factory, who was arrested for a Facebook post. "We take the health and safety of workers in these facilities seriously. We used a third party auditor to investigate & determined the allegations involved a different factory where our products are NOT manufactured. We stand by our record of worker treatment in our factories", the brand Vera Bradley, said. A union organiser, however, replied to the brand's statement by saying that "[w]e have pictures of Vera labels from the factory" and that media reports refute the brand's findings. 

Media report that the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that debt relief measures by micro-lenders in Cambodia have failed to alleviate the financial burdens facing indebted families and urged the government to suspend loan collections for borrowers who are no longer able to meet payments amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the government in April refused to accept petitions from more than 100 community, union, and civil society groups demanding an urgent response to the debt crisis exacerbated by the outbreak, and even detained some of the representatives, interrogating them about who was behind the action and compelling them to sign pledges promising not to advocate. 

Ethiopia: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has published a report titled "COVID-19 and the garment and textile sector in Ethiopia: workers perspective", which reveals that a global collapse in demand for garments has been witnessed since the first quarter of 2020. As a result, many factories have suspended operations and laid off workers. A survey among Ethiopian manufacturers also revealed that order cancellations have left some garment manufacturers unable to pay workers as required. Based on semi-structured interviews with garment workers, the report found that: 

  • 59% of workers surveyed said their income had been reduced in March/April;
  • 44% of workers indicated they have had to spend a portion of their savings to cover current living expenses;
  • 80% of workers said that they feel safe currently at the workplace considering the COVID-19 safety measures taken. 

India: Media report that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light the massive data gap that currently exists in India regarding migrant workers. The latest data is now a decade old and unlikely to present an accurate picture. Due to this lack of accurate data, the government could not accurately estimate and provide migrant workers with necessary social security in terms of food, shelter and transportation. Experts are calling on state government to create a dynamic database on migrant workers within the state in order to avoid the recurrence of the COVID-19 migrant crisis.

Media report that, in the last two months, India's labour laws have experienced rapid changes in the "blink of an eye", as state government's amended labour laws without consulting trade unions. A number of state governments have either amended or are considering amending the Factories Act 1948 in order to extend maximum working hours. These amendments have been discussed and approved with no dialogue with trade unions, who are legitimate and legal representatives of millions of workers whose welfare is at stake.

Myanmar: Media report that unionists have expressed that the government of Myanmar has dismissed unionists' suggestions, disregarded their formal disputes and used COVID-19 to justify intimidation and arrests of protestors. Meanwhile, employers have ignored COVID-19 related concerns raised by unionists, exploited their inability to strike and used the pandemic as an opportunity to sack unionists. Overall, the Myanmar government and employers have weaponised COVID-19 to union-bust.

Union organiser reports that workers from the Jin Sen bag factory in Yangon, which produces bags for Dell computers, are still on sit-down strike, after workers were fired the day after organising a union to demand COVID-19 protections. Still no response to workers from Dell.

15 July 2020

Albania: Media report that big businessmen were the largest beneficiaries from one of the main pillars of financial help created by the Albanian government, even though the Prime Minister said, in April, that big businessmen should "sell their yachts" in order to pay their bills and wouldn't receive aid from the government. Meanwhile, the tourism and garment sectors and small businesses, which combined form the backbone of the country's economy, received the least assistance. The garment industry, a crucial employer and exporter in Albania, received a total of 44 loans worth 642 million leks. Companies employing tens of thousands of Albanians, mainly women in poor areas of the country, were hard hit by the collapse of domestic consumption and exports and withdrew almost all of the money approved.

Asia: Media report that, from factory floors in India to the warehouses of Cambodia, garment workers for have warned that the collapse in demand triggered by the coronavirus pandemic is being used as a cover to break workers' unions. The article exposes cases of union-busting in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India in Myanmar. 

Bangladesh: Media report that, in Bangladesh alone, over 100,000 garment workers have been left jobless. According to Rafiqul Islam Sujon, president of the Bangladesh Garments and Shilpo Sramik Federation, about half of workers are involved with unions. 

Media report that large garment factories in Bangladesh are starting to receive a "handsome volume" of work orders and are hopeful that, if the current work order inflow remains stable, they will be able to achieve around 80% of their target for exports at the end of this year. The country’s small and medium garment companies, however, are still struggling to stay afloat. 

Media report that, according to a study by Right to Food Bangladesh, 98.6% of the poor have been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic through a decline or halt of income, loss of jobs and the closing of shops and business activities. The survey found that only a few workers have changed their occupations, which implies that it is not easy to get new jobs, and that poor people in Bangladesh have been suffering from insufficient food supply amidst the coronavirus pandemic. "The government should expand support to the poor, encourage the private sector to come forward with more related programmes", Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of the platform who conducted the survey, said. 

Cambodia: Media report that factory owners and trade unions are calling on the government to do more to support the industry and former garment workers who are facing abject poverty as new figures reveal that more than 150,000 workers have lost their jobs amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) warned that the situation has not yet improved, despite lockdown easing in western countries, with "scores more factories and tens of thousands of additional workers at imminent risk."

Myanmar: Media report that Myanmar's CMP (Cut, Make and Pack) garment factories are struggling due to lack of orders from the European Union (EU). As a result, more than 100 CMP factories have closed and around 30,000 employees have been made redundant, according to the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers’ Association (MGMA). Overall, Myanmar's garment exports have declined by at least 50% amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Some factories have not received orders or even price enquiries since March. "After the last orders were delivered in August, there have been no new orders. [The factories] haven’t received new orders since COVID-19 broke out", U Myint Soe, MGMA president, said. "Around 30,000 employees have been made redundant so far. Ten of the foreign-owned factories, which are members of the MGMA, have closed and the managers have returned to their countries", an MGMA spokesperson shared. 

Media report that, according to Myanmar's Embassy in Israel, Myanmar's relief flights from Jordan are awaiting landing approval to bring home about 400 stranded migrant workers, 30% of whom used to work at two garment factories in Jordan. According to workers from the Camel Textile International Cooperation garment factory in Jordan, around 800 out of 1,700 migrants have been made unemployed amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Workers had been stranded in Jordan for four months. The article further reports that, since 30 April, Myanmar has arranged 56 relief flights and brought home over 8000 stranded Myanmar migrant workers from over 10 countries, including India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.

United Kingdom: Media report that unions are demanding changes to the law in order to safeguard garment workers' rights. The changes would allow workers to bring claims for unpaid wages, sick pay and holiday pay not only from their immediate employer but also from any contractor higher up the supply chain. The demand comes amidst reports on working conditions in Leicester garment factories supplying big-name fashion brands like Boohoo. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said that the situation had highlighted a "huge gap in the law" which allowed major firms to "wash their hands" of responsibility over the behaviour of sub-contractors. "Millions of UK workers currently cannot enforce their basic rights against the companies that profit from their labour, and the government must do more to protect them", TUC's general secretary said. 

Meanwhile, media report that advocates have said that fashion retailers such as Boohoo and Quiz should not abandon their suppliers in Britain over labour abuses but support them to improve working conditions. Activists and analysts made clear that suspending suppliers only benefited the brands while putting jobs at risk, dissuading suppliers from raising concerns over working conditions with their buyers, and ultimately leaving endemic abuses in Leicester to go unchecked. "Brands cutting and running is a quick-fix PR move that shifts the blame to the supplier and doesn't look at brands' poor purchasing practices" Meg Lewis, from Labour Behind the Label (LBL), made clear. 

Media report that some of the UK's biggest fashion chains, such as Asda, Primark, Mothercare and the Arcadia Group (Topshop, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge) are leaving thousands of factory workers in poverty after cancelling orders worth millions of pounds at the start of the lockdown. According to the article, retailers admitted that not all existing orders have been paid in full when contacted. 

14 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report thousands of workers in the private and informal sectors have so far lost their jobs since the COVID-19 outbreak reduced economic activities in the country. The article further reports that mass layoffs have continued to take place despite the fact that the government warned as early as mid-April that factories would not receive facilities from the financial package of Tk 5,000 crore if they went for layoffs. Moreover, most factories that have made layoffs are reported to have deprived the workers of their lawful benefits violating the labour law. Meanwhile, another article reports that, according Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation, this month alone, another 1000 garment workers lost their jobs. "The actual number of workers who lost jobs in recent months is a lot higher than the estimate of the DIFE as many were not registered properly", he pointed out. The article further points out that most layoffs have taken place in medium and small sized factories, who have been harshly affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and that, overall, it is expected that the pace of laying off will start to drop, as the factories are receiving an increased amount of work orders after the opening up of stores in Europe and the US.

Cambodia: Media report that the Cambodia Microfinance Association (CMA) has joined Acleda Bank in criticising a civil society report from last month that highlighted the high levels of indebtedness among surveyed garment factory workers, questioning the survey’s findings and methodology. Yesterday, the CMA issued a statement contesting the findings of the report, questioning the three civil society groups' "real intentions" behind publishing the document. Khun Tharo, a program coordinator at labor rights group Central, made clear that "It is not an inciting report. The report reflects reality during the COVID-19 pandemic, where garment workers have lost their income." Am Sam Ath, the deputy director for rights monitoring at Licadho, added that the 162 workers in the survey did not represent all garment workers, but that the findings should be used by the relevant organisations and institutions to find "suitable solutions" for the workers.

Media report that Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, said that the government has transferred $40 per month to approximately 170,000 workers in the garment and tourism sectors, who have been suspended amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Media report that, yesterday, the Kandal provincial governor vowed to find a solution for garment workers from the Dignity Knitter and Eco Base garment factories, after over 500 workers marched to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Takhmao home to protest the factories' failure to compensate out-of-work employees. Workers explained that the owner of the factories has not compensated workers for wages or benefits as agreed upon in a settlement after the factories' closure in April. Phin Sophea, a worker representative, said that workers had originally asked the factory owner for more compensation in the settlement, but lowered their request because the factories had struggled under the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As previously reported, workers have been guarding the factories for month, trying to make sure that the owners do not sell the equipment before paying them "We march to Samdech Hun Sen’s house in order to ask for his intervention to end the labor dispute in these two factories because we have guarded in front of the factory day and night, and under the rain for more than six months already", one of the workers said. Now, the Kandal provincial governor has vowed to find a solution, but the workers have made clear that, if the governor fails to find a solution, workers will march to the PM's house again.

Media report that the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation has announced that 92% of the 560,000 families have received their first instalment of the government's cash subsidy programme for poor and vulnerable families adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. 

India: The International Justice Mission (IJM) reports that 199 girls and young women from the state of Odisha have been trapped in a garment factory near Bangalore during the coronavirus pandemic, being forced to toil for long hours and deprived of their wages. Often, they were pushed to work even when they were ill or hungry. As the lockdown extended, life became more and more unbearable every day. Workers had sent videos and urgent messages to family, friends and activists in Odisha, but were losing hope rescue would come. With their petitions going unheard, workers reported their plight to local newspaper Outlook India on the 22nd of May. "We are only waiting to go home and stay with our family. We are not interested in work. The company owner keeps us to meet his target. The rising number of COVID-19 cases creates anxiety and fear within us. If anything happens and we die, our bodies will be left unnoticed", Golap, one of the workers, told the newspaper. The case was brought to the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA), who directed the police and local government to take immediate action and rescue workers immediately. On Monday, the 1st of June, a rescue team arrived at the factory expecting to find just 22 young women, but they actually found about 199 workers inside. Authorities are still investigating the factory owners and hope to file charges soon.

Jordan: Media report that more than 140 garment workers in Jordan had to be taken to the hospital after they inhaled toxic gases during spraying to control insects and rodents at their factory. Workers were not wearing masks despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and were fighting for breath and fainting. Doctors said it appeared the concentration of the chemicals used for the spraying in the Zamaleya factory, at North Shouneh in the Jordan Valley, was higher than the maximum allowed.

Lesotho: Research published by academics on the LSE Social Policy Blog reports that the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating longstanding problems for worker protection in Lesotho's garment sector. They argued that, during the pandemic, workers voice should remain at the heart of policy responses, reiterating that trade unions also play an important role. The blog post further reports that, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, unions in Lesotho mobilised to hold the government accountable for unpaid wages that had been promised to workers, and for proper health and safety procedures in the factories.

Malaysia: Media report that Al Jazeera‘s 26-minute documentary "Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown", which depicted how undocumented migrant workers are being rounded-up in a military-style crackdown and detained in camps on the pretext of implementing a coronavirus-induced lockdown has been received by the Malaysian government as "baseless allegations". Until now, Al Jazeera has not issued any statements but the Malaysian media has launched a full-throated war against it.

Myanmar: Media report that 634 Myanmar migrant workers returned from Thailand on the 12th of July through their own arrangements, amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The article reports that since the 1st of May, over 46,000 Myanmar migrant workers have returned from Thailand. 

A union organiser reports that workers from the Jin Sen bag factory in Yangon, which produces bags for Dell computers, are still on sit-down strike, after workers were fired the day after organising a union to demand COVID-19 protections. 

Media report that, according to the EU Ambassador to Myanmar, over K2 billion have been dispersed to over 21,000 garment workers as a result of the EU’s emergency cash set up for workers in the garment industry, many of whom lost their jobs as a result o the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The Ambassador added that, if more support is deemed needed, the EU will continue paying the garment workers “for as long as the crisis lasts” and even extend it to returning migrant workers.

Pakistan: Homenet Pakistan is distributing food relief to women workers as part of the CCC network COVID 19 emergency relief.

Homenet Pakistan relief

Thailand: Media report that Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister, has ordered the Army and other agencies to strictly monitor border crossings and industries for any undocumented migrant workers. At the same time, the police have been ordered to crackdown on undocumented migrants and networks transporting workers from the borders to cities. 

United Kingdom: Media report that, according to a new study, the UK is home to at least 100,000 people held in modern slavery, which is ten times more than the official estimate, as activists warned 90% of victims may be going undetected. Anti-slavery charity Justice and Care and think tank the Centre for Social Justice said the real number could be even higher, and warned that the coronavirus pandemic was likely to push more people into forced labour at car washes and brothels.

13 July 2020

Asia: Media report that the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) has urged garment brands to pay in full for existing orders and to include the payment of at least 60 days of wages for workers in their supply chain. "It is the responsibility of brands to make sure that suppliers do not resort to mass layoffs, wage cuts and union-busting. In the short to medium term, brands must commit to paying a fair price that can ensure the payment of a living wage to all workers and increase transparency in supply chains", the third series of their report "The Emperor has no Clothes: Garment Supply Chains During the pandemic" reads. 

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to industrial police data, a total of 29,369 workers, most of whom worked in the garment sector, have lost their jobs since Eid-ul-Fitr, as factory owners adopted cost-cutting measures on the pretext of lack of work orders amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Labour leaders, however, claimed that the exact number of laid-off workers is actually three times higher than the official figure, as there were many factories out of the jurisdiction of the industrial police. According to the data, a total of 21,557 garment workers have been laid-off. 18,916 are from 104 BGMEA-factories, 2377 from 20 factories listed with the BKMEA and 264 from five mills under the BTMA. Selim Raihan, executive director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modelling, urged the government to bring the now unemployed workers under social protection and to develop a mechanism to ensure their survival during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Towhidur Rahman, former general secretary of IndustriAll Bangladesh Council, demanded the reinstatement of the workers who were fired illegally and lawful benefits for those who were retrenched for the lack of work orders.

Media report that, after 2000 garment workers protested the shutdown of their factory, Dipta Apparels, for an indefinite period, the factory authority has assured the workers that they would receive last month's salary very soon, as it was already in the process of being sent to the workers' bank accounts. In the meantime, Industrial Police said that they were "looking into the matter". 

Reports from the CCC network state that IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) yesterday organized a human chain in front of the national press club in demand of payment of festival bonuses and salary for the month of June and July for all garment workers ten days prior to the Eid festival.

Cambodia: According to news from the media and  the CCC network, today, a group of trade unions federations, associations and workers' representatives from all sectors has, once again, submitted a petition to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet urging the PM to encourage employers to pay retirement payments and seniority pay to workers during the COVID-19 crisis. These payments, they argued, are much needed due to the impact of COVID-19 on salaries and hours. This is the second petition the group of unions have submitted after the first drew no response from the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training.

Media report that garment exports in Cambodia have decreased by 5% compared to the same period last year due to order cancellations and suspensions from buyers amidst the coronavirus pandemic. "The main reason of the decline is the impact of COVID-19. Purchasing dropped globally. The decrease is not only in Cambodia, but also in other garment-producing nations such as Bangladesh and Vietnam", Heng Sour, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, 450 factories have suspended production in the garment, footwear and travel goods sector, and 83 factories were formally closed. "By submitting this petition to the prime minister, the unions hope that the proposal will be met with a fair resolution to the workers", Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), said. 

Media report that, according to the Health Ministry, 15 Cambodian migrant workers who recently returned from Saudi Arabia have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number in Cambodia to 156 cases. 

Media report that nearly 2000 recently laid-off workers from five factories located in Bavet town have attended a soft skills training event organised by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training to increase their chances of getting new jobs in the future. Ven Savanen, a Collective Union of Movement of Workers activist at the You Li International factory in Bavet town said that "I do not know what percentage of our workers can understand what was taught. But for me, it is good that the ministry is providing such training."

Myanmar: SMART Textile & Garments report that another 3417 garment workers received emergency support payments from the EU Myan Ku Fund today, which brings total support from the fund to over 2.6 billion MMK, delivered through 32,700 cash transfers.

Media report that the government of Myanmar is negotiating the return of around 10,000 undocumented Myanmar migrant workers from Malaysia. According to aid groups, there are an estimated 500,000 documented and undocumented Myanmar migrant workers in Malaysia. As of the 9th of July, around 7100 migrant workers who had been in Malaysia with official documents had returned to Myanmar. 

India: Media report that, for over a month now, over 600 women garment workers have been sitting in protest against the illegal layoffs in the factory premises of the ECC 2 unit of Gokaldas Exports Limited (GE), located in Srirangapatna. Despite attempts to force garment workers to resign and pressure from their husbands and families to stop protesting and take whatever they get, workers have continued to stand their ground, refusing to vacate the factory premises while demanding their labour rights. The article shares an interview with, R. Pratibha, the president of the Karnataka Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU), who explains the situation and management's responses to workers' protests. 

Tunisia: IndustriALL reports that the union at the Avera garment company in Tunisia - Fédération Générale du Textile, de l'Habillement, Chaussure et Cuir (FGTHCC-UGTT) - successfully went on strike on the 10th July to protest the suspension of Aicha Dhouioui, a local union leader. The union leader was accused by the company of inciting workers and organising a meeting without a permit, which the union denies. As management failed to turn up for a session on 3 July at the state headquarters to discuss Aicha Dhouioui’s situation, the FGTHCC-UGTT had no other option but to call for a strike on the 10th of July, in solidarity with the local union leader. "After we exhausted all attempts to find a solution for Aicha’s return to work, we went on strike. What Avira management did against sister Aicha undermines all labour relations as all accusations against her are false and lack credibility", Habib Hazami, general secretary of FGTHCC-UGTT, said. "I hope with this amazing show of solidarity from Aicha’s colleagues today, the company finally understands that the workers fully back their union until victory", Valter Sanches, general secretary of IndustriALL, said. 

United Kingdom: Media report that Priti Patel, the home secretary, has come under fire over claims that "cultural sensitivities" prevented a robust response to alleged worker exploitation in Leicester, with critics arguing cuts to regulators, the decision to limit inspections and an absence of unions were the biggest causes. "It’s outrageous. It’s not about the fear of being labelled racist, it’s not about cultural sensitivity, it’s about the failure of government to protect mainly women from migrant communities who have been seriously exploited by unscrupulous employers", Claudia Webbe, the Labour MP for Leicester East, made clear. 

Media report that the fast fashion retailer Quiz has suspended a clothing supplier over subcontractor concerns, after a subcontractor in a Leicester factory was reported to be paying less than the minimum wage. Quiz also said it would carry out a full review of its procedures for auditing suppliers after finding the supplier used the subcontractor "in direct contravention of a previous instruction". 

United States: The Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) reports that they have moved Gap Inc., owner of the Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic, and Gap brands, to the "positive side" of their COVID-19 Brand Tracker after the company revised its approach and agreed to pay in full for all orders previously subject to cancellations or discounts. 


12 July 2020

Asia: The Migrant Forum in Asia reports that a coalition of civil society organisations and trade unions launched a second appeal for an urgent justice mechanism for repatriated migrant workers, as migrant workers face increasingly dire situations. Large scale returns, deportations and repatriations have become a reality. Hundreds of thousands are returning home empty handed with nothing but a few personal belongings and the prospects of falling further into debt and poverty. The coalition warns that numbers will continue to rise exponentially, even as markets struggle to stabilise. They urged governments and UN agencies t take immediate action in three main areas:

  1. Establish an International Claims Commission;
  2. Create the Compensation Fund;
  3. Reform National Justice Systems.

Bangladesh: Media report that over 2000 garment workers from Dipta Apparels Ltd, in Savar, demonstrated earlier today, demanding that their factory reopen and that their salaries for June be paid. Workers explained that, on the 1st of July, factory management declared that the factory would be closed for three days due to the electricity line being cut off. Three days later, management said that the factory would remain closed until July 11th for the same reason. Thus, the factory was supposed to open today - which did not happen. "As we came to the factory today to join work, we found another notice on factory gate saying the factory has been closed for indefinite period due to the same problem", Jahirul Islam, one of the workers, said. According to workers, factory management have shut down the factory without paying workers last month's salary. As a result, workers took to the street and demanded the reopening of the factory, last month's salary, Eid bonus and their salary for July, to be paid before Eid-ul-Azha. Kabir Hossain, vice president of National Garment Workers' Federation (NGWF), said that the "[f]actory authority told us that workers' salary will be paid very soon and it will be reopened by next Sunday."

According to reports from the CCC network, the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) provided emergency food support to vulnerable garment workers in their Ashulia Branch Office. 

NGWF Relief

Cambodia: Media report that, according to the Embassy of Cambodia in Malaysia, 132 of the estimated 227 Cambodian detainees in Malaysia have been deported. 

Nepal: Media report that 3322 Nepali migrant workers that have been stranded in Malaysia and the Philippines for months, due to lockdown measures enforced amidst the coronavirus pandemic, have been repatriated by the Nepal government earlier today. 

Thailand: Media report that the easing of the lockdown in Thailand has pushed up demand for labour and, with it, increased attempts to "smuggle" people in the country illegally. According to Thai Police, five local traffickers were found helping almost 90 Cambodian migrants cross illegally into the country. Migrants were expecting to start work, as they have not been able to find employment in Cambodia. 

United Kingdom: The Guardian reports that a co-founder of Boohoo has links to the Leicester factory accused of paying less than the minimum wage and failing to protect staff from coronavirus. Boohoo has confirmed that the factory at the heart of the allegations is run by Morefray Ltd, a Manchester-owned firm with ties to the separate I Saw It First fashion brand. The I Saw It First business was set up by Jalal Kamani, who jointly founded Boohoo with his brother Mahmud Kamani. 

11 July 2020

Global: Media report that, according to a World Bank study, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could increase the number of people who live in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 a day) from 71 million to 100 million. This would be the first increase since 1998 and almost half of the projected new poor would be found in South Asia, according to the study. 

Asia: Media report that hundreds of thousands of garment workers in Asia, most of whom are women, have been suspended or laid off amidst the coronavirus crisis due to canceled orders worth billions of dollars. According to the article, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Myanmar have been the "most affected countries in Asia". 

Bangladesh: Media report that business leaders urged the government of Bangladesh to reorganise its economic and development policies in line with the changed global scenario amidst the coronavirus pandemic in order to protect jobs and livelihoods. Abul Kasem Khan, president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), urged the government to extend its stimulus package to the country's informal sectors, considering their contributions to employment generation and the nation's gross domestic product.

According to reports from the CCC network, the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Federation (BIGUF), the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) and the Bangladesh Revolutionary Garments Workers Federation (BRGWF) distributed daily essential commodities and personal protective equipment (PPE) among garments workers in Gazipur Board Bazar, Konabari, Ashulia and Chowrasta, Gazipur area. The relief effort is funded by Circle and coordinated by the CCC.

BIGUF Relief 

Cambodia: Media report that, according to a World Bank study, the coronavirus crisis will put around 1.76 million jobs at risk as a result of losses in tourism, manufacturing and construction, which together account for more than 70% of growth and 40% of employment. So far, about 16% of the nearly one million garment workers in the country have been laid off. 

Media report that nearly 60 Cambodian migrant workers, 25 of whom are women, have been arrested in the Ta Phraya district after attempting to enter the country in search for work. They have been charged with illegal entry. Migrants were found whilst waiting to be picked up by a "trafficking gang", that promised to take them to various provinces to work. Another article reports that over 100 Cambodian migrant workers have been arrested in the Sa Kaeo province. Cambodian migrant workers are risking arrest in order to find jobs, as they are unable to find employment in Cambodia. 

Turkey: LabourStart reports that SF Trade management, which supplies global brands with textile and leather goods has a serious union-busting record, has dismissed two workers and continues to threaten others with dismissals. In addition, the company has sued workers for damages, accusing them of undermining competitiveness. 

United Kingdom: The Guardian reports that, according to garment workers based in Leicester, before and during the government-imposed lockdown, part-time hours were being logged while full-time hours were worked, giving the impression of legal wages being paid that were in fact far lower. Workers further explained that some workers had their employment or identity documents held by factory management, leaving workers unable to seek employment elsewhere. Since Labour Behind the Label (LBL) and The Sunday Times' reports, the HSE, GLAA and other bodies have visited more than 20 factories and related businesses and national politicians have declared their determination to tackle the problem. The article points out, however, that sweatshops in Leicester have had years of media coverage and major parliamentary reports. 

United States: Media report that Los Angeles Apparel factories will remain shut down as over 300 coronavirus infections and four virus-related deaths among garment workers have been reported. Three of the coronavirus-related deaths among LA Apparel workers occurred in early June, and one occurred in early July, according to health officials. On the 27th of June, The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said that it shut down operations at LA Apparel after inspectors found "flagrant violations" of public health infection control orders, adding that the company failed to cooperate with an investigation of a reported coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, the department ordered the continued suspension of LA Apparel's operations. Another article reports that, according to organisers, while the exact number of garment workers infected with coronavirus is unknown, they have been hearing reports of workers who returned to factories and got sick for months. Indeed, Daisy Gonzalez, an organiser with the workers’ rights group the Garment Worker Center (GWC), says the COVID-19 outbreaks in LA are "100% industry-wide". "It was already a very dangerous and unhealthy space for workers. And now it’s just intensified and the stakes are higher", Marissa Nuncio, the director of GWC, said. 

Gap Inc. has revised its approach of order cancellations and enforced discounts and agreed to pay in full for all orders previously subject to cancellation or discounts. This is yet another success of the #PayUp movement aiming to make all garment brands pay for orders. 

10 July 2020

Global: Media report that Oxfam has warned that hunger is likely to take more lives than the coronavirus, announcing that up to 12,000 people could die from hunger every day globally - 2000 more than died from COVID-19 each day in April. "Millions of people are being pushed towards hunger by the coronavirus pandemic, which could end up killing more people through lack of food than from the illness itself", Oxfam warned. The report added that, although mass unemployment was affecting all countries, informal workers were suffering the most from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Media report that the #PayUp campaign has, so far, seen 18 fast-fashion brands committing to pay an estimated $15 billion in back orders. Brands that have committed to pay include H&M, Adidas, Zara, Target and Lululemon. 

Bangladesh: Media report that Begum Monnujan Sufian, State Minister for Labour and Employment, has said that the Ministry has donated Tk84 crore from its central fund for the welfare of garments workers across the country. 

Media report that, according to M Nazmul Hassan, Bangladesh High Commissioner in Maldives, many Bangladeshi migrant workers in the Maldives have not been paid their due wages and allowances by their companies and employers. The High Commissioner said that Bangladesh had been in conversations with the government of the Maldives in order to solve this situation and that borders are set to open on the 15th of July, allowing migrant workers to return to Bangladesh. 

Media report that the H&M Foundation has announced a long-term project that aims to support women garment workers in Bangladesh with a primary fund of $1.3 million, starting with their urgent needs connected to COVID-19. The initial support will include cash assistance for food, medication and other necessities, health care and COVID-19 testing, hygiene materials and hand-washing facilities. "As a first step, $1.3 million is donated to WaterAid, CARE and Save the Children to provide around 76,000 young women, their families, and community members in around Dhaka with emergency relief, also reaching 1 million people with messages on COVID-19 and hygiene practices", H&M Foundation's statement reads. 

Cambodia: Media report that over 100 garment workers from the Hana1 Inc factory have submitted a petition to the Prime Minister's cabinet urging the PM to help them find a solution after weeks of protests and negotiations for the factory owner to comply with their payment demands. "The factory owners only settled three points for the workers including last salary, 5% of severance payment and seniority indemnity pay, but they did not settle for us two points including compensation and notice payment, so we demand a resolution for those two", Sokhom, one of the workers, explained. Right now, workers cannot afford to pay rent or to cover their daily expenses. Workers further explained that they submitted this petition to the cabinet because the Labour Ministry failed to settle the problem for them. Kong Chamroeun, an official in the PM's cabinet, said that he received the petition from Hana 1 factory and will send it on. "I received the petition from them already and I will send the petition to high levels to discuss that problem", he said. 

Media report that the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) has urged the Prime Minister of Cambodia to intervene and provide payments to garment workers faster, as many workers have only received $20 from the government after their work was suspended for more than two months. "CCU asks the government to pay the full amount of money to workers in order to make it easy for them to spend on relieving debts and their livelihoods", the union's letter reads. 

Media report that more than 10,000 workers from 18 factories in the Svay Rieng province have been suspended as a result of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. "There are 18 factories that have suspended work as of 2 July. This has affected 10,628 workers", Ros Pharith, provincial deputy governor said. 

India: The Karnataka Garment Workers Union (KOOGU) reports that workers who work at the toxic section of Arvind Ltd, producing denims for brands such as H&M, Levis and Gap, are being physically assaulted, verbally abused and threatened with pay cuts and layoffs by supervisors for refusing to do extra hours. "This is the worst kind of torture I am experiencing in my life. I want respect, better facilities and full wage at my workplace", one of the workers said. 

Media report that it has been over a month since the negotiations between workers, labour department officials and representatives of the Euro Clothing Company (ECC) II started, but no resolution has been reached. Meanwhile, workers explain that factory officials have been trying to intimidate them, urging them to resign and defaming the unions involved. "Two factory officials came to a worker's residence in Pandavapura coercing them to resign saying that the factory will not open again. They had lists of details of other workers who were in the unit", Jayaram KR, from the Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU), said. The New Trade Union Initiative claimed that this was an attempt by Gokaldas Exports (GE), a major apparel exporter in India, to intimidate the workers. "GE is playing with the lack of trust workers have in the judiciary as a method of building coercive pressure on workers to resign" Gautam Mody, General Secretary of the New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) said in a statement. Right now, around 600 workers are still protesting, despite attempts from factory officials to convince them to resign. 

Media report that the Madras High Court has directed the State Government to provide ration supplies to migrant workers, irrespective of whether they have ration cards or not.

Media report that Ludhiana manufacturers are stuck with unsold stock as multi-brand firms seek discounts ranging from 10-30% on confirmed orders that have not yet been delivered and, in some cases, on the already delivered orders. The companies are justifying their demand for hefty discounts by citing losses incurred due to the lockdown and decline in demand. In response, Ludhiana manufacturers explain that they too have suffered huge losses and reiterate that the prices at which they supply their garments to these companies are already very low. If they go ahead with the discounting, manufacturers will incur more losses. "This is turning out to be a very big problem as the garments manufactured by us for these companies carry their brands names and are as per the designs finalised by them, therefore ,we cannot even sell them anywhere else to cash our money stuck in these. I think it’s high time the central government takes note of this problem and order the companies to make full payments to us against their orders", Harish Dua, president of Knitwear and Apparel Exporters Organisation, explained. 

Media report that the owner of a garment unit in Tirupur prevented around 40 migrant workers from boarding a Shramik train to return home. The moment was captured in a video, which received much attention on social media. As a result, K Vijaya Karthikeyan, district collector, has ordered an inquiry. "I have seen the video on social media. Since it is a sensitive issue, we are dealing with it carefully. So, I have launched an RDO inquiry into it. Based on the findings, we will be taking appropriate action", he said. 

Myanmar: Media report that the European Commission (EC) has requested an update on Myanmar’s progress in resolving human and labour rights abuses until mid-September for the country to keep its trade preferences with the European Union. The EC is currently considering the option of triggering a six-month review process on whether to strip Myanmar of its "Everything But Arms" (EBA) status, as it did with Cambodia. "I would certainly strongly caution against taking this market access for granted, or assume that because of COVID-19 we have forgotten the concerns that we have", Kristian Schmidt, EU Ambassador, made clear.

Union organiser reports that workers at the Jin Sen factory in Yangon, which produces
computer bags for Dell, have been taking part in a sit-down strike for two days, after union leaders were fired days after their union was formed.

Media report that many Myanmar migrant workers are still trapped in Thailand without jobs and few options to help them get by. Migrant workers are also faced with the challenge of overcoming local language barriers; many lack the technical and computer skills to access useful information and guidance or support and have limited rights to access government social welfare schemes, including those intended to help people through the coronavirus crisis. "Their lives hang on uncertainties", the article makes clear. 

United States: IndustriALL Global Union has called on the US clothing brand Kohl's to immediately pay for orders placed with global suppliers. "While Kolh's rewarded shareholders a staggering US$109 million dollars in dividends, they chose not to pay for placed orders, jeopardising the livelihoods of thousands of workers", IndustriALL wrote. 

9 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to labour activists, employers in Bangladesh are avoiding paying maternity benefits to pregnant garment workers and purging union members as orders plummet during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The Bangladeshi government has rolled out a major bailout package to keep the industry afloat, but experts have warned that 1.8 million workers are likely to permanently lose their jobs. Already, activists say manufacturers are using COVID-19 as an excuse to weaken unions and purge "undesirable" workers. "[The Covid-19 epidemic] is the chance for manufacturers to handpick the workers they want to kick out of the industry – the ones with a voice, the ones who are trying to organise", Kalpona Akter, founder and executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers' Solidarity, said. Since they began tracking cases four weeks ago, Akter's organisation and others have received reports of the termination of dozens of pregnant workers from more than 30 factories – a number she expects to "increase dramatically in the coming weeks, as workers continue to be fired every day". "My family was depending on my income, and my maternity benefits. We have had to take out loans to survive, but soon that will run out", Mitu, a pregnant worker who was recently fired, explained. Nazma Akter, the president of the union Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation (SGSF), warned that, while firing pregnant workers is illegal, there has seen a spike since brands began cancelling orders. Since May, she has filed 50 lawsuits on behalf of sacked pregnant workers. According to Babul Akhter, the president of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF), union organisers are also being targeted, as there have been anti-trade union activities in a third of the factories where the BGIWF operates. 

Media report that, with the reopening of outlets of major clothing retailers and brands in the EU and US, the inflow of work orders at Bangladeshi garment factories has been on the rise, albeit on a limited scale. Local factory owners said most of them are running at 80% capacity as the buyers are coming back with work orders. The article further states that garment manufacturers now fear that retail sales in the EU and US will slow down again if a fresh wave of infection spreads at those major export destinations.

Media report that a staggering two-thirds of the 50 lakh poor families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic are yet to receive Tk 2,500 each in cash support because of flaws in the lists. Many have been waiting for the last three months. Meanwhile, another article reports that experts have said that the government should engage local NGOs in identifying people and businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis and delivering financial assistance to them for better management of the current challenges. 

Media report that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, called for a "vigorous worldwide response" with the participation of all countries to combat the adverse impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on migrant workers. "The virus does not discriminate but its adverse impacts severely discriminates against the vulnerable, especially the migrants and women workers", she said at a virtual global summit of the ILO. On this matter, the Prime Minister shared a three point-suggestion:

  1. Jobs of migrant workers at the overseas markets must be retained during this crisis;
  2. In case of lay-off, compensation and other dismissal benefits must be paid in full along with ensuring their safety and health benefits;
  3. After the pandemic, migrant workers would have to be recruited for reactivating the economy.

Cambodia: Media report that the factory owners of Vega Textile and Camel Textile garment factories, who produce for Gap Inc, have said that they will buy plane tickets home at the end of July or the beginning of August for more than 20 Cambodian migrant workers who have been trapped in Jordan without employment or income for over three months. Khun Tharo, program manager at labour rights group Central, said that, after Central released its statement demanding that the company pay for workers' flight tickets and the Cambodian government to act, the company threatened migrant workers by saying that they would report them. The article further reports that a representative for Gap Inc, which sources clothing from the two factories in Jordan and other factories in Cambodia, said the issue was beyond the scope of responsibilities of Gap's local branch. 

Media report that, according to the Ministry of Labour, 450 garment, footwear and travel goods factories in Cambodia have suspended operations to date. The article further reports that the Cambodian government has announced that it will allocate $1.16 billion to address the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. "The amount of 564 million dollars has been allocated for health and social assistance and 600 million dollars for economic support through lending to small and medium enterprises", Vongsey Vissoth, Economy and Finance Ministry Secretary of State, said. 

Media report that the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) issued a statement yesterday asking the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other organisations to support its call to the European Commission to delay the withdrawal of Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential trade scheme by one year. 

India: The Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) reports that the Erode District Women's Federation organised a protest attended by more than 300 garment workers against the non-payment of wages and poor working conditions in garment factories, including lack of health and safety measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Media report that the Supreme Court judged that the Maharashtra government's responsibility to find out which groups of migrants are getting food, cash aid, etc., and also pointed out gaps in the affidavit detailing the information on the migrant workers. "Your affidavit says food is being provided to all migrants, but we think it is far from the truth", the bench told the Maharashtra government counsel. 

Indonesia: Media report that over 300 workers in three factories in Semarang City, Central Java, have tested positive for the COVID-19. The government is refusing to disclose the names of the factories as it is afraid that the disclosure will make the US and European buyers move their orders elsewhere. "We're afraid that (the disclosure) will make the US and European buyers run away", the Head of Manpower District Office, said. Nanang Setyono, Chairperson of the Central Java National Workers Union Federation (FKSPN), is concerned that the attitude of the City Government will increase the number of Semarang residents affected by COVID-19. 

Myanmar: SOMO has published a new research into working conditions in two garment factories in Myanmar, Dong Yi and Leader One, before and during the coronavirus crisis. The researchers state that Myanmar's young and vulnerable trade union movement is under threat amidst the coronavirus crisis and call for systemic change. "In this article, data are presented on key labour issues in two garment factories, Leader One and Dong Yi. From intensive interviews with 39 workers, a grim picture of the pre-Corona crisis situation arises. Things cannot go back to the way they were. Let the Corona crisis be a turning point to finally improve the lives of workers in the garment supply chain, starting with these two factories in Myanmar", the report reads.

United Kingdom: Media report that migrant garment workers working in Leicester are being threatened by garment factory owners. In a video, men, identified as textile factory owners, are seen pulling up in expensive cars and staring and yelling at workers who were sharing their experiences with journalists. According to a journalist, "[t]his happened a number of times" and "one of the interviewees was followed by four guys in a 4x4 and shouted at." In another video, one of the workers explained that he was making less than the minimum wage during lockdown. The worker explained that he was making around £5 and taking a "big risk", as the factories were "not safe at all". "It was the same as before Corona – no gloves, no masks, no social distance – nothing", the worker said. Meanwhile, media report that the National Crime Agency has launched an investigation into Leicester's textile industry over allegations of exploitation, while Boohoo says it is currently investigating one of its suppliers in the city and affirming that they will take a "zero tolerance approach", and end relationships with anyone found to be flagrantly flouting the law.

The Guardian has published a podcast titled "The Leicester garment factories exposed by Covid-19", in which Dominique Muller, from Labour Behind the Label (LBL), talks about how LBL has been monitoring allegations of human rights abuses in Boohoo's supply chain, since before the COVID-19 crisis.

The CCC has published an op-ed on Boohoo's Leicester supply chain and how it exemplifies the problems of the garment industry, as brands' aggressive purchasing practices fuel conditions and they hold all the power. Ilana Winterstein, Urgent Appeals Campaigner for the CCC, argues that fashion giant Boohoo is not the only retailer that needs to clean up its supply chains, particularly amidst the coronavirus crisis. "Boohoo must be investigated and face repercussions, but so should the other high street brands currently acting with impunity. There is a moral hypocrisy in the news that brands including Next and Asos have dropped Boohoo, while doing little to challenge the violations within their own supply chains", the article reads. 

8 July 2020

Global: Media report that petitions associated with the #PayUp campaign have collectively garnered more than 210,000 signatures. The article further states that, since the COVID-19-focused #PayUp campaign first launched, swathes of brands have publicly vowed to honour all completed and in-process orders and to work with suppliers to negotiate upcoming orders. Among them are ASOS, Next, Inditex (Zara) and the VF Corporation, owner of Timberland, Vans and The North Face.

The Nation has published an article on how fashion brands are sticking suppliers and workers with unpaid bills. As fashion outlets abruptly canceled factory orders, piles of new clothes now sit idly in the warehouses of Western retailers. As a result, garment workers across Latin America and Asia face factory shutdowns, mass unemployment, and assaults on their unions. The article reports that about 2.3 million of the 4 million Bangladeshi garment workers have been laid off or furloughed and that the pandemic has been used as a pretext to fire pro-union workers in Cambodia and Myanmar. 

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), during the April-June period of 2020, Bangladesh's exports earnings have declined by around 51% compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, during January-June 2020, apparel exports fell by $5.12 billion, mainly due to work order cancellations or stalling orders by global apparel buyers, retailers and brands amidst the coronavirus pandemic. According to BGMEA data, global apparel buyers stalled or cancelled work orders worth $3.18 billion due to the pandemic. In addition, leather and leather goods exporters saw work orders on hold or subjected to cancellation worth $200 million.

Media report that the government has announced that it will distribute free rice to more than 10 million vulnerable people across the country before and during the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha holidays. "It is the largest allocation of aid in a single order under the VGF (Vulnerable Group Feeding) program so far", Md Mohsin, Disaster Management and Relief Ministry Secretary, said. The article further reports that the government's cash aid programme, announced on the 14th of May, has so far reached three million people of the five million it intends to assist. The Minister said that the distribution process for the two million people who are yet to receive aid is underway. Meanwhile, media report that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has said that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a "devastating" impact on the country’s garment sector and expressed concern over the growing level of job losses. "During the pandemic, our external and domestic supply chains were severely disrupted, we lost export orders of billions of dollars. Many of our industries were closed and millions of workers lost their jobs", she said.

Cambodia: Media report that nearly 50 garment workers from the Hana1 Inc factory in Por Senchey district went to the Prime Minister's residence in Daun Penh district this morning in order to ask him to intervene after their negotiation with the company and government officials failed to offer due payments after the factory's closure. "We ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene in our case because the company has yet to pay us in two points", Chet Tra, one of the workers, said. The article states that the workers demanded to be paid last month’s working salary, payments in lieu of unused annual leave, seniority indemnity, compensation and damages. In negotiations, however, the company only agreed to pay them last month’s salary, payment in lieu of unused annual leave and seniority indemnity.

India: The New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) has published a video in which Shobha, one of 1200 workers laid off by the H&M supplier Gokaldas Exports explains how workers from the Euro Clothing Company II are being intimidated. The worker explained that management is scaring them by saying that the coronavirus will spread and that there will be a new lockdown, which will leave workers with nothing. Management is also scaring workers by saying that the case will go to court and that it will take a long time. “Gokaldas is scaring poor women workers to resign. H&M where are you hiding?”, Shobha asks in the video.

Media report that the Union cabinet has approved the development of affordable rental housing complexes (ARHCs) to ensure that thousands of migrant workers in cities have decent and affordable places to live. The cabinet further announced that it will existing vacant government-funded houses, built under UPA-era schemes will be rented out to migrant workers and rent is expected to vary anywhere between Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,000 per month. 

Myanmar: Union organiser reports that workers from the Jin Sen bag factory, in the outskirts of Yangon, which produces computer bags for Dell, are organising a sit-sown strike as the company sent spies to record a union meeting and fired half of the union members yesterday. Workers formed a union earlier this week. This is a clear act of union-busting and a brutal violation of workers freedom to organise.

Media report that the Myanmar Salary Survey 2020 reveals that the many companies across the country are reducing salaries and freezing recruitment as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The survey shows that:

  • 35% of the surveyed companies have implemented pay cuts;
  • 25% of surveyed companies have implemented unpaid leave;
  • 17% of surveyed companies have incorporated part-time work;
  • 39% of surveyed companies said that they would freeze recruitment;
  • 20% of surveyed companies said that they would reduce salaries.

United Kingdom: Media report that Next, Asos and Amazon have decided to pull all Boohoo clothing from sale. Anger over workers' pay and conditions in the company's supply chains has resulted in £1.5bn being wiped from the fast fashion brand's stock market value in two days. Meanwhile, media report that the Boohoo Group is launching an immediate and independent review of its UK supply chain following allegations of mistreatment of garment workers, making an investment commitment of £10m to eradicate supply chain malpractice. Also today, The New York Times has published an article titled "Why You Should Care That Boohoo Is Making Headlines This Week", explaining how the company came to be and the recent revelations on working conditions in their supplier factories.

Media report that Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists are gathering on London's Oxford Street this week to urge fast fashion brands to financially support suppliers overseas throughout the pandemic. 

7 July 2020

Asia: The Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) has released the third issue of the "Emperor Has No Clothes", which highlights the challenges that suppliers, in particular, MSMEs are facing due to the COVID-19 lockdown measures and reduced business activities, and how these challenges translate into increased risk and burden of liability for garment workers. The report highlighted that a majority of the supplier-firms in Asia are not in a financial position to remain operational and pay wages due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The report further states that the crisis has forced supplier associations to demand both "capital-centric" and "labour-centric" concessions from the State, with labor-centric demands attempting to reverse the gains that workers won through decades of collective struggle. The report calls on brands to immediately pay the AFWA Supply-Chain Relief Contribution (SRC) and argues that any COVID-19 recovery programme launched by governments in garment-producing countries needs to invest heavily in supporting "at-risk populations", such as garment workers. 

Bangladesh: Solidarity Center reports that Bangladeshi garment workers from the Sommolito Garment Sramik Federation are calling on factory owners to stop job cuts during the COVID-19 crisis and demanding the creation of a fund, with contributions from factory owners, buyers and the government, to assist garment workers who are struggling to survive amidst the ongoing crisis.

Media report that, even as stores reopen, orders from suppliers in Bangladesh are not increasing, as many retailers and brands plan to sell all-season basics and leftovers from previous collections that weren't sold during lockdown through fall. "We don't think orders for clothing will pick up anytime soon. Shipments could look up ahead of the Christmas but there is no guarantee", Siddiqur Rahman, a Bangladeshi garment supplier to H&M and GAP Inc., said. Indeed, Nike announced that it has already cancelled around 30% of its pre-pandemic factory orders for the autumn and end-of-year holiday season and H&M has said that it will sell some "less seasonal" spring stock through into autumn. Overall, retailers are leaving buying decisions to the last minute, spelling more pain for Asian suppliers.

Media report that, according to manufacturers, the leather goods industry has been severely impacted by the slump in sales at home and abroad amidst the coronavirus crisis, as exports in these sectors have decreased by 22% this year. In light of the situation, the Leather Goods and Footwear Manufacturer & Exporter's Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB) has urged the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) to withdraw source tax on export subsidy to help the industry recover amid the coronavirus fallout. According to the Association, the government gives preferential treatment to major export sectors such as garment exports. "We want the same facilities granted to the garment sector gets. This includes tax breaks on exports, imports, VAT, bonded warehouses and so forth", Nasir Khan, managing director of Jennys Shoes, a local pioneer in the manufacture and export of leather footwear, said. Meanwhile, media report that the BGMEA, BKMEA, BTMA and Exporters Association of Bangladesh have sent a joint letter urging the government to allow 4% cash incentive to garment exporters against their repatriation of export proceeds instead of value addition. The letter was sent by the BGMEA, BKMEA, BTMA and Exporters Association of Bangladesh. 

Cambodia: Media report that Ministry of Labour officials have said that they will begin negotiations with Hana1 Inc and worker representatives to find a solution over owed wages and payments. On the 23rd of June, Hana garment factory announced the immediate closure of its business operation and promised to resolve employee payments in line with legal procedures. However, workers explained that the situation had not been resolved successfully, which has forced them to protest. "We demand compensation in lieu of prior notice and a damages payment as well as the other payments we are owed", Chet Tra, one of the workers, said. Vong Sovann, secretary-general of the ministry’s Labour Dispute Committee said that, for two of the payments demanded by workers, the Ministry will allow the company not to pay, due to the current global crisis, but that he would join negotiations, that will take place today, to find solutions. 

India: Media report that the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is depleting the flow of money from abroad, pinching the families and economies reliant on that income and threatening a long cycle of despair. As migrant workers from South Asia become jobless amidst the coronavirus crisis, remittances, on which many families and national economies depend, severely decrease. Referring to Indian migrant workers that worked in the Gulf countries before the COVID-19 outbreak, the article reports that "[t]he official numbers have yet to be reported, but it’s safe to say that so far thousands have died and millions have lost their jobs. The impact on their families back home has been doubly debilitating: The loss of income from abroad - often from the sole breadwinner in the family - comes at a time of acute local hardship." Overall, The World Bank has said that it estimates a 20% plunge in remittances to low and middle-income countries - the steepest plunge in history. 

Malaysia: Media report that undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia have to pay for COVID-19 tests themselves, despite the fact that many workers lose their legal status due to the fact that their employers fail to renew their work permits. A COVID-19 test can cost up to 400 ringgit (US$93). "Employers are not willing to take them on for work if no tests are done. This means that they must bear the costs and they are also still vulnerable to arrest", Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna, director of migrant legal rights group Our Journey, said. Meanwhile, media report that the Malaysian Police has said that the Al Jazeera report on undocumented migrants in Malaysia will be investigated for several offences including sedition. The article further states that the Immigration Department has warned that foreigners in Malaysia holding long-term passes were at risk of having their passes revoked if they made "damaging remarks against the country".

Also related to migrant workers in Malaysia, media report that the government has announced that migrant workers can now switch companies in the same sector, as some firms ceased operation or dismissed workers and others are facing labour shortage. "There was a fear that job opportunities will be largely lost. But now many of the Bangladeshi migrants are rejoining work after the reopening. This gives a lot of relief", an independent Bangladeshi researcher based in Kuala Lumpur, said. 

Myanmar: SMART Textile and Garments, an EU-funded project that builds capacities for better social and environmental performance across Myanmar's apparel industry, reports that the EU Myan Ku Fund reached 29,376 total cash transfers yesterday to a total of 22,887 individuals. The project reports that new enrolment has slowed down a little, which they hope indicates a bit of economic recovery, but that many are still struggling, as it seems like a full recovery will still take some months. "Many factories are unable to resume full operations and some are still losing orders as demand is sluggish in export markets", SMART wrote on Twitter. They added that the EU Myan Ku Fund targets eventual total support for 50,000 garment workers.

Media report that Daw Khaing Zar Aung, chair of the Industrial Worker’s Federation of Myanmar and a member of the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar, has urged the government to ease voting rules in order to allow workers to vote in the 8 November elections near their work place instead of in their home towns, as it would make it easier for factory workers to vote. “I want to make sure they get to vote on election day”, she said.

United States: Forbes reports that Levi's has agreed to #PayUp, as advocated demand more for garment workers. According to the article, Levi’s declined to comment, but a public statement confirms that they have changed their financing to help at-risk factories. “Levi’s was never among the worst performers, but its decision to delay payments to suppliers, while failing to provide all suppliers with access to low-cost loans, placed workers at risk”, Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), said. Although the company is sticking with its delayed payment timelines, it has agreed to extend low-cost financing to all suppliers who need it while they wait.

Vietnam: Media report that Vietnam’s footwear exports have decreased by 7% in the first half of the year, which is, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, part of the overall “sharp decrease” in manufacturing that the country’s sectors have felt during the January to April period. Meanwhile, the same article reports that garment production has declined by 6.3%, compared to an increase of 8.8% in the same period last year. Entering the second quarter, the Ministry has said that Vietnam’s export activities faced “many challenges” due to the sharp decline in footwear and garment demands.

6 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that over 150,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers face uncertainty amidst the coronavirus pandemic as they eagerly wait to return to their workplaces abroad amidst a shortage of tickets for the limited number of flights leaving Dhaka. The article states that migrant workers might lose their jobs and have their visas cancelled if they fail to reach the countries on time. Some have had to borrow large quantities of money in order to purchase flights before their visas expired. Meanwhile, another article reports that the government has announced that it will provide food assistance for the many Bangladeshi migrant workers who are now stranded in Bangladesh or currently returning, mainly from the Middle East and Southeast Asia. "We will continue to provide them with the assistance until they find an income-generating job for themselves", Enamur Rahman, State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, said. The article further reports that, according to government data, so far, around 21,000 Bangladeshis have returned to the country since April and warned that more could return in the coming months, as many migrant workers have lost their jobs abroad amidst the coronavirus crisis.  

Media report that, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, garment exports destined to the US have plunged by 12.5%, according to the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) of the US. Bangladeshi manufacturers have said that they expect a "slow rebound of shipment to the US market", as some orders have started to come in. "Garment shipment from my factory to the US market might not pick up soon although orders are coming back from the American buyers gradually", AK Azad, managing director of Ha-Meem Group, said. 

Media report that over 125,000 people, many of whom had already lost their jobs amidst the coronavirus crisis, now face homelessness due to the devastating impacts of the flood in Sirajganj. For now, a large number of the flood-hit people are waiting for government relief. "The coronavirus earlier closed our earning, and now flood has made us homeless", Mukti Khatun, from Sirajganj's Kazipur upazila, said. 

Media report that the cash relief programme announced by the government on the 14th of May for 500,000 poor families hit by the coronavirus crisis has failed to reach many vulnerable families in the Kabai union as fake addresses and mobile phones have been found to have been used during the preparation of the beneficiaries' list. In the Kabai union, the list states 952 low-income families. According to members of the community, around 100 of the listed families are yet to receive cash relief due to irregularities found in the list. 

India: Media report that, as many factories report labour shortage as the economy reopens, employers are reviewing their labour policies as they try to lure migrant workers back with incentives. Some companies are promising benefits such as free travel tickets, housing and food to draw workers to urban areas. "We have offered food and other incentives", V.V. Benugopal, country manager with Linfox Logistics India Ltd., said. The article further reports that incentives seem to be working, as Indian Railways’ train services to various cities from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are running full, according to a report in the Times of India.

According to reports from the CCC network, H&M, the main buyer of  the Euro Clothing Company II, which shut down one month ago and left over 1200 workers jobless, has officially said that the company was in dialogue with the union and the management of Euro Clothing. However, nothing positive has come out of this dialogue, as workers are still protesting and without pay. Workers are slowly loosing courage, as 300 workers have already accepted their dismissals. Social media posts show that activists took the streets of Vienna and Berlin, protesting in front of H&M stores with signs that read “Global Labour Solidarity: From Vienna to Sirangapatna”, where the factory in question is located, and “Girls Unite for Labour Rights”, making reference to the “Girls Unite” T-shirt that H&M sells for €5. “We call on you to talk to your supplier and the trade union (GATWU) and make sure your supplier doesn’t have to close the factory during the COVID-19 crisis, that workers are paid and that the existing factory trade union isn’t destroyed”, CCC Austria wrote on twitter. Meanwhile, IndustriALL reports that workers at the Euro Clothing Company II continue to protest against illegal layoffs of 1200 workers, despite harassment and pressure to accept the termination agreement. In a social media post, IndustriALL made clear that it "condemns closing unionised factories, retrenching union members using COVID-19 as an excuse."

Myanmar: Media report that, despite the majority of Myanmar firms reporting that they are not doing well as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, manufacturers have said that they are optimistic about the recovery in production over the next 12 months, with a number of firms reporting plans to expand capacity.

Media report that a Myanmar migrant workers who recently returned from Thailand  has committed suicide in a COVID-19 quarantine centre, where he was set to stay for 21 days. Ko Nay Lin Htet is the second person to commit suicide at this quarantine centre and the third returning migrant worker from Thailand to do so.

United Kingdom: Media report that, after media reports surfaced that one of its Leicester-based supplier factories is paying staff just £3.50 an hour, UK online fast-fashion retailer Boohoo has insisted that it works to ensure everyone in its supply chain is “properly remunerated, fairly treated and safe at work”, adding that it will “terminate” factories that breach its supplier code of conduct. As reported in the article, this is the second time in under a week that Boohoo has found itself at the centre of findings regarding poor practices in its supplier factories in Leicester. An article in The Guardian reports that company shares slumped by 9% on Monday morning, the first day since revelations about Boohoo's supply chain practices came to light. "We are keen and willing to work with local officials to raise standards because we are absolutely committed to eradicating any instance of non-compliance and to ensuring the actions of a few do not continue to undermine the excellent work of many of our suppliers in the area, who provide good jobs and good working conditions", the company said. 

United States: Media report that US apparel imports fell by more than one-fifth month-on-month in May. The same article reports, however, that there has been a resurgence in shipments from Central America and Mexico, as retailers appear to have turned to those suppliers closest to home amidst the reopening of stores. 

5 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that Obaidul Quader, general secretary of the Awami League has urged garment factory owners to pay salaries and allowances to garment workers before the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha. He further urged the BGMEA and the BKMEA to declare Eid holidays for workers in phases. "I am drawing the attention of BGMEA and BKMEA to fix holidays of Eid-ul-Azha for workers of readymade garments and other labour-based industries in phases to avert the spread of coronavirus", he said.

Media report that, despite being in dire straits due to the economic impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the primary textile sector is yet to receive funding from the government's Tk 30,000 crore stimulus package. Manufacturers are unable to resume operations in full due to a lack of working capital, leading to large stockpiles of yarn and other fabrics. "No one has been able to avail the loans from the bailout package as of yet", Mohammad Ali Khokon, president of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), said. 

Media report that more than 3200 undocumented Bangladesh nationals have been repatriated from the Maldives illegally after the country began a government-initiated evacuation process of undocumented workers amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cambodia: Media report that Vong Soth, the Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation has announced that the implementation of the cash transfer programme for poor and vulnerable households, that was implemented around one week ago, has reached more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. He added that,within another week, all of the handouts will have been disbursed to eligible recipients.

Turkey: According to reports from the CCC network, a survey regarding the Turkish garment industry asked respondents about how coronavirus has impacted the overall industry and workers within the sector. It reveals that a few garment factories closed and many reported to have less work amidst the coronavirus pandemic, with a few factories switching their production to masks. In terms of government measures, the government created an allowance law, which allowed employers to apply for the the government to pay 1/3 to 2/3 of workers’ salaries. These funds, however, are provided from the unemployment fund, which means that, if the worker in question wishes to benefit from this fund it the future, the amounts paid amidst the coronavirus crisis, will be deducted. Furthermore, the government banned dismissals for three months. Although the ban is set to be over on 17 July, a three months extension is expected. While passing this ban, the government also announced that employers would be allowed to send workers on unpaid time-off without the worker’s permission. The government pays workers in ‘unpaid time-off’ are the equivalent to €5. When asked about negative impacts the coronavirus crisis has had on garment workers, respondents reported that workers had been affected by:

  • Forced and unpaid leave;
  • Sickness related to COVID-19;
  • Unpaid or delayed wages or part of wages;
  • Being forced to report to work despite non-existent or deficient protection measures/equipment within factories;
  • Being forced to take unpaid leave.

United Kingdom: Media report that an undercover Sunday Times investigation has found that workers in Leicester making clothes destined for the fashion giant Boohoo are being paid as little as £3.50 an hour. The undercover reporter spent two days working at the Jaswal Fashions factory and was told to expect pay of just £3.50 an hour - well below the UK minimum wage of £8.72 for workers aged 25 and over. Clothes made in the factory were reportedly under the Nasty Gal label, which is owned by Boohoo. The Independent further reports that, as a result of this report, Boohoo is now facing a modern slavery investigation, as Priti Patel, the home secretary, asked the National Crime Agency (NCA) to investigate claims of modern slavery in clothing factories in Leicester. The article states that Aastatement from Nasty Gal said Jaswal Fashions was not a "direct supplier" but added that it would investigate the claims. "Nasty Gal does not allow any of its suppliers to pay less than the minimum wage and has a zero-tolerance approach to incidences of modern slavery", the statement said. Meanwhile, the Health and Safety Executive said it was "actively investigating" three textile businesses in Leicester. 

4 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to the BGMEA, 346 garment workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and, so far, 202 of the almost 350 workers have recovered. Manufacturers' associations, such as the BGMEA and the BKMEA, "claim this as their success", while labour leaders say that the figure is so low because most garment workers haven't had access to tests. Chaina Rahman, general secretary of the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council claimed that the BGMEA either hid the real information or did not get it. "The infection among only 350 workers is quite unbelievable while most of the factories are running productions flouting healthcare guidelines", she said. Babul Akhter, general secretary of the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers’ Federation, said that "[m]any workers with COVID-19 symptoms were not tested and these are probably the reason behind the low number of infections among the workers", adding that those who tested positive hid the information in fear that that could cost them their jobs. 

India: Media report that a joint action committee of trade unions staged protests in several parts of Coimbatore on Friday (3 July) condemning the central government’s new labour policies that threaten workers’ rights. The central government plans to merge 44 labour laws under four categories - (1) health and working conditions, (2) industrial relations, (3) social security and (4) safety and wages. P Thangavel, general secretary of AITUC, one of the trade unions that organised the protests, warned that “[w]ith the reforms in place, the workers mights lose all their rights that they were entitled for.” Trade unions demanded that the government:

  • Withdraw its move to increase working hours to 12 hours;
  • Stop encouraging outsourcing methods to recruit people;
  • Decrease the PF percentage from 12% to 10%;
  • Free ration for six months to the workers who lost their jobs;
  • Rs 7500 in cash relief for three months to workers who lost their jobs;
  • COVID-19 insurance for frontline workers.

Meanwhile, media report that, according to government data, only 13% of the free food grains allocated for returning migrant workers under the Atmanirbhar Bharat package have actually reached migrants during the months of May and June. The Central Government announced, in May, that it would distribute 5kg of food grain per month for two months to 8 crore migrant workers who do not have ration cards. The latest data from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution shows, however, that only 2.13 crore migrant workers received food grains in Many, and only 92.44 lakh benefited from the package in June. The data further shows that eleven states and did not distribute even 1% of the quantity they had lifted to the beneficiaries during June. 

Pakistan: According to reports from the CCC network, the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF), the Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), the Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement and other organisations organised a rally at the Karachi Press Club, that was attended by hundreds of workers and representatives of political and social organisations, calling for the increase in petroleum products to be withdrawn and the forced retrenchment of workers to be stopped. Zahra Khan, general secretary of HBWWF, made clear that the country was already suffering from the worst economic crisis as a result of IMF-led policies and that, with its actions the incompetent government had further exacerbated the crisis. She pointed out that more than six million workers have lost their jobs in the last six months and that it is feared that more than 18 million workers will lose their jobs in the coming days. Right now, more than 50% of the country's population has been forced to live below the poverty line, suffering from malnutrition and starvation, she added. Other labour leaders added that, at a time when all opposition parties have miserably failed to protect people’s rights, it is imperative for the working people to wage full-fledged struggle against the incompetent government which work for the IMF and powerful mafias. Protesters demanded that:

  • The increase in petroleum prices be withdrawn and the mafias involved in this crime be brought to justice;
  • The salaries and pensions of workers be increased in proportion to inflation;
  • All fired workers be reinstated;
  • The decision to privatise 43 public institutions should be withdrawn;
  • Water projects for Karachi be completed immediately;
  • Pakistan refuse to repay all foreign debts and spend that amount on people’s welfare schemes;
  • Social protection to all citizens under the Universal Social Security System be provided;
  • In addition to safety gear, training be provided to medical staff on an emergency basis and that their salaries should be increased by 100%.

NTUF protest

Serbia: According to reports from the CCC network, a survey regarding the Serbian garment industry asked respondents about how coronavirus has impacted the overall industry and workers within the sector. It reveals that one factory has closed in Subotica and that several Olimpijas subcontracting factories in Niš, that produced for Benetton, have gone for foreclosure. Respondents pointed out that the decision to foreclose the subcontracting factories has been taught to be a business strategy of Olimpijas that is now seeking to employ workers that lost their jobs on temporary contracts. The survey further reveals that, although many factories changed their production to masks at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, most of the factories are now back to producing regular products. In terms of government measures, respondents stated that all citizens received €100 and that the government covered minimum wage payments for workers from businesses that applied for such help. Employers were not allowed to apply, however, if they fired over 10% of their workforce amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Regarding inspections, respondents pointed out that labour inspections have been cut by at least 70% amidst the coronavirus pandemic and that there have been numerous examples of labour inspectorate failing to react to evident health standards violations. When asked about negative impacts the coronavirus crisis has had on garment workers, respondents reported that workers had been affected by:

  • Forced and unpaid leave;
  • Sickness related to COVID-19;
  • Being forced to report to work despite non-existent or deficient protection measures/equipment within factories;
  • Being fired or forced to resign;
  • Being pushed to do more unpaid overtime;
  • Being employed or reemployed in less favourable conditions;
  • The failure to follow labour laws.

3 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that the BGMEA has opened a 50-bed hospital in the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) of Saltgola, in Chattogram, for COVID-19 patients. The Commerce Minister said that the initiative will help control transmission and accelerate treatment for garment workers and other disadvantaged people in the area, free of cost. Meanwhile, another article reports that the dedicated laboratories in this area, where many garment workers have shown symptoms, are taking more than three weeks to deliver COVID-19 test results, which is causing severe difficulties. 

Media report that hundreds of thousands of people, who had come to Dhaka in hopes of leading a better future for themselves as well as for their children, are now being forced to leave the city due to job cuts amidst the coronavirus crisis. According to different studies, around 36 million people have lost their jobs, 16 million have become 'new poor' and 95% of Bangladesh's lower-income population has faced a serious income drop since March. Many workers are now jobless, but still have to pay rent, food and, in many cases, debts. "My family and I are starving now and we have also failed to pay our rents for the past three months", a worker who's livelihood has been severely impacted by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, said. 

According to reports from the CCC network, the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation (BIGUF) has been providing emergency food support to vulnerable garments workers in Chattogram, supported by the CCC.

BIGUF relief

Cambodia: Media report that labour unions are urging brands to raise workers' low wages, as they play play an important role in garment workers' conditions. The CCC has found that 93% of surveyed brands failed to provide evidence that they are paying a living wage to any of their suppliers while 63% do not disclose the names or addresses of suppliers or only partially comply with the transparency pledge. According to the CCC, brands have continued to ruthlessly seek lower prices for goods, forcing suppliers to operate on narrow profit margins and squeezing the already-low wages of workers in their supply chains. Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC), urged brands to pay higher prices for their products in order to increase workers' living wage. 

Media report that the Labour Ministry has warned the president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) and her union that the union could be dissolved over their allegedly illegal incitement of workers to protest over a garment factory closure that left workers without contracts and compensation. The letter claimed that Sophorn, the president of CATU, led workers to hold activities that caused a traffic jam, which is, according to the letter, against the law, and of encouraging workers to gather, which goes against the Health Ministry’s COVID-19 health safety guidelines. In response, Sophorn has expressed her disappointment and denied the ministry’s accusations against her, saying that she had not incited workers or conducted illegal activities. Khun Tharo, a program manager from the labour rights group Central, said that the ministry's warning letter to Sophorn was a kind of threat to union leaders who participate in protests and a violation of basic labour rights. Meanwhile, another article reports that the same union and two rights groups (Central and Licadho) were accused by one of the nation’s largest banks of trying to damage financial institutions’ reputations. ACLEDA Bank accused the organisations of defamation and urged the government to "take action" against them after they issued a report calling for debt relief for workers, who are struggling to repay their loans after losing their jobs amidst the coronavirus crisis. The statement, which did not explicitly threaten legal action, also demanded that the NGOs cease any further actions that could impact the reputation of banks and MFIs.

Media report that government officials from Cambodia and Thailand are in discussions regarding the possibility of reopening their shared border in order to lift the economic deadlock caused by border restrictions implemented during the coronavirus lockdown. 

El Salvador: Media report that the Labour Ministry has initiated dialogue with some employers whose workers have denounced labour violations amidst the coronavirus pandemic. To date, there are 10,237 complaints related to the suspension of contracts, 9607 of which denounce unpaid wages. Another article reports that, according to the Minister of Labour, Rolando Castro, the hope is to reach an agreement between employers and impacted workers on a case by case basis. 

India: Media report that hundreds of workers from India’s leading apparel export house Gokaldas Exports (Euro Clothing Company-II ) have been protesting against their layoffs for almost one month. Workers havave been holding daily protests in front of their factory, in Srirangapatna. The article also states that H&M, this factory's main buyer, has issued a statement a few days ago saying that it has been in touch with the factory in order to ensure that the issue is resolved peacefully. The state’s Deputy Labour Commissioner is also looking into this matter, but the issue still remains unresolved. 

Macedonia: According to reports from the CCC network, a survey regarding the Macedonian garment industry asked respondents about how coronavirus has impacted the overall industry and workers within the sector. It reveals that a few factories have closed and that many reported to have less work amidst the coronavirus crisis. As the situation with the virus progressed in the country, the garment industry led the wave of collective layoffs, layoffs by employers, overcrowding, minimum wage payments, abuses of fixed-term contracts and non-compliance with the most vulnerable contracts that are protected by government regulations. The government has adopted measures to provide relief to recently unemployed workers, such as providing an allowance of at least 50% of their averaged salary and accelerated access to social protection during April and May for workers who lost their jobs in the informal sector. Regarding the garment sector, the government has provided €1M in financial support to create a digital platform where companies will place their products. When asked about negative impacts the coronavirus crisis has had on garment workers, respondents reported that workers had been affected by:

  • Unpaid or delayed wages or part of wages;
  • Sickness related to COVID-19;
  • Being forced to report to work despite non-existent or deficient protection measures/equipment within factories;
  • Being fired or forced to resign;
  • Being pushed to do more unpaid overtime;
  • Being employed or reemployed in less favourable conditions;
  • Not being paid the legal minimum wage;
  • Workers on parental leave not being paid in line with the government’s requirements.

Respondents further reported that, for the first time, trade unions are coming together together with local organisations working for the protection of workers’ rights to protect workers’ rights and ensure income for employees amidst the coronavirus crisis. On the 29th of April, a joint statement was sent to the government to oppose the decision of the Minister of Finance regarding the possibility for companies that use financial assistance to reduce the number of employees. In response to the joint statement, the government adopted a decree that financially supports workers and employers affected by COVID-19 and, with the new amendments, the jobs of workers have been secured, as well as their working rights.

Myanmar: Media report that over 660 Myanmar migrant workers returned to Myanmar from Thailand on the 1st of July. Many migrant workers are going back to Myanmar through their own arrangements with the permission of Myanmar Embassy in Thailand.

Union organiser reports that there was a small electric fire at the Amber Stone factory, which produces for Primark and where management recently fired union members, and that security blocked the only factory exit door whilst workers tried to exit the building. As a result, some workers were injured. Workers have been reaching out to Primark for weeks, but there has been no assistance from the brand, which continues to tweet about "Equality" and "Sustainability", but fails to address the issues within its supply chain. 

Taiwan: Media report that Taiwan has announced that it will adopt the ILO's standard that requires sleeping areas for migrant workers to provide at least 3.6 square meters of floor space per person. According to the Ministry of Labour, there are currently around 700,000 migrant workers in Taiwan, 440,000 of  which work in the manufacturing sector.

United Kingdom: The Guardian has published an article, written by Meg Lewis, from Labour Behind the Label (LBL), reiterating that LBL's report "told a stark tale of lockdown breaches, furlough fraud and conditions of modern slavery in Leicester's garment factories." The article points out that, after failing to heed warnings to properly monitor conditions there, Alok Sharma, the business secretary, has now said that he will investigate. "The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the inequalities in the garment industry. We need far greater transparency in our supply chains, and governments and clothing brands alike must commit to due diligence to protect human rights in the industry", Meg Lewis wrote. 

United States: Media report that the Public Health Department has closed three Los Angeles Apparel factories after 150 garment workers tested positive. The CEO of LA Apparel has pledged to reopen soon, saying that the company is cooperating with county health officials, re-testing employees and devising a strategy to reopen. The Garment Worker Center, a nonprofit that advocates for garment worker rights, pointed out that the closure came after weeks of concern among employees about hazardous conditions and potential breakouts at the factories, as the Center had received reports from workers who had tested positive. "We’ve been concerned about LA Apparel because we’d been getting calls at least since May", Marissa Nuncio, director of The Garment Worker Center, said. 

2 July 2020

Global: Media report that, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the coronavirus crisis has taken a much heavier toll on jobs than previously feared, as 400 million people have lost their full-time jobs globally. This number has been revealed through the ILO's new study and is more than double the number forecast by the ILO back in April, when it expected 6.7% of working hours to be lost by the end of the second three-month period of the year. "Things are getting worse. The job crisis is deepening", Guy Ryder, ILO chief, said. "We are not through this yet", he warned.

Bangladesh: Media report that, although the EU has offered a €113 million grant so that around one million retrenched workers be paid at Tk3,000 for three months, the government's unwillingness to develop a model for the wage disbursement has left retrenched workers, mostly from the garment sector, in uncertainty. Instead of the disbursements, the government wants to create a welfare fund with the grant. "In April, I lost my job as the owner downsized the work force due to a lack of work orders. When I learnt about the EU compensation for three months, it was my hope that it would  help me till I found a new job. If it takes too long to disburse the fund, the ill fated workers will have to leave the city soon and will not be able to find another job", Arman, an operator at a garment factory located in Gazipur, explained. Stakeholders, including trade union leaders and people connected with the EU mission, have said procrastination in making decisions and the bid to create a welfare fund will make things uncertain for the workers. "Workers are facing severe cash shortages as they try to lead life since they have not had jobs for the last two months. If they do not get money during the crisis, what will they do with the funds", Nazma Akhter, president of Sammilito Garments Sramik Federation, said. 

Media report that Bangladeshi garment exports have declined by 18.45%, the highest decrease in the history of Bangladesh's garment export sector. Manufacturers have found the main cause for this decline to be the cancellation of orders by global buyers, retailers and brands. Meanwhile, media report that the government of Bangladesh has requested that the USA provide duty-free market access for Bangladeshi garment products for two years as the industry is bearing the brunt of the cancellation of orders by US buyers. The request was placed by Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen to the US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo on Monday. 

Media report that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is working with the BGMEA and the BKMEA to launch a comprehensive safety and training package to help the RMG industry better protect and monitor workers and their working conditions during the COVID-19 crisis. The RMG 'Learning Hub', as it is called, will focus on three core areas: (1) raising COVID-19 prevention awareness among workers and factory management; (2) ensuring COVID-19 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) preparedness guidelines are being followed, and (3) continuing to promote strong social dialogue in the workplace.

Cambodia: Media report that about 400 garments, footwear and travel goods factories in Cambodia have suspended their operations, leaving over 150,000 workers jobless amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), the Cambodia Footwear Association and the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, who reported these figures in a joint statement, warned that numbers would likely go up. "This number is likely to rise sharply in the coming weeks as numerous brands and retailers in Europe and North America have canceled or delayed orders due to the drop in retail sales in Europe from the pandemic", the statement said. 

Meanwhile, media report that around 300 Cambodian garment workers protested the scheduled closure of their factory in Phnom Penh, calling on the country’s Ministry of Labour to help them get the compensation that they are owed. The factory in question is Hana1, which employs 800 workers. The factory declared bankruptcy on the 22nd of June and is now set to close, with factory representatives saying the factory can’t afford to pay its workers because of financial losses due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis. "We are facing many difficulties. Our rent is due soon. I have no money now to pay my back debts", So Chea, who worked at this factory, said. Another article reports that the workers from Hana1 were stopped by the police from marching marching to Prime Minister Hun Sen's house. "The company did not pay our compensation even after three rounds of negotiations. That’s why we wanted to go to Prime Minister Hun Sen himself to seek help", a worker explained. Workers were then redirected by the police to the Ministry of Labour, where they protested.

Media report that several hundred workers also protested in front of the now-shuttered Violet Apparel Cambodia in Phnom Penh. According to workers, the factory had said that it would only suspend workers for two months. "They also promised to pay each worker $30 each month, but the factory closed when the two months had passed", a worker said. According to a social media post, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training of Cambodia has issued a warning letter to Yang Sophorn, President of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) for helping members of the union protest against the shut down of their factory, Violet Apparel Cambodia. 

Nepal: Media report that, as many Nepali migrant workers have lost their jobs and more than 56% of Nepali households receive remittances that are vital to their livelihoods, many families have no other choice but to skip meals. "I skipped several evening meals to save whatever little food I had for my daughter", a 25-year-old who said that they had no money for rent after the payments from her husband, a Nepali migrant workers, stopped. 

Poland: According to reports from the CCC network, a survey regarding the Polish garment industry asked respondents about how coronavirus has impacted the overall industry and workers within the sector. It reveals that many factories have changed their production to masks and that it is likely that, overall, factories have less work. Respondents made clear that the government has created no measures regarding the garment industry and that there have been no special exemptions to labour laws. In terms of labour inspections, respondents said that the National Labour Inspectorate suspended inspections amidst the coronavirus crisis. When asked about negative impacts the coronavirus crisis has had on garment workers, respondents reported that workers had been affected by:

  • Forced and unpaid leave;
  • Unpaid or delayed wages or part of wages;
  • Sickness related to COVID-19, as at least 10 workers from the Polanex company in Gniezno tested positive for COVID-19;
  • Being forced to report to work despite non-existent or deficient protection measures/equipment within factories, which was also reported by workers from the Polanex company in Gniezno;
  • Being fired or forced to resign.

Romania: According to reports from the CCC network, a survey regarding the Romanian garment industry asked respondents about how coronavirus has impacted the overall industry and workers within the sector. It reveals that few factories within the country have closed, but that most have set their employees in technical unemployment, during which the State has paid 75% of their salary. Overall, factories have less work and many factories have changed their production to masks and single-use clothes. In terms of government support, respondents that the only measure that has been applied by the state is a 40% of the gross salary financial support to industries, including the garment industry. In terms of labour inspections, respondents reported that labour inspection offices received the recommendation from the ministry to be "more relaxed" during the lockdown period and not to "overcheck". Respondents believe that no adequate monitoring on protection measures took place. When asked about negative impacts the coronavirus crisis has had on garment workers, respondents reported that workers had been affected by:

  • Unpaid or delayed wages or part of wages was reported from the TANEX company;
  • Sickness related to COVID-19, as at least 50 Sri Lankan workers from the SORSTE factory in Vrancea tested positive. 

1 July 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that there were more than 100 protests and demonstrations in Bangladesh's six industrial zones, mainly over unpaid wages. Indeed, Industrial Police data reveals that workers from around 1004 factories, 436 of which as textiles and RMG factories, are yet to receive their wages for the month of May. The data revealed that 134 BGMEA factories did not pay May's wages, even though the Association claims that only 40 factories failed to pay. It further concludes that 266 BKMEA-factories and that 36 BTMA-factories had not paid as of Monday, the 29th of June. The employers' associations said that the factories that failed to pay were mostly small in size and were not covered by the government's relief programme. 

Media report that a new report released yesterday by FIDH and Odhikar calls on the government to  strengthen the legislative and policy framework for worker rights in the RMG and construction sectors, as research conducted within these sectors reveals widespread and systematic human rights violations, including: gender-based wage discrimination, sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV), dangerous workplaces, insufficient provision of healthcare and sanitation and child labour. These human rights violations in the workplace, in turn, perpetuate and entrench widespread inequality and discrimination of women in Bangladeshi society, the report makes clear. 

Cambodia: Media report that the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has announced that businesses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic do not have to pay "damages" and "prior notice payments" to their workers. The Ministry said that, according to Cambodian law, the economic consequences for factories and enterprises in the textile, garment, footwear, travel products and handbags business as a direct result of COVID-19 is a reason that may be considered for the termination of employment contracts, as the Labour Law states that "economic hardship or any special difficulties that cause the suspension of activities for longer than two months allows for the suspension of employment contracts." Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers warned that employers will use this announcement to terminate workers and escape from paying benefits. "It is becoming easier to terminate workers", he said.

Media report that the Ministry of Labour has questioned the methodology and accuracy of the survey, conducted by the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), the Center for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights, that showed that garment workers in Cambodia are struggling to repay micro-finance debts following work stoppages and factory suspensions amidst the coronavirus crisis. Another article, however, points out that the organisations were clear about the methodology of the survey and states that almost all the respondents said that they were indebted and had to eat less food, take other loans, or sell their land to repay their debts. In the first article, the Ministry's spokesperson added that it has paid out-of-work allowances seven times so far to workers in the garment and tourism sectors, providing a total of $3.9 million to 169,161 suspended workers. 

According to reports from the CCC network, the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) has issued a statement calling on the Government of Cambodia to immediately intervene in the repatriation of a number of Cambodian citizens currently trapped in Jordan. According to the media statement, Vega Textile Co. Ltd and Camel Textile International Cooperation, two garment factories in Jordan, dismissed at least 21 Cambodian workers on the 17th of March without purchasing their flight tickets back to Cambodia, which goes against their contracts and verbal agreements. In addition, both factories have failed to pay social insurance. As a result, Cambodian migrant workers have been stranded in Jordan without employment or income for over three months. In response, CENTRAL calls on the Cambodian Government, in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Cambodia’s diplomatic missions in Egypt and Kuwait, to swiftly intervene in this case and ensure that Vega Textile and Camel Textile fulfil all of their duties, particularly in repatriation of Cambodian workers and payment of social security benefits. 

Meanwhile, media report that the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), the Cambodia Footwear Association (CFA) and the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (EuroCham) responded to a letter issued by the Chair of the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee in response to their previous appeal to postpone the 12th of August effective date of the partial withdrawal of Cambodia’s EBA trade benefits for 12 months due to the economic impact of the pandemic on the sector. The letter states that, since the beginning of the outbreak, around 400 factories in the garment and footwear sectors have suspended operations, affecting at least 150,000 workers in the sector. The associations asked the European Commission to reconsider their decision. “We are asking that the EU take a reasonable time to consider the impact now”, Ken Loo, from GMAC, said.

India: Media report that, as factories reopen but their creches remain shut, parents are being forced to give up their jobs in garment factories in India. "Parents were called by the management and simply told to stop coming to work as creches would be closed... There was no discussion and many were forced to quit", a garment worker explained. "In the name of safety, managements have targeted working mothers and left many with no choice but to quit. The decision has pushed thousands of women with toddlers into deep crisis", Saroja Kannappa, general secretary of the women-led Garment Labour Union, adding that the closure of creches is illegal and violates a worker's basic rights. 

Myanmar: The Embassy of the Republic of Myanmar in Israel has announced that it is organising repatriation flights for Myanmar migrant workers that have lost their jobs at a number of factories in Jordan, including Vega Textile and Camel Textile. “The Myanmar Government should be applauded for its swift intervention to rescue Burmese citizens trapped abroad. The Cambodian Government should follow Myanmar’s example and, as it did for Cambodians trapped in Malaysia, liaise with airline companies to organise repatriation for these Cambodian citizens trapped in Jordan without employment or income”, Tola Moeun, Executive Director of CENTRAL, wrote in a media statement

Media report that, according to the Ministry of Labour, over 60,000 factory workers across the country had lost their jobs by the end of April, as 5658 factories, including 270 large ones, had shut down due to lack of raw materials or cancelled orders and that, in response, the government is now seeking ways to help these workers get jobs. The Deputy Minister said that despite COVID-19, 57 new factories opened in the country in April and May. "They needed hundreds of workers so they contacted us, and this opened up jobs for displaced workers", he said. 

Union organiser reports that K-World Garment Factory workers in Myanmar have won their sit-down strike, after nearly two weeks of sitting at their sewing stations doing no work. Workers have won a union agreement that ends verbal abuse from managers, affirms union recognition and a wage-bonus. They further report that workers at the Amber Stone in Myanmar, which produces from Primark, are wearing red headbands in protest of the dismissal of 30 union leaders and brutal assault of the union leader by men hired by the company. 

Nepal: Media report that, as the government’s plan to repatriate Nepali workers in dire need to return home, has been criticised for making workers, who send remittances to support the country’s economy, pay for their own tickets and quarantine facilities, the Supreme Court has issued a ‘show-cause’ notice to the government as to why the state shouldn’t pay for the rescue and repatriation of destitute and unemployed citizens unable to buy a ticket home or pay for a hotel room for quarantine. “Making workers foot all the bills is also against the provision in the act on the use of the foreign employment welfare fund for the purpose of rescue and repatriation”, one of the petitioners made clear.

United Kingdom: Articles in The Guardian and The Financial Times report that, according to a report by Labour Behind the Label (LBL), some garment factories in Leicester, where at least 75% of production is for Boohoo, stayed open as normal throughout the coronavirus crisis and ordered workers to continue to report to work even when they were sick. One unnamed worker quoted in the report said he had told his employer he was unwell but was told to come in to work anyway, even after testing positive. He was told not to tell any other workers about the result. In one factory with 80 staff, around 15 had COVID-19 at the same time. Workers in a number of factories told the group that there had been no physical distancing measures in place and that their employers had closed only for a few days, if at all. The LBL report also revealed "furlough fraud", as workers were asked to hide payslips so that management could claim more public money and being told to come to work if they wished to be paid furlough money. "Allegations of abuse at many Leicester companies have been reported for years now. So far, the local and central government have failed to take any meaningful action. Instead they have seemed to focus on immigration raids, which have made vulnerable workers more fearful of speaking out", Dominique Muller, the author of the Labour Behind the Label report, said. Meanwhile, media report that Boohoo has replied to the findings of the report by publishing a statement that said that the company had "fundamentally changed the way that we operate" since coronavirus and that "every decision we have made has had the safety and wellbeing of our people at heart". Boohoo added that third-party auditors would be visiting production sites this week.

United States: Media report that LA Apparel has been confirmed as the unidentified company the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it shut down over the weekend, after reporting that more than one hundred workers who had been producing PPE for the last three months had tested positive for COVID-19. "The garment industry has not done well historically to protect workers, and the pandemic just sort of exposes that and really intensifies existing bad conditions", Marissa Nuncio, director of the Garment Worker Center, an advocacy group, said. 

According to social media posts, Workers United organised demonstrations in Wisconsin and New York telling Kohl's to pay garment workers in Bangladesh. 

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published 2020-08-06