September 2020: 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.

This is the content of our ongoing coverage from September 2020.


For the latest news go to https://cleanclothes.org/covid19

Our blog archive:

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

30 September 2020

Global: Media report that labour rights groups are calling on leading businesses such as H&M, Primark and Nike to ensure that the workers who make their clothes are compensated in full, both during the pandemic and beyond. 

Bangladesh: Media report that experts and businesses recommended that the government adopt an alternative stimulus package disbursement process for micro and small enterprises, as 50% of these businesses are yet to receive any relief despite having been severely hit by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cambodia: CARE International reports that CARE Cambodia is distributing dignity kits to garment factory workers who have either been suspended or lost their jobs amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, media report that the World Bank has forecast a sharp contraction of negative two percent for the Cambodia's economy this year, adding that the country's unfavourable growth outlook alongside disruptions to jobs and lower household incomes means that poverty is likely to increase. The bank added that "significant uncertainty" remains for Cambodia's economic growth outlook because of the COVID-19 crisis, deeper and prolonged decline in tourist arrivals and increased global trade tensions. "Cambodia’s economy and its key growth drivers – namely construction, tourism and merchandise exports - continue to be severely affected by the global crisis unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic", the World Bank said.

India: Media report that two garment workers from Jay Jay Mills in Tamil Nadu, India, have been falsely implicated in a kidnapping case while they resisted sexual harassment by a factory manager. When the manager tried to harass the two women workers in a secluded area outside the factory, they retaliated against him by using pepper spray and chilli powder and later raised a complaint to the local police that they had been sexually harassed for many months. Instead of registering the case as sexual harassment, the police filed a case against the workers alleging that they had kidnapped the manager. Workers have now been bailed out with support from their colleagues. The Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) has demanded that a proper investigation be held and that the perpetrator be punished. 

Indonesia: Media report that Indonesia has launched its Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP), which aims to promote decent work and productive employment. The programme will run from 2020-2025 with immediate affect and, according to key labour actors, has taken the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic into account. 

Myanmar: UK brand Regatta Outdoors has denied responsibility for the two workers who have been fired for leading the union fight for safe working conditions at Htan Ta Pin factory. The company said that they sourced from another factory, but a union organiser reports that the factories are owned by the same person. Workers are yet to be reinstated, even though a court order told the factory to do so.

Philippines: Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) reports that it invited adidas, lululemon, Under Armour and Saucony to respond to reports that thousands of workers were laid-off in factories located in the Mactan Economic Zone, from which these brands supply. While adidas, lululemon and Under Armour responded, Saucony did not. Adidas said that the supplier denied labour advocates' findings. Lulemon said that they will "continue to be in close contact with the supplier and with the other buyers in the facility to monitor the situation." Under Armour said that they have "advised Sports City to take all necessary steps to safeguard its workers' health and safety including those related to COVID-19 arising under local governmental directives and recommendations." Sports City, which was also invited to respond to the reports, said that they informed workers in early August.

Slovenia: Media report that, according to the Workers' Counselling Service (WCS), the first port of call for migrant workers having issues with their Slovenian employers, abuse of labour regulations has worsened since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Currently, anyone arriving from a long list of countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, is subject to mandatory quarantine in Slovenia, originally 14 days but this month cut to 10. WCS reports that quarantine has cost many migrant workers their jobs and explained that employers have been insensitive to the personal reasons that cause migrant workers to visit home and incur quarantine on return to Slovenia. "We have a case of a worker who left because his wife suffers from cancer, she is having chemotherapy. With his wife feeling weak, the worker went home to Bosnia but on return to Slovenia he was fired", Goran Lukic, from the Service, explained. 

Thailand: Media report that Thailand has extended its state of emergency for another month in order to control the spread of the coronavirus. 

United Kingdom: Media report that campaigners for garment workers' rights have renewed their calls for government action after fast fashion retailer Boohoo reported a massive increase in profits despite the controversy over conditions in its Leicester supply factories. Boohoo's pre-tax profits soared by 51% year-on-year in the six months to the end of August, while revenues rose 45%. 

29 September 2020

Global: According to reports from media and CCC network, Clean Clothes Campaign has launched a new campaign: "Pay Your Workers". The campaign challenges brands and retailers to publicly show that they are committed to safeguarding the livelihood of their workers by publishing the wage assurance on their website. This assurance means that brands commit to ensuring that their workers are paid what they are owed, both during the pandemic and beyond. 

Media report that global remittances are projected to decline by about 20% this year, which showcases how migrant workers have been affected by the economic impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Gary Rynhart, senior official at the ILO, explained that "[j]ob losses have often hit migrant workers hardest, because they are more likely to work in informal jobs which can lack safety nets, in case of job loss or illness." In addition to the threat of job losses, the COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the poor conditions that many migrant workers live in, as workers in crowded dormitories have been disproportionately affected. 

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to the Swiss organisation Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), around 43% of workers in the Bangladesh's ready-made garments (RMG) industry suffer from malnutrition. 

Media report that the government's COVID-19 stimulus package has been disproportionately distributed, particularly in terms of how quick businesses were to receive the funds in different sectors. The article reports that while sectors like export-oriented and large industries were quick to receive their funds, SMEs are still waiting for relief, making it difficult for them to pull through the losses incurred by the pandemic. Meanwhile, media report that Bangladesh's trade deficit for the current financial year narrowed by over 65% year on year in July-August, mainly do to a rebound in ready-made garment exports. The article further reports that the Policy Research Institute made clear that, while the government-announced stimulus package had helped the country's export sector rebound, the package designed for SMEs was "not picking up pace".

Cambodia: Media report that, according to the World Bank, poverty rates are likely to increase for the first time in twenty years. Hit by the global economic slowdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia's economy is projected to contract by 2%. Like other countries in the region, Cambodia has been heavily impacted by the global economic downturn, as the country’s key sectors - tourism, construction and retail exports - are heavily dependent on the global economy. 

Central America: Media report that union organisations in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, which together comprise the Regional Coordinator of Textile Maquila Unions in Central America (CRSM), have announced the launch of a regional campaign aimed at recuperating the salaries of 200,000 garment workers whose contracts were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign also calls for health and safety protocols to be followed in factories, for COVID-19 to be considered an occupational illness or injury, and for a social fund able to provide income to workers when their contracts are suspended to be created. The campaign will involve public campaigning throughout the region and will initiate dialogue with major brands. 

Malaysia: Media report that the latest data released by Malaysia’s Department of Statistics show that the textile, apparel, leather and footwear sectors are still struggling to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Figures show that textile and garment production has decreased from -9,6% in June to almost -13% in July. These figures have generated doubts regarding the government’s stimulus package’s ability to shield the sector amidst the pandemic. The same article reports that, even though companies across all sectors are able to apply for the government’s relief schemes, the two Hong Kong-based garment giants, Esquel and TAL Apparel, have shut down their operations in Malaysia, affecting over 7000 workers.

Myanmar: Union organiser reports that 700 union members from Dihuali factory, Yangon, which make clothes for Mango, remain in the streets, months after having been fired for demanding clean drinking water, toilets, fire safety, and social distancing protections. 

Media report that tens of thousands of workers will face financial difficulties as COVID-19 stay-at-home orders mandate 47 factories in Bago Region to close until 11 October. “All work has been suspended. Workers are usually paid on the fifth of every month, but now may be paid only when the factories reopen on October 11. This will cause a huge financial problem for tens of thousands of workers”, Ma Honey, chair of the Bago textile labour union, made clear.

United Kingdom: Media report that Labour Behind the Label (LBL) has welcomed the publication of the independent inquiry led by Alison Levitt QC into Boohoo's Leicester supply chain as a "damning indictment" of the fast fashion retailer's practices, culture and failings. LBL urged the UK government to act to "curb the abusive business practices of brands" and to "urgently assess" the need for mandatory due diligence. Another article reports that the Ethical Trade Initiative has said that the inquiry's findings cannot be fully trusted.

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.

COVID-19 Impact Survey Report by Decent Work CheckIndonesia and Ethiopia garment industry.

Background and position papers

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

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

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

ECCHR policy paper "Garment Industry in intensive care?"

ECCHR, SOMO and Pax paper on responsible business relationships.

AFWA's paper The emperor has no clothes.

Traidcraft Exchange "Bailing out the supply chain"

ECCHR-WRC paper "Force majeure"

UN Special Rapporteur report "Looking back to look ahead"

Basic health information

Hesperian Health Guides' COVID-19 Fact Sheet

28 September 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that Ring Shine Textiles has declared lay-off of the factory for one month, up to 25 October due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the manager, the factory will close due shortage of imported raw materials and lack of orders from foreign buyers.

The Daily Star has published an op-ed by Mostafiz Uddin, owner of Denim Expert Limited, who argues that Bangladesh's garment industry should invest in technology and sustainability amidst the pandemic. "I truly believe the decisions our industry takes now will define us for the next two decades. Over the past two decades we have become synonymous with low cost clothing, thousands of manufacturers producing the same staple items. (...) Now is the time for our industry to double-down on its investment in technology and sustainability", he writes. 

Cambodia: Media report that garment workers in Cambodia have expressed concern over the small increase in minimum wages promised next year, amidst rising rent and food costs and crippling loans. "It would be good if rent was not also increasing", Kheang, a garment worker who works in a factory in Chak Angre, explained. Another worker, Thoeun Sokha, explained that her wage is eaten up by increasing food prices, medical expenses and rent, all while she has to send money home to support her child and mother, who live in the province. As Ath Thorn, from the Cambodian Labour Confederation, warned when the increase was announced: "the $2 increase for workers helps them. But, if the rent goes up, it will be harder for them."

Media report that Cambodia's Garment Manufacturers Association (GMAC) has filed a case against the European Commission, seeking a court order to restore trade perks from the EU. 

India: According to reports from the CCC network, Garment Labour Union (GLU) joined the day-long protest in Karnataka today, called by farmer organisations, trade unions, and others to oppose the anti-labour and anti-farmer legislations introduced by the State and Central governments of India. Over 100 garments workers took part. They protested against demonetisation, GST changes, the curtail of 44 labour laws into 4 laws, the privatisation of public sectors, and amendments to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act and land reforms acts. Meanwhile, media report that the Ministry of Labour and Employment continues to dismiss workers, unions and activists' criticisms of the labour law reforms. 

GLU protest

Media report that India's factories are no longer facing labour shortage, as a large number of migrant workers have returned to urban areas for work. However, factories are not yet operating at full capacity due to lack of orders and raw materials shortages. The same article reports that, although many migrant workers have returned to the cities, some remain in rural areas, as they were able to find jobs in their villages. 

Nepal: Media report that, despite rising COVID-19 cases, at least 22,000 Nepali migrant workers have left for India in the last four weeks via the Nepalgunj border point for work. Authorities explained that workers left due to lack of employment opportunities in Nepal.

Myanmar: Media report that some factories and workshops in Mandalay’s industrial zones have temporarily closed as three townships have been placed under a stay-at-home order. Even though the Mandalay regional government has not ordered COVID-related closures, some factories have been forced to close down due to logistics concerns, as they are unable to transport goods due to stay-at-home orders.

Pakistan: According to reports from media and CCC network, on 22 September, an antiterrorism court in Karachi sentenced two ex-Muttahida Qaumi Movement workers to death in the Baldia factory arson case while the factory's four gatekeepers were sentenced to life term. Meanwhile, the factory owners were spared from punishment. Activists and those affected by the fire expressed that, eight years after over 250 workers lost their lives at the Ali Enterprise fire in Pakistan, the court verdict ignores systemic failures in the industry. Nasir Mans­oor, general secretary of the Natio­nal Trade Union Federation (NTUF), made clear that declaring the owners of the factory innocent was a "mockery of justice".

27 September 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to a survey conducted by the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) titled "Effects of COVID-19 on Small Firms", 75% of small enterprise owners are extremely worried about the future of their businesses. According to the findings of the survey, the pandemic has put enterprises which already had less funds pre-COVID at higher risks of a permanent shutdown than larger companies. 

India: Media report that India's new labour codes fail migrant workers whose vulnerability was highlighted by the COVID-19 lockdown crisis. According to the article, the revised labour codes passed by Parliament earlier this week could have been a valuable opportunity for the Government to make amends and provide meaningful social security to the millions of migrant and informal sector workers who struggled amidst the lockdown period. Instead, the labour codes weaken protection and accountability in ways that are likely to jeopardise the future of this highly vulnerable workforce. "By destroying labour protections (a large number of which are Constitutionally guaranteed to all citizens), the state has institutionalised the vulnerability of an already marginalised section of the population", the article concludes.

Myanmar: Media report that, according to the General Secretary of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), the government of Myanmar is planning to provide K30,000 ($23) per person to workers from factories impacted by COVID-19 restrictions who do not contribute to the Social Security Board (SSB). Earlier this week, the ministry had announced that affected workers who make contributions to the SSB would receive 40% of their wages during temporary closure. Now, the government is also planning to provide financial assistance to workers who do not contribute to the SSB. Unions reports that the issue is now related to getting information on those who do not have social security in order to provide them with cash aid. “While the government has statistics and information to support workers who have contributed to SSB, we are still discussing how to support those who do not.”, U Aye Win, from UMFCCI, said.

Nigeria: Media report that the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) has directed its members across the country to join the indefinite strike action organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). The call will take effect from tomorrow if the Federal Government fails to reverse the recent hike in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff.

26 September 2020

Global: Media report that remittances are expected to fall sharply in the second quarter of 2020, as many migrant workers return to their home countries after losing their jobs as a result of the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. A reports found that, overall, remittances destined to the Asia-Pacific region will drop 12% in the second half of 2020 compared with the same period last year. The Philippines government, for example, expects almost 300,000 overseas Filipinos to come home this year. As remittances make up about 10% of the economy and have pushed the peso to a three-year high against the dollar, the consequences for the economy are expected to be severe. Migrant workers who are returning to their home countries across Asia have expressed that, to them, "coming home means starting over."

AFL-CIO and Solidarity Centre state that, while the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic bias that allows the neoliberal economic system to define some categories of work and workers as expendable, it has also created an opportunity to progress toward a new social contract that respects the fundamental rights of all workers, regardless of immigration status.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) reports that garment workers across Asia have faced widespread labour rights violations linked to COVID-19, making clear that, based on the research of ten countries, workers who belong to trade unions and have organised for safer working conditions amidst fears of infection have been disproportionately targeted for dismissal during the pandemic. In seven of the ten countries, BHRRC found reports of union busting and of intimidation and harassment of union leaders, suggesting that apparel factories are using the pandemic as a cover to crackdown on trade unions. Furthermore, their research shows that, in all ten countries, garment workers have not been paid wages because brands failed to honour their contracts and didn't pay what they owed to their suppliers. As lockdowns have lifted and garment production has resumed, in seven of the ten countries there have been reports of a lack of COVID-19 safety precautions in factories and of garment workers being infected with the virus at work. 

Bangladesh: Media report that dozens of people joined a bicycle rally in Dresden, German, on 22 September in solidarity with garment workers at Dragon Sweater. Activists stopped at three Lidl and two New Yorker stores in the city. Both Lidl and New Yorker had business relations with the Dragon Group at least until 2019. 

Cambodia: Media report that the Asian Development Bank has said that the slowdown in the garment and construction sectors continues to pose a risk to Cambodia's economy. It forecasts a "further suppression of consumer demand as more households suffer financial distress." Meanwhile, media report that, as garment factories suspend operations or permanently close amidst the COVID-19 crisis and garment workers lose their jobs, businesses in manufacturing districts are struggling to stay afloat - one of many knock-on effects of a decline in garment exports. "Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Blvd. was once packed every evening at the end of the working day. Workers from a long row of garment factories would fill the streets as they prepared to go home. But since a slump in the industry sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, the crowds are scarcer", the article reports. Vendors report that, although there are still some workers around, most do not buy, as they make barely enough to survive. "When workers don’t have jobs, vendors, micro-finance [officers] and other sellers of goods as well as services also have a problem", Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, said. 

Media report that, according to the Ministry of Labour, 491 garment factories have suspended operations and 81 have permanently closed. They added that about 60,000 workers lost their jobs permanently or temporarily, while many more had their working hours reduced.

Myanmar: Media report that garment factories in Myanmar's Yangon and Ayeyarwady regions will remain closed until 7 October in an attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Also this week, the government approved more than 20 billion kyats ($15.3 million) in loans for around 1000 enterprises that have been impacted by the pandemic.

Media report that many Myanmar migrants in Thailand won't be able to vote in the upcoming general election, as polling stations outside Bangkok and Chiang Mai have been ruled out due to COVID-19. This has happened despite earlier demands that more polling stations be opened in areas where many Myanmar migrants work. For Myanmar migrant voters based in southern Thailand, it will now be almost impossible to vote in the 2020 election due to travel costs and other difficulties involved in getting to Bangkok, such as the risk of COVID-19 infections. There were about 6,000 early voting applications from migrants in southern Thailand's Ranong, Phang Nga, Krabi, and Surat Thani provinces. "It is now uncertain whether I get to vote. I want to vote, but going to Bangkok is difficult for us", U Kyaw Moe, who lives in Ranong, expressed.

Nepal: Media report that according to Nepal's Labour Ministry, around 43,000 of the 125,000 who Nepali migrant workers who registered to return to Nepal have been able to return amidst the pandemic. The article reports that the pace of repatriation has been painfully slow, and many workers who have lost their jobs or cannot bear to be so far away, are desperately trying to return home. Some are still uncertain of how they will manage to return. 

Singapore: Media report that Singapore's new COVID-19 policy will isolate smaller groups of migrant workers if new cases are found within a dorm, instead of placing an entire block of workers in quarantine, as previously done. The Ministry announced that this policy will only apply to residences where workers are able to remain distant from each other. 

25 September 2020

Global: International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that global labour income is estimated to have declined by 10.7% during the first three quarters of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A new ILO analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market reveals a massive drop in labour income and a fiscal stimulus gap that threatens to increase inequality between richer and poorer countries.

Bangladesh: Media report that garment and textile manufacturers have sought support from Commonwealth countries to recover damages caused by the supply chain disruption which followed the coronavirus outbreak. "The disruption was global. We are all in this together. As we move forward, it is important to work and collaborate to recover from this unprecedented crisis", Md Siddiqur Rahman, vice president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said. 

Apparel Resources has published an article which summarises various surveys which have been conducted in Bangladesh regarding how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted garment workers. 

Media report that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Bangladesh are in dire need of support. Analysts suggested that increased policy support and smooth accesses to finance is needed on an emergency basis to help SMEs cope with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. "A lack of access to formal financing has been identified as a major obstacle to the survival and expansion of SMEs in Bangladesh", Atiur Rahman, a former governor of Bangladesh Bank, said. 

Cambodia: Media report that the Asian Development Bank projects that an increase in orders from US customers for garment exports is set to aid Cambodia's economic recovery. Based on this projection, the ADB revised its previous estimation that domestic product orders, of which garments, footwear and travel goods are most popular, would contract by 5.4%. It now estimates that it will contract by 4%. Indeed, another article reports that Cambodia's garment industry has found temporary relief in US orders, as robust exports to the US are giving the industry - and its wider economy - breathing room in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Media report that the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has filed court action against the EU in an attempt to reverse the partial suspension of the EBA trade agreement. Meanwhile, the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (EuroCham) reported that, although the partial withdrawal impacted the industry, the COVID-19 crisis has had an overwhelmingly larger impact. 

Georgia: Media report that the Autonomous Republic of Adjara has been considered a COVID-19 red zone, as almost half of new cases per day come from this region. The article reports that, among the infected, many are garment factory workers.  

India: Media report that trade unions will organise nationwide protests on Friday against labour law amendments which were approved by India's upper house of parliament on Wednesday (23 Sept). These labour reforms come after six states relaxed their labour laws amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, explained that the reforms will make it almost impossible for workers at small industrial units to form a trade union. "Workers will be at the mercy of their employers who could fire them for any flimsy reason", she said. Aljazeera reports that India's parliament is describing these labour laws as "historic" and that the government says they will help workers and business alike, while activists fear a loss of labour rights in a push for profits. Experts have made clear that the laws exempt tens of thousands of smaller firms, and rob workers of a right to strike or receive benefits. The laws usher in a range of worker rights, such as health checks, home visits, emergency aid and written terms.

Indonesia: Media report that Indonesia's economy is expected to shrink by 1.7-0.6% on an annual basis this year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The garment industry has been particularly hit.

Myanmar: Media report that, following Yangon, the Ayeyarwady Region has ordered all garment factories to close for two weeks after four employees tested positive for coronavirus at two factories in Pathein Industrial Zone. As the regional government was late in informing factory owners, many factories still opened yesterday. They have since closed and expect to reopen on 8 October. According to the Ayeyarwady Region Directorate of Labour, the regional government will make sure factory employees receive social security benefits during suspension. Before the coronavirus pandemic, this Region's garment industry had a labour force of around 12,000 workers, which has since been halved due to the pandemic's impact. 

Media report that the government of Myanmar has announce that it will subsidy the salaries of workers impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Health and Sports Ministry earlier this week. According to an announcement by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, workers from private factories and businesses in the Yangon Region will receive subsidies equivalent to 40% of their salaries under the Social Welfare Law. This only applies to workers who have paid social welfare fees and whose factories have registered.

United Kingdom: Media report that an independent inquiry into Boohoo's working practises in Leicester has found significant 'failings' in its supply chain following claims in July that garment workers were being paid below the minimum wage and forced to work during the COVID-19 lockdown. The Guardian reports that the report found that Boohoo knew of "endemic" problems across Leicester garment factories in its supply chain. While Boohoo responded to claims of minimum wage violations in Leicester earlier this summer by saying it was "shocked and appalled", the inquiry concluded that senior directors "knew for a fact that there were very serious issues" over the treatment of workers there since December 2019 at the latest. Meanwhile, media also report that Boohoo's shares were up 17% earlier today, on track to regain much of the market value they had lost since the original July investigation. 

24 September 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that over 1100 workers of A One Garment in Dhaka Export Processing Zone  organised a sit-in protest on Monday (21 Sept), demanding arrears and that the factory resume production, as they have not been paid for the last 8 months. Workers demonstrated in front of the National Press Club and marched towards the Prime Minister's Office the following day. Taslima Akhter, president of the Bangladesh Garment Sramik Samhati, explained that workers have been deprived of their wages for the last eight months.

Cambodia: Media report that Cambodian migrant workers working in Thailand are facing difficulties amidst the pandemic due to lack of jobs. Ms. Yat Kanha, a garment worker living in Bangkok, explained that she had been working in Thailand for about six years. She says that it has never been harder to make money like this year, as, since the beginning of the outbreak, she has been working irregularly. "Jobs are hard to find. Sometimes there are jobs, sometimes there are no jobs (...)", she explained. In addition to lack of jobs and income, workers are facing difficulties related to the expiration of their passports, as many have passports set to expire by the end of 2020 and the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok is, according to workers, failing to help them. Meanwhile, the same article reports that, according to an official for labour rights group Central, migrant workers from Cambodia continue to attempt to enter Thailand through informal routes, as they are unable to find jobs in Cambodia. He said that around 50% of the workers who have tried to cross are in prisons in Thailand and the other half has been sent back to Cambodia. "I urge the Cambodian government to cooperate with the Thai government in negotiating for the favourable return of Cambodian workers. During the COVID-19 crisis, there should be no punishments such as imprisonment and fines. If caught, please send it back to Cambodia", he said.

Media report that, on Constitution Day, local activists made clear that Cambodian citizens' constitutional rights such as fundamental civic freedoms have been largely neglected and violated. "Recent weeks have seen the human rights situation in Cambodia deteriorate further, representing a detrimental divergence from the promises of our Constitution", Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), said. "Numbers of restrictions of freedom of expression, particularly online, continue to climb, assemblies are increasingly being met with excessive use of force by the state, and any association deemed to be critical of the government is targeted", she added. According to Licadho, 19 activists, artists, and human rights defenders have been detained for exercising their constitutional rights since the arrest of union leader Rong Chhun on 31 July. 

Myanmar: Union organiser reports that garment workers from Amber Stone factory, which produces for Primark and Guess, are once again fighting against union busting, as 250 of the 270 union members have been fired. Unionists had already been beaten and fired in June. Another post reports that organisers from Spain joined workers in reinstatement negotiations regarding union members who were fired from San Yuan factory, in Myanmar. Unions in Spain continue to express solidarity with workers and unions in Asia.

Nepal: Media report that the governments of Nepal and Malaysia are expected to sign an agreement which will bring migrant workers under the Malaysian government's social security scheme, which will protect workers in case of work-related injuries, sickness or death. "This is a landmark event towards the protection of Nepali workers in Malaysia where they are dying in huge numbers. Being under the safety net of the social security scheme, employers will also be more responsible towards the safety and well-being of their workers", Rajan Prasad Shrestha, executive director of the Foreign Employment Board of Nepal, said. Coverage of Nepali workers under the Malaysian social security scheme is also seen as a point of negotiation for protecting Nepali migrant workers in other labour destination countries.

Romania: According to reports from the CCC network, many garment workers in Romania were paid far below the legal minimum wage during the pandemic. At the TANEX Company,  which produces for famous brands such as Massimo Dutti, Lancome, Ted Baker, JOOP, Sandro, Max Mara and others, workers received as little as 140€ per month for full time work. Other labour and human rights violations, such as factories failing to pay mandatory social insurance contributions, overtime payments and severance pay, also took place during this time. Angelica Manole, who, like many other workers, had her salary cut, went public about the working conditions at TANEX. She was later contacted by a former investigative journalist, Laura Ștefănuț, who, together with the trade union UNICONF, provided advice and legal aid, connected workers with pro-bono lawyers, organised an immediate fundraising to compensate for loss of income and published further about the case. In this way, a supporting community was built in Romania. In late August, three months since the scandal was made public, TANEX told workers that they would be paid the rest of their salary. Some had lost hope during those three months and left the factory. One worker, a single mother, told the CCC that she had to give up her medical treatment because she couldn't afford to pay it anymore. By now, workers who are still hired at the factory received their full salaries, but those who were fired or left the factory in the past months have not. For them, justice is still pending. 

23 September 2020

Global: Clean Clothes Campaign has published a new report "Out of the Shadows", which brings data from the Fashion Checker transparency tool to life, detailing the stark contrast between fashion brands' big claims and the reality of their supply chains. The report makes clear that the COVID-19 pandemic, has exacerbated unpaid wages and job insecurity for garment workers, as brands such as Arcadia (Topshop), Bestseller, C&A, Primark and Walmart (Asda) have cancelled orders and imposed discounts on suppliers and is accompanied by a new video which highlights how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting garment workers, and how consumers can take action.

Asia: International Labour Organisation (ILO) has published a report "What next for Asian garment production after COVID-19?", which shows that Asia's garment sector may see a rise in labour rights violations during the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for coordinated collaboration in order to protect workers and allow the industry to recover. With regard to garment workers, the ILO found that, in the short-term and medium-term, workers are likely to experience increased precariousness and competition for jobs, and made clear that standards of decent work are expected to decline. 

Bangladesh: Media report that GoodWeave International and the Awaj Foundation have partnered in order to provide COVID-19 relief aid to Bangladesh's garment workers, and have announced that they will conduct in-depth research into "hidden supply chains" in order to shed light on any instances of child, forced or bonded labour. "Bangladesh’s apparel sector and workers have been devastated by the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global supply chains, and we hope this initiative brings short-term relief from hunger and other life-threatening scenarios to workers, as well as long-term improvements in supply chain transparency and due diligence to provide enhanced protections for informal workers in the post-pandemic world", Nazma Akter, founder and executive director of Awaj Foundation, said. 

Cambodia: Media report that the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training will provide cash handouts to nearly 13,000 workers in the garment and tourism sectors this week. Workers are employed by factories which suspended operations amidst the pandemic. According to the Minister of Labour, between 100 and 150 factories have suspended operations, affecting around 40,000 to 50,000 workers. Although many workers are receiving government allowances, it is clear that most workers haven't been covered. Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said that the allowances to workers were small and workers who received them in the past months made clear that they still faced difficulties, as $70 ($40 from the Government and $30 from their employer) is hardly enough. Pav Sina called on the Ministry to implement more measures so that employers don't use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to fire workers. The union suggested that the Ministry issue a letter ordering employers that dismissed workers and workers whose employment contracts expired to be reinstated. 

Haiti: Media report that, according to a study by Better Work, 9 in every 10 workers in Haiti report inability to buy the usual amount of food due to income drop and/or rise in food prices caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is just one example of the impact of the pandemic on garment workers' livelihoods.

India: IndustriALL reports that hundreds of thousands of workers demonstrated across India today against the Government's anti-worker and anti-people policies. Unions strongly condemned the undemocratic manner in which the Government passed three major labour laws. 

Malaysia: Academics have published an article titled "COVID-19 and the Myth of the 'Dirty Foreigner' in Malaysia" on how the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted xenophobic sentiments against migrant workers in Malaysia. The article reports that national newspapers printed op-eds and articles implying that migrant workers are 'dirty' and 'unsanitary', where undocumented migrants were particularly vilified, and that appeals to authorities to deport Rohingya refugees increased. Although the government initially promised amnesty to undocumented migrants seeking care for COVID-19, this was soon followed by several major immigration raids which led to mass detentions. Additionally, the Malaysian government announced restrictive policies on hiring migrants as part of efforts to increase citizens' employment opportunities. The government has limited migrants to working only in the agriculture, construction and plantation sectors despite manufacturing and services sectors being the largest employers of the migrant workforce. 

Myanmar: Media report that garment factories in Yangon have announced that they won’t pay workers until government instructions regarding factory’s temporary closure are released. Some factories are saying that they will practice a ‘no work, no pay’ system during the period of closure. The manager of a garment factory located at Industrial Zone 1 in Dagon Seikkan said that the factory will only pay workers upon reopening on 8 October. Meanwhile, the Myanmar Mu garment factory, who also says that it won’t pay wages until the government instructs them to, will be providing basic foods such as cooking oil and noodles to its 600 workers over the next to weeks. Many workers are worried about not being able to pay for food and dormitory fees. They are unsure on when or how they will receive their salaries, as workers usually go to the factory in order to get their wages but COVID-19 restrictions impede such travels. The same article reports that, so far, positive COVID-19 cases have been detected in 16 Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM) garment factories. Between 30-60 workers at each one of these factories have been sent to quarantine centres, totalling about 2000 workers. Meanwhile, union organiser reports that the union at Running Tex garment factory, in Yangon, is currently on sit-down strike inside the factory, refusing to work or leave the premises, until an agreement which insures that workers will receive their full wages during the coming temporary factory closure is signed. 

Media report that the government of Myanmar has started to distribute support funds to around 10,000 companies whose businesses have been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sri Lanka: Media report that, according to the Sri Lankan Apparel Exporters Association (SLAEA), Sri Lanka's garment industry could lose up to 100,000 jobs this year, which represents a cut of around 30% of the industry's workforce. The Association says that the future seems bleak, as factories are yet to receive orders and the government's relief package has revealed to be insufficient. 

Thailand: Media report that migrant workers from Myanmar are are out of work and out of options due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands have become redundant due to the pandemic and are now struggling to make ends meet. Social welfare agencies are urging the government to step in and help. The article reports the story of a migrant worker from Myanmar who lost her job at a garment factory in Thailand amidst the pandemic. "My life has already hit rock bottom. I cannot picture what it would be like if things get worse", she explains. According to Suchart Trakulhootip, a senior programme co-ordinator with the Migrant Assistance Program (MAP) Foundation, COVID-19 has turned a deteriorating situation from bad to worse.

22 September 2020

Global: Media report that workers’ rights organisation Remake has outlined a new initiative which expands on the success of the #PayUp campaign. The new PayUp Fashion campaign, whilst still maintaining the long-standing message of calling on companies to pay their suppliers, looks beyond the current complexities brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and will address how brands and factories engage going forward. It aims to be a long-term campaign that centres garment worker voices and calls for systemic labor rights reforms in fashion. In this effort, Remake has forged a coalition with the Garment Worker Center, Extinction Rebellion, the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion (UCRF) and the Awaj Foundation.

Bangladesh: Media report that nine small and medium-sized garment factories in Bangladesh are currently struggling as a German retailer is yet to pay them for orders received before the COVID-19 crisis began. Colloseum bought t-shirts, polo shirts and sweaters worth $1500,000 from suppliers Kappa Fashion Wear, Base Fashion Wear, Dynasty Sweater (BD), Bakhrabad Knitting Industries, Anzir Apparels, IRIS Fashions, Gramtech Knit Dyeing & Garment Industries Ltd, Seo Wan Bangladesh and Disney Sweater between December last year and February this year through its Hong Kong-based vendor Asia Today Ltd.  The retailer is still refusing to pay, despite having been served with legal notices, and is, according to suppliers, placing orders in Bangladesh under another name. Mohammad Hatem, vice-president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the association has received complaints against Colloseum from its members.

Media report that Free Workers' Union Mönchengladbach rallied in front of a New Yorker store in Minto  shopping centre in solidarity with workers from Dragon Sweater Bangladesh, who are still fighting for their full wages and severance pay. New Yorker supplies from this factory. 

Cambodia: Media report that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the impact that micro-finance debts pose for vulnerable families in Cambodia, which could end up destitute and homeless as they are unable to repay their debt due to the coronavirus fallout. A study-report found that about 45% of Cambodians fell deeper into debt from January to April, while one in eight had to sell assets, from livestock and machinery to land. A third of new loans were taken to pay off existing loans or cover living costs, while the proportion of households that borrowed from informal lenders, who fly under the radar and offer instant cash at rates as high as 50%, rose from 8.6% to 18% in that period. Meanwhile, the government's messaging on micro-finance has been mixed since the effects of the pandemic provoked widespread alarm. At the beginning, the Prime Minister called upon lenders to restructure loans for people affected by the virus, but later said banks should seize property from those who failed to repay. 

Media report that the Ministry of Labour has announced that Labour Law amendment discussions have continued to move forward despite Cambodia's union representatives boycotting the latest amendment meeting. The Minister said that the meeting was held as usual and that progress was made. Ath Thorn, President of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said yesterday that the boycott is a sign, warning the ministry and firms of the consequences of going against worker and union interests. Thorn said that the unions will continue to push against the amendment as discussions.

Media report that, as a second group of Cambodian migrant workers recently returned from Jordan, garment workers from two factories have recounted the strenuous conditions they faced, made worse after COVID-19 forced the companies to suspend operations and cut workers' pay. Workers said that, while working in Jordan, they received between $200 and $300 per month, a salary similar to what they had previously earned while working in Cambodian factories, but under worse conditions. "I worked without a rest hour and I had to arrive at the factory at 6:40AM. Work starts at 7AM, but if we arrived at the factory at 6:50AM, the factory administration officials would discipline us and would not allow us in. They ordered workers around like cows", Sreyna, who worked at Camel Textile in Jordan, explained. She added that workers weren't paid for the extra hours they did at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. Sreyna said she would not encourage other Cambodians to work in Jordan. 

India: Media report that the government of India has admitted that nearly 100 migrant workers died on board special government-run relief trains while returning to their hometowns and villages. At the time, migrants complained there was no food or water on board and congested trains had no air conditioning and often broke down or got lost, causing major delays. Media reported that there had been deaths but the government did not comment at the time. The article further reports that some migrant workers are likely to have died from coronavirus, as they showed symptoms while on the trains. 

Malaysia: Media report that, as the pandemic creates a demand for rubber gloves, Malaysian companies that supply nearly two-thirds of the disposable latex and synthetic gloves are making record-breaking sales. These sales, however, are shouldered by low-paid migrant workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia or Vietnam who run the assembly lines. In order to meet shipment deadlines, workers in these factories have been working 12-hour shifts, six days a week, on factory floors where temperatures can surpass 38º. Lunch breaks are brief, sick days highly discouraged. Take too long coming back from the bathroom and it'll be docked from the next pay-check. When the shift ends, migrants return to crowded dormitories far from home, knowing that the next day they'll do it again - all for less than $1.50 an hour. 

Myanmar: As previously reported, the Ministry of health and Sports has instructed that garment workers will not be allowed to go to work for two weeks, from 24 September to 7 October. According to reports from the CCC network, it is not yet known how workers will be paid their salaries. The Social Welfare Department will cover 40% of their salary.

Pakistan: Media report that, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread unabated in India and Bangladesh, garment orders from international markets are shifting towards Pakistan. The garment sector in the country, however, is facing a severe shortage of yarn due to a shortage of cotton. International buyers are giving factories 35-40 days for shipments, but local textile mills can only deliver raw materials in three months' time. Manufacturers are urging the government to take action, saying that, if the government fails to help, they will lose both on this opportunity and possibly some permanent buyers.

Portugal: Media report that according to the president of the Textile and Clothing Association of Portugal (CITEVE), Mário Jorge Machado, the country’s textile and clothing exports dropped by 14% in June. He added that the production of PPE has been important for the sector, as exports would have dropped by around 22% in the same month if manufacturers hadn’t shifted some production to PPE amidst the pandemic.

Thailand: According to reports from the media and the CCC network, a group of garment workers in Thailand who were illegally underpaid while making products for global brands including Starbucks and the Walt Disney Company are taking legal action to demand compensation after losing their jobs last year. For two years, migrant workers from Myanmar were illegally paid less than $1/h and were forced to work unpaid overtime at the Kanlayani factory in Mae Sot, Thailand. After workers spoke out about their working conditions, the factory suddenly closed. Workers have been fighting for justice ever since. Disney, Starbucks and Tesco said they were working with local representatives and civil society groups to support the workers from Kanlayanee’s factory and find a solution. The 26 workers are yet to receive any money. 

21 September 2020

Global: Media report that, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), 77% of people displaced by conflicts have lost a job or revenue since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. 70% of those surveyed said they had to cut the number of meals for their households and 73% said they were less likely to send their children to school due to economic constraints. 

Bangladesh: Media report that CNT Bisbal, Spain, has expressed solidarity with garment workers from Dragon Sweater Bangladesh, who are still fighting for their full wages and severance pay.

Media report that, despite garment exports showing signs of recovery, garment factory owners have asked for more time to repay the loans disbursed by the government amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The BGMEA sent a letter to the government, explaining that it will take eight to nine months for factories to receive the payment for recent and past work orders placed by buyers and will, therefore, be 'nearly impossible' to repay loans within the stipulated time. "The garment sector is passing through a tough time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why we asked for five years' time to repay the loans", Abdur Razzak, BGMEA Secretary, said. 

Cambodia: Media report that GCH International Trade Co Ltd announced that it will invest approximately $3.2 million into a new bag-manufacturing line, generating over 1000 jobs in Kampong Speu province. However, as previously reported, although foreign direct investment continues to flow into setting up new production lines in Cambodia, the number of jobs being created is not keeping up with the pace of jobs being lost, as over 150,000 workers garment workers lost their jobs amidst the pandemic. 

India: Media report that migrant workers, many of whom walked thousands of kilometres in order to reach home during the COVID-lockdown, are now returning to their old jobs, as most have been unable to find new jobs in their home states and employers are offering higher wages, benefits and paying for transportation as they face labour shortage in the post-lockdown period. Many were abandoned by their employers at the beginning of the outbreak - the same employers who are now trying to facilitate their return through advanced salary, paid travel and sponsored COVID-19 test. 

Media report that a new bill, which has been presented in Parliament, aims to stipulate journey allowance for migrant workers and mandates that the Central and State governments maintain a database or record on migrant workers. The bill states that rules shall apply to every establishment in which ten or more inter-state migrant workers are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months.

Myanmar: SMART Textile & Garment reports that to-date, EU Myan Ku Fund cash disbursements have reached 66,406 payments to assist over 35,000 laid off garment factory workers, with an average disbursement size of 77,464 MMK. Approximately 85% of recipients are women.

Media report that, following a spike in coronavirus cases in the Yangon Region, the Ministry of health and Sports has instructed that garment workers will not be allowed to go to work for two weeks, from 24 September to 7 October. Meanwhile, another article reports that, according to a London-based research agency, stringent containment measures and an uncertain export outlook could delay Myanmar’s economic recovery into 2021. According to their latest report, restrictions on business operations, curfews, stay-at-home orders and an ongoing flight ban are likely to worsen the labour market outlook and exports. The agency reports that Myanmar’s garment manufacturing sector, which makes up a key portion of the country’s total exports, is likely to remain low over the coming months.

Media report that photos of Indian migrant workers leaving Delhi amidst the COVID-19 migrants crisis is falsely circulating as "Myanmar people fleeing to Thailand after coronavirus outbreak". The photos have been shared thousands of times in multiple Facebook posts that claim they show people fleeing Myanmar and crossing the border to Thailand because of the coronavirus. Other photos used in the misleading post have circulated in Thai media reports about border control measures.

Nepal: Media report that a group of Nepali migrant workers, who have been stranded in Lebanon for months after losing their jobs, are finally returning home this week. "We are finally coming home. I cannot express how happy it feels to be returning home after several months of struggle", Manju, one of the migrant workers, said. The special repatriation flight has been scheduled to fly around 34 Nepali migrant workers home on Wednesday. Workers explained that many more migrant workers in Lebanon are waiting to return to Nepal, as nearly 80% of Nepalis have been affected by the recent turn of events in the country. 

Vietnam: Media report that hundreds of workers from Mai Lan Anh garment factory, located in Khanh Hoa province, went on strike, after receiving August wages which were 15-30% lower than their usual monthly salaries, demanding full salaries and payment of social insurance. Workers explained the company announced that their August salary would be paid based on piece-rates, even though they had, until then, always been paid on time-rate and no warning regarding the change was shared with workers. When they enquired about the lower wages, the team leader told workers that they had not produced enough that month and, for that reason, only received 70-80% of regular salaries. Overtime payments have also been reduced. There are also other issues at the factory, such as not being given written contracts, social insurance not being paid, and forced overtime (if workers refuse they are either fired or locked in). Workers have also discovered that, while the company has been taking social insurance contributions from their salaries, these have not been paid to the social insurance fund.

Media report that the number of applications for unemployment benefits in Hanoi as of 10 September has risen 22% year-on-year to nearly 60,000 due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the Hanoi Center for Employment Services (HCES) received 9000 applications, down from the monthly peak of 10,000 in June. Around half the applicants said they were affected by the impacts of COVID-19. 

20 September 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that, on 17 September, hundreds of garment workers from Dragon Sweater rallied once again in Dhaka and managed to lay siege to the Labor Ministry after breaking through a police line. They shouted slogans such as "Action! Action! – Direct Action!; Workers’ Action! – Direct Action!" and "Workers of the World unite!"

Media report that Bangladesh's dyeing industry has started recovering slowly, as garment exports have started to pick up. Monsoor Ahmed, secretary to the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), said recovery has also started for woven dyeing industries. Many mils had to close their doors or continue operations on a limited scale. Now, many are working at almost full capacity and hope to get to full capacity by the end of the year. 

India: Media report that India's government has introduced three labour codes on social security, industrial relations and occupational safety. Once enacted, the codes will give flexibility to firms in hiring and firing, in closing units, reduce trade union influence in companies, and pave way for state level labour reforms. The Industrial Relation Code will allow companies with up to 300 workers to fire workers without prior approval from the government, a three-fold jump in threshold. Currently, only those industrial establishments with less than 100 employees are permitted to hire and fire their staff without permission of the government. 

Nepal: Media report that Nepali migrant workers, who used to return home with money and gifts for the family, are now returning the way that they had left the country - uncertain of their future. Having lost their jobs abroad amidst the pandemic and uncertain of when, where or how they will find new employment, workers had no other choice but to return home empty-handed. "Earlier, migrant workers returning home would feel like a festival for their families as they would get lots of gifts. Trolleys at the airport would have LED TV sets, and their hand-carry luggage would have items like mobile phones, gold and chocolates for kids. Now they are returning the way they had left the country", Jha, coordinator of the National Network for Safe Migration, explained.

19 September 2020

Asia: Media report that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said that it will support economies in Asia and the Pacific to achieve their post-pandemic recovery goals. The Bank announced that it will work with export-oriented countries in order to secure more diversified value and supply chains. Considering the pandemic's impact on income inequality and absolute poverty, ADB has also decided to strengthen investments in health, education and social protection. 

Bangladesh: Media report that a rebound in garment orders and the recovery of remittances from Bangladeshi migrant workers abroad are helping to revive Bangladesh's economy, which was severely affected by cancelled orders in the garment industry and job losses in migrant-based industries. Garment manufacturers are hopeful that exports will return to normal levels around Christmas. "The garment sector is making a good comeback. Our agriculture is doing well. Remittances are coming. These all are good signs for the economy", Ahsan H. Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute, exclaimed. 

Cambodia: Media report that, according to a Garment Manufacturers of Cambodia (GMAC) recent survey, only 35% of garment factories in Cambodia have enough orders until the end of the year, while 25% reported having absolutely no orders. The article further reports that some of the factories that are still struggling at present are expected to shut down once state bailout funds are withdrawn. 

Indonesia: Media report that workers in Indonesia's industrial zones are at risk of COVID-19 infections in their workplace, as virus clusters have emerged in factories. These clusters have prompted calls for tighter government supervision and better compliance of health protocols from companies. The country’s most populous province, West Java, has seen at least three big clusters with a total of 541 cases emerging from its industrial areas in the last weeks of August. Jumisih, from Inter-Factory Labourers Federation (FBLP), explained that many companies were yet to provide the necessary facilities for workers to follow health protocols, especially in terms of social distancing. Some factories are yet to divide shifts and, even then, workers were concerned that, if they did, their companies would cut their pay according to their working hours, adding that the federation was collecting data on workers who failed to pay their rent due to pay cuts amidst the pandemic. Jumisih called on the government to intervene. "There are workers who only receive half or a third of their income. Who can survive with that money? We need the government's intervention in this. Workers who are afraid of coming to work are afraid of being laid off and can't bring food to the table, but those who come and are at risk of infection also face pay cuts and can't provide for themselves and their families”, she explained.

Maldives: Media report that hundreds of migrant workers from Bangladesh and India in the Maldives have been forced to work without pay amidst the pandemic. They lived in cramped conditions and were short of food, clean water, medical attention and even soap. When they protested against their conditions, workers were declared by the authorities as a threat to national security and deported. Overall, many migrant workers in the Maldives have lost their jobs or been denied pay amidst the pandemic.

Myanmar: Media report that the rising number of COVID-19 cases across Myanmar is severely affecting the national economy. In response, the government announced it will extend tax exemptions for exporters until the end of the year for small and medium-sized enterprises, garment manufacturers, hotels and the tourism sector.

Nepal: Media report that many Nepali migrant workers, who had been stranded in Nepal since the beginning of the pandemic, are now rejoining their jobs abroad. Meanwhile, media report that, in clear contrast with previous months' figures, the number of migrant workers leaving Nepal to India outnumbers the number of migrant workers returning from India to Nepal. According to border authorities, around 400 people have been leaving for India on a daily basis, while the number of returnees is around 150.

18 September 2020

Asia: Media report that, according to a study conducted by the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), the coronavirus pandemic is driving discrimination towards already-vulnerable communities, such as migrant workers, in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Pakistan. "It is particularly concerning that both national migrant and foreign workers are blamed for the spread of COVID-19" Dr Viviane Fluck, one of the lead researchers, said. 

Bangladesh: Media report that value addition in Bangladesh's garment sector has dropped by almost 7% in the fiscal year of 2019-2020, closely related to supply chain disruption amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The same article reports that experts are calling for the diversification of Bangladesh's exports, as garments contribute to around 83% of the country's overall earnings, making it highly dependent on the sectors' earnings. Meanwhile, media report that experts are calling on the government to support  small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as the sector needs policy support to generate much-needed jobs. 

Cambodia: Media report that the Ministry of Commerce has announced that Cambodia's export-oriented industries are still struggling to pick up, as exports from Cambodia to the international market remain low as they continue to face challenges amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Myanmar: Media report that workers and unions have said that the Ministry of Labour’s instructions regarding COVID-19 prevention in factories and workshops exempt employers’ from health and safety responsibilities, putting all the burden of COVID-19 prevention on workers. Daw Phyo Sandar Soe, general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM), said that “[t]he instructions are unfair. They only highlight the workers’ duties. Workplace health and safety are the employer’s duty.” The general secretary of another union, U Thet Hnin Aung, urged the ministry to require employers to provide face masks, face shields and hand sanitiser to workers. Union leaders  shared that at least 61 workers have so far been confirmed positive with coronavirus and that over 400 close contacts are currently in quarantine. Meanwhile, the government has said that it is considering closing factories if they are unable to stop the spread of COVID-19 among workers.

Singapore: BBC reports that the pandemic has exposed Singapore's inequalities, as COVID-19 statistics show a very clear contrast between the high number of cases in migrant workers' dorms and the number of cases in the community. This has led experts, such as Mohan Dutta, professor of Communication at Massey University, to say that "COVID-19, much like any other pandemic, is a pandemic of inequality." Singapore is home to over 300,000 low-wage foreign workers from countries like India and Bangladesh, who mainly work in industries like construction and manufacturing. As cases started to surge, the majority of migrant workers were trapped in their dorms, some not even allowed to leave their rooms. The 'lockdown' experience of the rest of Singapore was remarkably different, as shopping was allowed, daily exercise encouraged and every type of outlet offering delivery. In the words of a migrant worker who has been in Singapore for 17 years, "We are not asking to be treated like a citizen. Just treat us like you would treat a human being - like we are a part of society. If it could be like that, that would be very nice."

Sri Lanka: According to reports from the CCC network, two factories from the Sumithra Hasalaka Factory group, which is a Next supplier, are trying to form a factory-level union, but factory management is yet to acknowledge and recognise the formation of the trade union. Workers have since shared that factory managers in both factories are trying to persuade workers to leave or not join the union. After resuming operation in April 2020, management did not reinstate employees with less than one year's service, even though some had worked for more than 180 days or even beyond their probation period. This has affected 150 employees, who need to be rehired on the same terms or afforded the correct compensation/retrenchment dues. Furthermore, around 30 female employees have been forcibly 'retired' because they are over 50 but less than 55 years old. The Company’s own letter of appointment issued to the employee's states that the retirement age is 55 years. The CCC further reports that workers not all workers from the Sumithra group have been paid full salaries for April and that management withdrew the provision of transport to all employees from 10th August 2020. The provision of free transport is one of the selling points for workers to join the Company. It is indeed one of the benefits (along with provision of free meals, bonus etc) that the company advertises in writing and verbally tells people when it is seeking to recruit workers. The transport facility is therefore part of the terms and conditions and thus should not be changed unilaterally. Having withdrawn the free transport, some workers were transferred to ta factory which is 36km away. It appears that they were not even given written notice. This has created considerable distress at the extra cost and time added to an already long day for workers on low wages. Management is forcing resignations rather than redundancy on the workforce by making it impossible for workers to get to work.

United States: Media report that garment workers in Los Angeles, who are still paid by the piece, have made clear that they will keep fighting to change the system, as a bill that intended to stop wage theft failed to become legislation. Santa Son, who has worked in LA for 15 years, said that she and her peers refuse to feel defeated. "We will continue fighting because we want this situation to improve. These companies will not change on their own", she said. 

17 September 2020

Global: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre's online discussion on "Building a Just Recovery: Workers' views on the post-pandemic economy", led by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Chair of The Elders, can be streamed here

Clean Clothes Campaign East Asia has published a video on how the pandemic has become a nightmare for unionised workers. In the past three months, the CCC has documented over 30 cases of union-busting involving factories that produce for H&M, Bestseller, Primark and many other brands. 

Bangladesh: Media report that the struggle of garment workers at Dragon Sweater Bangladesh for full wages and severance pay continues, as well as demonstrations of global solidarity in front of stores from brands that sourced from this factory. Two days ago, activists rallied in front of a New Yorker store in Hamburg for the third time since demonstrations began. The store's manager said that they would inform New Yorker's headquarters in Braunschweig, Germany. 

Cambodia: Media report that Senior US State Department officials have joined calls for the release of recently arrested activists in Cambodia, who have been detained for their involvement in peaceful protests. Officials said that the US is deeply concerned about the arrests and the activists' wellbeing. This public condemnation came after Touch Vibol, executive president of the Student Movement for Democracy submitted letters requesting the US to intervene in securing activists' release. 

Media report that most people who have received cash aid from the government's IDPoor payments, created amidst the coronavirus pandemic in order to prevent starvation, have been using this money to pay for loans and buy rice, as most have loans from micro-finance institutions to repay. The Planning Ministry has expressed concerns regarding the situation, but no solution has been suggested. As a Village Chief made clear, the IDPoor payments are helpful, but the government should urgently address people's concerns regarding loans. "If you go to every house, you will see that they only have rice, bought with government aid, and loans to pay", they said. 

India: Media report that many garment workers in the Bommanahalli Zone, Bangalore, are testing positive for COVID-19. According to the Special Officer for the Zone, "there is a marked increase among workers in factories." Garment factories in the area have many workers working in limited space, which represents "a serious danger of COVID-19 spreading to all workers in a short time." According to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the zone, which is not only composed by garment factories, reports an average of 350 new cases per day, most of whom are garment workers. 

Media report that the government of India is facing a backlash from opposition parties, who argue that the Centre is deliberately trying to hide data regarding deaths of migrant workers during lockdown because it is likely to put them in a "bad light", as the Centre refused to disclose data in Parliament, despite Indian Railways confirming that at least 80 deaths were recorded on Shramik Special trains. The reports submitted by the RPF revealed for the first time that several deceased persons on board the Shramik special trains were infected with the coronavirus. Others who died had symptoms of the virus, such as cough, fever, vomiting and their condition suddenly deteriorated.

Myanmar: Media report that although Myanmar's GDP growth has fallen to 1.8% due to the effects of COVID-19, the Asian Development Bank reports that growth is forecast to bounce back to 6% in 2021. The Bank reported that manufacturing, especially garment production, has been affected in both demand and supplies. Cuts in new orders, supply delays and reduction of the workforce pushed the purchasing managers' index down in April to the lowest reading recorded. Although Myanmar's GDP is expected to keep growing, the ADB does not relate this growth to the garment sector. 

Nepal: Media report that over 200 Nepali migrant workers have been rescued and repatriated from detention centres in Malaysia. According to Malaysia's Immigration Department, there are still as many as 121 Nepalis in various detention Malaysian centres. 

South Africa: IndustriALL reports that the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) is standing firm against the push back in wage negotiations, as manufacturers try to use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to reduce the wages and benefits of over 75,000 workers. Some employers are proposing to reduce wages by 20%, to pay less towards pension funds, and have asked not to pay annual bonuses and shift allowances. "While we acknowledge that the lockdown has been difficult for our industry, we will not just sit by and meekly accept these brutal employer attacks on our members’ standard of living. We are determined not to allow workers’ decades-long and hard-won conditions of employment and gains to be eradicated by employers who are hell-bent on opportunistically using the COVID-19 crisis to rob our members of what is rightfully theirs", Andre Kriel, SACTWU general secretary, said. 

Sri Lanka: War on Want reports that, while media report that Next is forecasting £300 million in profits as sales rise, Sumithra garment workers in Sri Lanka who helped make these profits are struggling still for union recognition and their April pay. 

Thailand: Media report that Thailand's closed borders and continued crackdown against those who try to enter the country is spreading misery among neighbouring countries, as many migrant workers from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar who seek jobs in Thailand are unable to start working and continue to struggle to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the article further reports that measures to contain the pandemic have come at a great cost to the economy and to the livelihoods of millions, as Thailand's key sectors, such as tourism, services and manufacturing, have been hit hard. Experts predict that the economy could shrink by as much as 10% this year.

16 September 2020

Global: Media report that the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has said that the social protection programmes that are currently being put in practice are insufficient to stop millions of people falling into poverty amidst the pandemic. In the report, entitled "Looking back to look ahead: A rights-based approach to social protection in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery", Olivier De Schutter, who was appointed in March 2020, made clear that the over-1400 social protection measures adopted by governments around the world in response to the crisis were mostly insufficient, as many aren't long-term and lack funding. "The social safety nets put into place are full of holes", De Schutter said in a press release. 

Clean Clothes Campaign and many other groups in the #PayUp coalition will be joining a Call for Action against the Children's Place, which will take place tomorrow, on social media, at 8-10PM CET. Children's Place is yet to pay for orders that it placed before the pandemic.

Bangladesh: Hamburg-based alliance has published a video message as part of an international coordination in support of garment workers from Dragon Sweater Bangladesh, who are still fighting for their full wages as well as severance payments.

Cambodia: Media report that some garment workers in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, are unable to visit their families during the upcoming holidays (Pchum Ben Festival) because they don't have enough money, as many have lost their jobs or faced pay cuts amidst the pandemic. Many workers have had to borrow money, as inflation has meant that their current salary is insufficient to pay for basic necessities, such as food and rent. The article also reports that, for this reason, workers have expressed that the $2 minimum wage increase does not reflect worker's reality. 

Media report that, according to the Ministry of Labour, 491 garment factories in Cambodia have suspended operations. These long-term and short-term suspensions, which took place from February to September, affected around 290,000 workers. 

India: Media report that experts estimate that India's economy will shrink by almost 10% during the current fiscal year. S&P Global Ratings released this new estimate after having reported that the contraction would be of around 5%. 

Media report that garment factories in India have started to reopen post-lockdown, but are facing several issues such as lack of funds, which is making it quite difficult for most of the factories to stay afloat, low efficiency, lack of raw materials, labour issues and suppressed prices from buyers.

Lesotho: Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) asked Bull clothing to respond to the allegations that the factory fired 253 workers, after accusing them of taking strike action, and then re-hired them on lower wages, but the factory did not respond.

Myanmar: Media report that, according to a Thai-based workers aid group, arrests of Myanmar migrant workers suspected of trying to enter Thailand through informal routes have doubled in the past two weeks. The group reports that, since the beginning of the month, about 6000 migrant workers have been arrested along the Thai border. Workers are being detained for up to six months. The group has urged the government of Myanmar to prevent migrants from being arrested by negotiating their entry into Thailand through formal routes. Meanwhile, media report that ten Myanmar migrant workers were arrested in Thailand yesterday on Tuesday, as security along the Thai-Myanmar frontier remains tight. 

Union organiser reports that two union leaders from Htan Ta Pin factory in Myanmar, which produces for Regatta, have been fired for organising a union in their factory. Even though the government ruled their dismissal as illegal, the factory is still ignoring demands to reinstate workers. 

United States: Spectrum News, a 24/7 local news channel committed to serving communities in Southern California, has published a video on garment workers' working conditions in LA. They report that many of the workers who are currently making masks in LA's underground garment industry are underpaid, averaging around $5 an hour, and exposed to poor working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. Workers expressed that, even after a major COVID-19 outbreak in garment factories in the area, health and safety measures remain insufficient. 

15 September 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that around 80% of the 5000 mills in Narsingdi that closed in March have now reopened and are currently running at full capacity. The demand for products has been increasing as cheaper products from India, Pakistan and China are unable to reach Bangladesh's market due to border closures related to the coronavirus pandemic. Business owners in the district said that they were deprived of the governments' bailout packages amidst the pandemic despite the fact that they cover almost 70% of national production. "Around 60% of the country's textile industries have reopened. But it will take time to reopen the rest. Many banks are reluctant while many industries' owners do not have proper documents. For this reason, some problems have erupted in getting the government's bailout,” Ali Hossain Shishir, president of Narsingdi Chamber of Commerce and Industries, explained. 

Media report that Bangladesh's official data is missing detailed records of over 100,000 COVID-19 positive cases. Healthcare experts have warned that health authorities' failure in identifying the location or compiling the details of these patients will adversely affect any research, contact tracing, and decision-making related to the pandemic. 

Cambodia: Media report that several unions and federations boycotted a meeting with garment industry and government representatives, which took place today. The meeting aimed to discuss Labour Law amendments that unions say will harm the interests of garment and footwear industry workers. "We did not attend the meeting because we are unhappy with their disregard for workers’ interests", Mann Seng Hak, vice president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), made clear. "We want the Labor Ministry to drop the amendments and keep the 130 percent of minimum wage for night shifts", Seng Hak added. One of the unions called on the ministry to delay the proposed revisions, as many garment workers are already struggling financially due to factory suspensions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting took place without the unions. 

Media report that Logwood Apparel Co Ltd, has been given the green light from the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) to build a new garment factory in Kandal province. The newly-approved project represents total investment of $2.7 million and is expected to create 814 local jobs. Meanwhile, media report that Oxford Economics has stated that the coronavirus pandemic will have a significant impact on the exports of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. It forecasted that FDI inflows will fall sharply this year and that the recovery in 2021 will be muted amidst weak global demand for apparel. Although FDI into the garment sectors continued to flow into Cambodia, the number of jobs created is not keeping pace with the number of jobs displaced.

Media report that Thailand plans to allow a group of 500 Cambodian workers to return to work legally in the country for the first time since borders closed amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Khun Tharo, from labour rights group Central, explained that Thailand is in need of workers and has extended work permits for some Cambodians who stayed in the country amidst the outbreak. "The important thing is for the state to guarantee their well-being. We don’t want to see COVID-19 used as a cover to exploit the labor force or to violate labour rights", he said. 

India: Media report that India's Home Ministry reports that the migration of a large number of migrant workers in the country was triggered by panic created by fake news. "The migration of a large number of migrant workers was triggered by panic created by fake news regarding the duration of lockdown. And people, especially migrant labourers, were worried about an adequate supply of basic necessities like food, drinking water, health services and shelter", Kishan Reddy said. 

Social media posts show that massive countrywide Debt Relief protests organised by AIARLA and AIPWA are taking place around India. Protesters demanded that the moratorium on recovery of small loans be extended; that the period interest and loan instalments for women of self help groups be waived for the duration of the lockdown period; harassment against women in the name of loan recovery be stoped; and that MFI interest rate be reduced. The demonstrations counted with women, migrant workers and rural labour, who demanded debt relief and jobs.

Myanmar: Media report that the Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC) will resume COVID-19 spot checks across the city, including in garment factories, in order to ensure people and businesses are following COVID-19 instructions, as cases in Myanmar increase. The Committee informed that action will be taken against those who fail to follow instructions.

Singapore: Media report that Singapore has recorded 49 COVID-19 positive cases, nearly all of them being linked to migrant staff in dormitories.

Swaziland: IndustriALL reports that FTM Garments is taking the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (ATUSWA) to court over alleged loss of production for four days and damages to property following a picket that took place two years ago. The union says the lawsuit is an attempt to weaken the union. "Factory owners should strive to build better industrial relations with trade unions and not plot to destroy them. Taking the union to court on false charges is an act of bad faith by FTM Garments", Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL director for the textile and garment industry, said. 

United Kingdom: Media report that the owner of Arcadia Group (Topshop and Topman) has backed down and agreed to pay full salaries to head office staff facing redundancy, three weeks after the Guardian revealed it had been accused of potentially breaching employment law. Despite this U-turn, Arcadia is still refusing to pay for up to £100 million worth of orders that were cancelled in March. 

14 September 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that BKMEA many member-factories are yet to update the central database with information on workers, which means that they will not get financial assistance. Of the 202 that are yet to enlist in the database, however, only 27 are currently running production. According to the BKMEA, the rest of the factories are likely doing sub-contract jobs due to work order scarcity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that most units have not closed permanently. 

Media report that the government of Bangladesh has fixed Tk 7100 as the new minimum monthly wages for workers in the leather goods and footwear sector. The government categorised workers of the leather goods and footwear sector in six grades, each of whom has a correspondent minimum wage. 

Media report that Bangladesh is confronting a twin crisis - one related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and another to extreme weather disasters. This has created a scenario in which workers have no other choice but to accept very low wages in extremely dangerous conditions, with no serious health and safety protections, let alone social distancing measures or PPE. 

Media report that, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau, readymade garment exports from Bangladesh remained stable in July and August 2020 compared on year-on-year basis. 

Cambodia: Media report that six unions - Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CAWDU), Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUW) and Confederation of Cambodian Worker Movement (CCWM) - have announced that they will boycott tomorrow's meeting with the Labour Ministry on amendments to the Labour Law. Unions explained that they are boycotting the meeting because they object to the proposal to remove mandatory overtime rates for people working overnight and on holidays, which they already made clear in other meetings. The Labour Ministry's spokesperson said that the meeting will still take place without the unions. 

Media report that unions have expressed that increasing garment workers' minimum wage was simply symbolic, as it remains under inflation. According to Khun Tharo, from the labour rights group Central, "It's political. The minimum wage increased to satisfy workers during this economic crisis, but it doesn’t reflect and the social and economic criteria as it is." Tharo made clear that around 130,000 garment workers have lost their jobs amidst the pandemic, urging the government to focus on developing a social protection programme that can assist workers during this difficult time. 

Media report that Cambodia's government has replied to the UN's recent statement, which called on the government to release activists and cease intimidation against civil society organisations. In its reply, the government denied the UN's claims. "The assertion that the government targets human rights activists and NGOs is both unfounded and selective. (...) Only law-breaking ones are disbanded (...) Those in conflict with the law have full opportunity to be heard, disprove the charges against them and present their arguments in court", the official statement read. The article further reports that the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association also issued a statement, calling on the government to release two of its members, as well as other activists. Meanwhile, another article reports that the EU has also expressed serious concern over the recent spate of arrests and detentions of youth and rights advocates.

Guatemala: Media report that Modas B.I Apparel factory, which had been open for 20 years, closed operations due to low orders from US buyers. As a result, 800 workers have lost their jobs. The factory's machinery, equipment and other production supplies were purchased by another Korean investor factory in the country.

India: Media report that India's government told Parliament earlier today that there is no data available on the deaths and job losses among migrant workers caused by the sudden nationwide COVID-lockdown. The Ministry of Labour and Employment, in a written reply, also said that the government has not maintained state-wise break-up of distribution of free ration to migrant workers. 

Myanmar: Media report that Myanmar migrant workers continue to return from Thailand. Today, 169 migrant workers returned in their own arrangement through Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge in Myawady. They are now undergoing the 14-days mandatory quarantine. 

Singapore: Media report that COVID-19 positive cases have been found in migrant workers' dormitories, which had recently been announced 'COVID-free'. The dormitories, where over 300,000 migrant workers live in crowded rooms, represent nearly 95% of Singapore's tally of more than 57,000 infections. As more virus clusters emerge, many workers are being quarantined within weeks of resuming jobs. Some fear a repeat experience even more than getting infected. "It feels like we are in a prison. We just want to go back to normal life. We want to work full time so that we can earn and send money home", Habibur Rahman, said. 

Sri Lanka: Media report that the government of Sri Lanka has announced that it aims to increase garment production in rural areas during the next five years, planning to recruit around 10,000 workers. According to the article, the government is also planning to cease imports of readymade garments to Sri Lanka and to manufacture more in the country.

Thailand: Media report that thousands of migrant workers have recently tried to enter the country through informal routes. Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said that the number of migrants who try to cross is increasing each day. Data shows that 274 migrant workers from Cambodia have attempted to cross into Thailand, over 2500 from Myanmar, over 1000 from Vietnam and 23 from Laos. 

Turkey: Media report that garment manufacturers in Turkey have struck an accord with major buyers to complete and pay for their previous orders. Amidst the pandemic, Turkish manufacturers were left with around $3.5B in inventory and orders on hold after buyers left them stranded through contract cancellations, postponements and payment demands. Following lengthly discussions, the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers’ Association (TGSD) reports that most buyers have now agreed to complete and pay for previous orders. According to buyers, around 80 to 90% of orders have been cleared, paid for or arranged to be paid for.

Vietnam: Media report that Vietnam's textile and garment industry has called for greater cooperation with India, a partnership which, according to manufacturers and ambassadors, will help contribute to the recovery and enhancement of the garment sector in both countries. 

13 September 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that small garment factories in Bangladesh are finding it tough to resume operations amidst the pandemic, even though work orders from international buyers are slowly making a comeback. According to BGMEA, about 300 small and medium garment factories were closed down due to the coronavirus fallouts, causing a $1 billion loss in the sector's annual export value and 50,000 workers to lose their jobs. 

Myanmar: Media report that the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER) will provide loans to less than 1000 COVID-19-hit businesses, following over 10,000 loan applications in the second round of COVID-19 funding. MIFER said that it prioritised the agricultural, livestock and fishery sectors along with exporters and importers. The first round of COVID-19 funding prioritized garment production, hotels, the tourism sector and SMEs.

12 September 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that workers' representatives met with the owners of Dragon Sweater. After negotiations with the factory owners broke down, hundreds of workers took to the streets, stopping at the National Press Club as well as the Labour Ministry. Although the police came to the scene, there were no confrontations this time. 

Media report that Bangladesh's garment exporters and economists are cautiously optimistic about the positive growth of export earnings in the coming months, as Bangladesh is yet to overcome the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. "No doubt the increase in export earnings in the last two months was a positive development but we are still in negative growth", Ahsan H Mansur, from Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, said. Mahmud Hasan Khan Babu, former vice-president of the BGMEA, warned that export earnings are likely to fall in September and October compared to July and August, as buyers placed 20% less orders than last year. Overall, buyers are placing orders at slow rates and decreased prices. According to BKMEA's, it seems unlikely that the situation will improve in the next three to four months.

Cambodia: Media report that thousands of workers in Cambodia took to the streets this week, demanding unpaid wages and benefits. As previously reported, over 4000 workers from Y&W Garments in Dangkao district protested for better working conditions. Among other demands, workers demanded time off over the Pchum Ben holidays next week. According to local authorities, the protest ended as both sides reached an agreement and workers agreed to return to work. The article further reports that, on 9 September, almost 900 workers from Hong Sen Textile, which produces for Next, protested because their employers ran away after suspending operations without paying them. Nop Sokha, who has worked at the factory for seven years, said the factory owed each worker between $200 and $250. Workers have repeatedly tried to contact the factory owner but calls remain unanswered. Yesterday, about 250 workers from Sepia Garment in Pur Senchey district, which produces for Matalan and Sainsbury's, protested outside the Labour Ministry. Workers said that the factory owner ran away and owed workers two months of wages. Earlier in the week, over 2000 workers from Hung Wah Garment, which produces for George (ASDA), went on strike over grievances related to severance pay. After the strike, Chin Leakhena, workers' representative, received a warning letter from the Labour Ministry saying that she had organised an illegal strike. She has been suspended by the factory. Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) said that factories are continuing to suspend their operations and to close down, leaving workers in uncertainty.

Media report that the Labour Ministry upheld the decision taken by Pactics garment factory management to fire a union leader and union activist in June, saying that the dismissals were legal. The provincial department had also ruled on 30 June that the factory's termination of workers was fair, but union members disagreed, filing a complaint to the Labour Ministry in August. Khun Tharo, from Central, said it was unfortunate that the Labour Minister agreed with the decision made at the provincial level.

Media report that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) in Geneva has called on the Cambodian government to immediately release the 12 activists who are currently being held on incitement charges and to end its intimidation of civil society organisations. The statement reports that several people have received threatening phone calls, including death threats, if they don’t end their activism, while numerous rights campaigners are in hiding for fear of arrest. "We call on the Government to immediately and unconditionally release those detained for their exercise of these rights, and to bring an end to the intimidation of civil society actors. We call on the security forces to stop resorting to unnecessary and excessive force and intimidation against those engaged in peaceful protests", UNOHCHR wrote. Despite this call, another article reports that Cambodia has arrested yet another rights activist for "incitement". Sopheak's arrest marks at least 10 activists arrested over the past month amid a series of small street protests, most in support of union leader Rong Chhun. 

Nepal: Media report that the government of Nepal has announced that it will make arrangements to help undocumented workers return home from the COVID-19 hit countries like Malaysia and Gulf states. "The government will ensure that all Nepali migrant workers, be it documented or undocumented, get the support to return home. The Nepal government will bear the repatriation expenses of the workers", Rameshwar Ray Yadav, Labour, Employment and Social Security Minister, said. The repatriation cost of undocumented Nepali migrant workers will be covered by the COVID-19 Prevention, Control and Treatment Fund.

Philippines: Partido Manggagawa (PM) reports that 15 garment workers have been allowed to return to work at First Glory, in the Mactan Economic Zone, after spending five months on forced leave. The 15 garment workers were asked by the company to return to work just moments after filling a case at the Philippines' National Labour Relations Commission (NLRC).

Thailand: Media report that the government of Thailand is planning to temporarily turn border patrol police camps into COVID-19 quarantine centres in order to accommodate migrant workers who have been permitted to work in Thailand. This measure aims to help lower the costs of COVID-19 quarantining for migrant workers' employers while ensuring high quarantine standards. 

11 September 2020

Global: UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights published a report titled "Looking back to look ahead: a rights-based approach to social protection in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery" which argues that "the world was ill-equipped to deal with the socioeconomic impacts of this pandemic because it never recovered from the austerity measures imposed in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008-2011". 

Bangladesh: Media report that Mostafa Golam Quddus, Managing Director of Dragon Sweater, is saying that the factory paid workers their wages during the three months that the factory was shut down as per government instructions before terminating employees and says that workers are trying to "tarnish the company's image", both in Bangladesh and abroad. Unions, however, made very clear that Quddus' claims were false, as, until now, at least 500 workers have been terminated without receiving full wages. Meanwhile, media report that global solidarity with workers from Dragon Sweater continues, as FAU Freiburg announced that they will organise a picket tomorrow at a local Lidl store. 

Media report that Rubana Huq, BGMEA president, said that 80% to 90% of the $3.18 billion cancelled work orders have been reinstated after "die hard engagements" with buyers. In an interview to the Daily Star, the president said that Bangladesh's garment industry was by far the hardest-hit sector, but that, at this point, the toughest time had probably passed. In order to fix the damaging effect of the COVID-19 crisis, BGMEA urged the government to help the industry get access to financial support including freezing the outstanding liabilities for certain tenures and providing credit access to factories so that they can restart production. Huq further added that Bangladesh must "continue the momentum of health safety and hygiene practices and the awareness of social distancing."

Media report that a fire that broke out at an RMG factory at the Gulshan Shopping Centre earlier today. Rozina Akter, duty officer of Fire Service and Civil Defence Control room, said the fire broke out on the 5th floor at Shamsher Garments Factory around 3:20AM and spread rapidly, affecting goods worth Tk 1.5 million. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

Media report that over 84,000 COVID-19 patients are missing from official records, due to organisational mistakes in terms of health data management. This is a big issue as this data is crucial for epidemiological analysis such as determining area-wise cases, tests and infection rate. The scarcity of data is keeping the government policymakers, researchers and general people in the dark about the country's COVID-19 situation. 

Cambodia: Media report that the 2021 minimum wage for textile, garment and footwear workers only received a slight increase of $2, leaving the monthly wage significantly below inflation. The article point out that, considering the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on workers' livelihoods, this increase hardly makes their situation any better. Some laid-off workers haven't even received the $70 the government promised they would pay alongside factories. The same article reports that so far, requests from NGOs and unions urging the Ministry of Labour to take action against unpaid seniority payments have gone unanswered, which means that campaigns and protests are likely to continue.

Media report that local authorities have warned that strict selection criteria regarding the government's aid programme for vulnerable families is leaving many families, who urgently need relief, without aid. The comments came from the local village chief of Kork Srok village, who explained that the government's criteria was too restricting and was causing discontent among the community against those who have received the payments. 

Social media post shows that, according to local news, nearly 4000 garment workers from Y&W protested and blocked Street 217 demanding better working conditions. Their key demand is related to the number of days off on Pchum Ben, a 15-day religious festival. 

Nepal: Media report that the government of Nepal will allow additional flights from countries where regular international flights have resumed to operate, increasing the number of regular international flights to facilitate the repatriation of Nepali migrant workers. The government has therefore removed the 800 passengers per day restriction, giving permission to airlines which agree to only transport passengers with PCR negative test reports. 

Pakistan: According to reports from the media and CCC network, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) held a seminar on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) on the occasion of 8th anniversary of Baldia Factory Fire incident yesterday at Karachi Press Club. Here, trade union leaders, workers' representatives and Sindh Health Department officials reiterated the need to take measures that will prevent industrial accidents, expressing that, eight years on, no lessons have been learned from the Baldia garment factory fire, where 260 workers lost their lives. Until today, not one of those responsible has been held accountable. Union leaders made clear that millions of workers in Pakistan are still not registered with any social security institution. 

PILER seminar

10 September 2020

Global: Oxfam has published a new report which reveals that 32 of the world's largest companies stand to see their profits jump by $109 billion more in 2020 while 400 million workers are expected to lose their jobs and half a billion people to be pushed into poverty. As the report reads, "not everyone is losing out". According to the study, the pandemic has laid bare for all to see a rigged economic model that has allowed the world's largest corporations to make billions of dollars at the expense of low wage workers, funnelling profits to shareholders, a small group of largely men. Oxfam adds that corporations continued to put profits before workers' safety, push costs down the supply chain, and use their political influence to shape policy to their advantage. 

Primark published a public statement announcing that it will pay for outstanding finished goods and and to utilise or pay for any finished fabric liabilities. As a result, Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) reports that it has moved Primark to the positive side of the tracker. In the statement, Primark says that it will continue with the same 30-day payment terms it had in place prior to the pandemic. 

Bangladesh: Media report that workers from CNT Irunea picketed local Lidl stores in solidarity with workers from Dragon Sweater, Bangladesh, who were illegally laid off and are still fighting for their full wages and compensation payments.

Cambodia: Media report that the garment sector's minimum wage will be increased to $192 starting next year, following wage negotiations between the government, manufacturers and workers' representatives. "$192 is an official figure for 2021. We would like to thank all sides for understanding this. It is very difficult for the government because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic", Ith Samheng, Labour Minister, said. Another article explained that, in the negotiations, unions pushed for a $12.35 increase, or 6.5%, employers sought a decrease of $17.39, about 9.2 %; and the government suggested a $5 drop. Media report that Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, said he was not satisfied with the new minimum wage, but due to the COVID-19, it was difficult for the confederation to demand a higher wage for the workers.

Media report that at least 100,000 migrant workers have returned to Cambodia from Thailand since March. With factories and tourism also shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs, government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, urged returning migrant workers and out-of-work factory workers to go to their provinces and practice farming. However, migrant workers have expressed that they are unable to start farming, as they have no capital to start a farm from scratch and are heavily indebted. Workers pointed out that it would only be possible to work in agriculture if the government gave them subsidies. 

Media report that experts have pointed out that Cambodia's garment industry has come under near-term threat from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and that it could very much be a "coronavirus casualty". Sian Fenner, lead Asia economist at Oxford Economics, noted in a recent report that lockdowns adopted to contain the spread of the virus "have had a severe impact on manufacturing and exports" in Cambodia.

Media report that the Ministry of Economy and Finance has announced that the government has distributed $78 million to vulnerable families who have been severely affected by the pandemic. The Ministry further said that the government continues to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable families and is likely to implement more social assistance programmes if needed. 

China: Media report that the coronavirus  pandemic has created real challenges for the Chinese garment industry. The global apparel supply chain slowed down, and the internal market, which was already suffering because of the China-US trade war, had to overcome new constraints due to factory shutdowns at home as well as travel bans and quarantine measures across importing nations. To cope with these tensions and weak demand, particularly from the US, Chinese textile producers have slashed their prices. "Prices offered by Chinese suppliers have been around 30 percent lower than other Asian countries this year", another article reported. 

India: Media report that disruptions in India's garment supply chains related to the pandemic-induced lockdowns have seriously dented the already-dismal living and working conditions of workers. The article reports that the garment industry has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as factories faced closure because of public health concerns and social distancing measures and, in many cases, were forced to close due to lack of orders. With the closure of garment factories, millions of garment workers were left without a job and, in some cases, without payment for work they had already done. 

Tunisia: Solidarity Center reports that Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) is calling on employers and the government to address the severe challenges textile workers are facing during the COVID-19 crisis and negotiate an action plan to guide the struggling garment sector. According to the National Institute of Statistics in Tunisia, the country's garment industry experienced a 45% decline in exports in March, compared to the previous year, which translated into job and pay cuts for workers. Moreover, the union reports that employers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to cease or suspended paying workers' social security benefits or family allowances, such as food tickets, under the pretext of force majeure. Employers further coerced workers, especially new employees, into signing fixed-term contracts and giving up their status as permanent workers. Workers expressed that some employers blocked them from forming unions, closed union offices - prohibiting workers from meeting in the office even outside working hours - and removed posters and other legally placed union material from worksites, using the pandemic is a pretext for their actions. Although the lockdown ended on the 27th of June and many factories resumed nearly full production, union leaders made clear that worker rights' violations persist, with factories not following government regulations to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Turkey: Fair Wear Foundation reports that COVID-19 has significantly restricted factory production capacity for Turkey's garment. According to their findings, some suppliers have started producing masks, while others are turning to a governmental allowance scheme or resorting to dismissals.

United States: Media report that US imports surged to unexpected high levels this summer and may have hit a new record as the US economy continues to reopen and retailers stock up for the holiday season. 

9 September 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that the government of Bangladesh has announced that it will provide laid-off garment workers with Tk 3000 a month for three months, a relief programme which has been backed by the European Union and Germany, who together paid €113 million. Laid-off workers who worked at factories that are part of BGMEA, BKMEA, LFMEAB or BFLLFEA are eligible for the cash transfers. "The workers who have not received salaries in June, July and August are really in trouble. It is good that the welfare of the workers is being looked into. We hope it would be implemented properly", Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive chairman of the Power and Participation Research Centre, said. He made clear, however, that workers who have been laid-off from informal jobs will not benefit from this initiative, as the government's social protection schemes continue to focus on formal sector workers. "We have to address the informal sector", he said. 

Media report that Bangladesh's garment sector is concerned by the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Europe, as the EU is one of its main export markets and orders have just now started to be placed again. The article reports that, similarly to what happened at the beginning of the outbreak, Bangladesh is concerned that, as Germany, Spain and the UK see COVID-19 cases rising, the sector may encounter further set-backs which could cost garment workers their jobs.

Media report that, according to a survey conducted by the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, 54% of working women in Bangladesh have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Of them, 16% were terminated and 20% were suspended. The BMP based its findings on 130 respondents from 26 districts and conducted the survey between 1 June and 25 July. Among respondents, 39% are factory workers. Of them, 18% said that their factory remained shut amidst the pandemic. The study also found that 52% of respondents reported being in financial crisis and 67% are facing domestic violence during the pandemic. 

Media report that a total of 111,111 Bangladeshi migrant workers have returned to the country after losing their jobs abroad. The article further reports that Imran Ahmad, Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister, demanded that the COVID-19 test fee for returning migrant workers be fixed at Tk 100, as is the fixed fee for nationals. "They [the migrant workers] are the citizens of our country. They go abroad and send foreign currencies to our country. They should only be charged Tk100 for the test, just like the rest of the citizens", he said. 

Media report that a new report by the ILO and UN Women revealed that about 25% of respondents, who are all garment workers in Bangladesh, cited violence and harassment at the workplace as their main reason for leaving jobs in the sector. The report also found that most female workers in the sector are concentrated in low-paid jobs and the participation of women in managerial positions is yet to improve. 

Cambodia: CATU Cambodia reports that Mr. Julian Hill, Australian MP, has sent letter to Nike Australia about the Violet Factory case, making clear that the factory was producing for Nike and called on the brand to ensure that workers are paid what they are owed. 

Media report that Future Forum Asia and Angkor Research and Consulting have published a new report on the effect of COVID-19 on wage workers and found that wage workers in Cambodia experienced an approximate 30% drop in salary between January and April 2020. The further study found that:

  • 1 in every 4 workers reported receiving no salary in April, compared to 1 in every 25 workers in January; 
  • Workers without a formal contract had lower wages than formal workers before the pandemic, and this gap has widened further between January and April;
  • Workers in the provinces generally reported larger reductions in salary than those in Phnom Penh;
  • Factory workers reported a 30% reduction in income. 

Media report that an unprecedented string of arrests has taken place since early August 2020 and shows no sign of slowing down as the government continues to target youth and environmental activists. At least 14 activists have been arrested by Cambodian authorities over the course of the past month, in "a rapid crackdown that looks likely to continue". Sar Mory, from Cambodian Youth Network, said that the swift and brutal responses exhibited by the authorities seems to be a ploy to deter further people from criticising their decisions. Indeed, media report that the Ministry of Interior instructed authorities to take legal action against activists, labelling them as "inciters" causing chaos. Activists warned that the City Hall was using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to ban activists from gathering in a peaceful assembly at Phnom Penh's Freedom Park. Another article reports that the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to Cambodia expressed concerns over the recent slew of arrests. 

India: Media report that trains that aim to help migrant workers rejoin work in other states will start running from 12 September. The first trains will part from Odisha and stop in Gujarat.

Malaysia: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) reports that, following evidence that Top Glove, which has been found to produce in "slave-like" conditions in Malaysia, is making gloves for the New Zealand market. Conditions in Malaysia's factories include long hours of work, very low wages, debt bondage, cramped living conditions, and withholding of passports. A report found that Protec Solutions has imported gloves from Top Glove and that Ebos sources product from Ansell, which in turn sources from Top Glove. BHRRC invited Protec Solutions and Ebos to respond to these concerns and Ebos responded and committed to cease sourcing and supplying the Ansell MicroThin Nitrile glove manufactured by Top Glove. Protec Solutions did not respond. 

Pakistan: Media report that Pakistan’s garment sector is calling on the government’s help, as the industry continues to struggle from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The call was made by two manufacturers’ associations, All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) and Pakistan Readymade Garments Exporters & Manufacturers Association (PRGMEA). Rana Baqir, executive director of APTMA, said that garment factories were struggling as major buyers, such as Inditex, JCPenney, Mango, H&M, Kohl’s, Gap, Levi Strauss, Nike, Peacocks and American Eagle all suspended purchases in Pakistan. The associations urged the government to reduce taxes, reduce energy costs and provide them with targeted subsidy support.

Singapore: Media report that as "pre-pandemic life" is slowly returning for many people in Singapore, migrant workers, who make up much of the city's low-wage workforce, are still confined to their residences. Migrant workers are only allowed to leave for "essential errands", like court appearances, doctor's appointments and, in very few cases, to report to work. The government said last month it was working toward relaxing more rules for workers, but workers remain confined to small and crowded rooms. Reports of self-harm and suicide attempts among migrant workers are circulating among social media and local news. Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and a professor at the Australian National University Medical School, said that "it’s unreasonable to put restrictions on people when there are things you can fix up", referring to the fact that workers are still living in crowded housing with bad ventilation, where the virus is more likely to spread.

Vietnam: Media report that Vietnam's textile and garment industry continues to be badly affected by the pandemic with only weekly or monthly orders arriving due to uncertain global demand. According to a report by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, some producers have seen September orders drop by 40-50%, while orders have not yet been confirmed for the rest of the year. "We have barely received orders for the last quarter, which is a major challenge for our production plans", Vinatex said. Meanwhile, another article reports that Vietnam's footwear exports dropped in the first eight months of the year. Footwear exports still reported an over 17% drop in August compared to 2019, according to official figures.

8 September 2020

Global: IndustriALL reports that hundreds of people from all over the world participated in the Global Day of Action, calling for an end to union busting in the garment industry. 

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) has published a paper on how global apparel brands are using the coronavirus pandemic to stiff suppliers and abandon workers, as they use "force majeure" to shirk supply chain responsibilities. The paper explains how brands violate their due diligence obligations through cancelling orders and calls for better access to accountability mechanisms for workers to enforce brands' responsible supply chain practices.

Bangladesh: Media report that workers from Dragon Sweater Bangladesh, who were illegally laid off, staged a demonstration yesterday in front of the Ministry of Labour, under the banner of Garments Trade Union Centre (GTUC), demanding the salaries and wages they are owed. Workers explained that they have been passing days in utter hardship, missing their provident fund, service benefit and earned leave. Another article reports that workers then attempted to reach the residency of the factory owner, in order to demonstrate in front of it, but were blocked by a strong police force. Fortunately, no injuries or arrests have been reported. 

Media report that apparel exports are leading Bangladesh's export recovery, as many garment factories start producing at almost full capacity. "Since the EU and US markets are slowly returning to normal, so is Bangladesh's exports", Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute (PRI), said. Manufacturers made clear, however, that, although production has recovered, the prices being asked are very low. The article also points out that leather goods exports are not recovering as fast as the garment sector. Saiful Islam, president of the Leather and Leather goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh, said that, globally, the consumption of leather goods has decreased by 35% amidst the pandemic, as these are not basic items. 

Cambodia: Media report that the factory owner of Violet Apparel failed to provide the notice of closure which would exempt the factory from paying workers, which means that management is still responsible for paying all benefits to workers. Meanwhile, workers have delivered a petition to the EU's delegation in Phnom Penh asking them to push European brands, such as Nike and C&A, who produced at their factory, to help workers secure benefit payments. In May, the owner of Violet Apparel had promised to pay workers their last salary, compensation, seniority indemnity, annual leave and notice payments. On 1 July, however, they rescinded their offer to cover notice payments and compensation. Days later, the owner suddenly announced that the company would close permanently and that they would only be able to cover three benefits, leading to protests outside the factory. Negotiations between factory management and workers' representatives are currently taking place. 

Media report that at least nine activists have been arrested since Rong Chhun's arrest in late July, some for protesting in support of Chhun. Indeed, four more activists have been arrested and charged with incitement over the past two days for planning a peaceful rally at Phnom Penh's Freedom Park demanding justice for other demonstrators who have been detained in the past month, a move civil society groups say shows that the government is ramping up its restrictions of fundamental freedoms. Another article reports that Rhona Smith, UN human rights special rapporteur, wrote on a Facebook post that she was monitoring the situation. 

Media report that unions will propose a new minimum wage for 2021 of $203.35 per month in the next National Council on Minimum Wage's (NCMW) meeting, which is an increase from  the $11.59 which was agreed in the first unions' meeting in late August. Ath Thorn, from Cambodian Labour Confederation, explained that the figure was increased due to inflation. 

Media report that MARVEL Garment Co. Ltd will start production in Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone in October. The company is set to recruit around 5000 workers. 

Germany: Media report that Germany has provided €14.5M to a multi-donor initiative which aims to help garment workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The programme will provide cash transfers, personal protective equipment (PPE) and deliver awareness-raising campaigns on OSH and aims to assist both workers and private sector businesses rebuild their economic activities, mitigate further interruptions in the supply chain, and provide direct support to garment sector workers, especially women in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Laos, Madagascar and Vietnam. 

India: Media report that 86 out of 400 COVID-19 tests on garment workers in Bangalore, India, have come back positive, which represents 21%. The average of COVID-19 cases in Bangalore, where many garment factories are located, have been found to be much higher than the state's average. Despite potentially faulty testing, it is clear that the close conditions of factory work is putting workers at risk.

Mauritius: IndustriALL reports that the Confederation des Travailleurs Secteurs et Prive (CTSP) is taking Fairy Textile to industrial court for violating workers' rights to health and safety and "ross negligence" after a migrant worker died because he was denied the right to sick leave. Norul Amin, a Bangladeshi migrant worker, asked for sick leave to go to hospital, which management refused. His health deteriorated further the following day while at work. When he finally reached the hospital, he did not receive enough attention because of the language barrier and later died of a heart attack. "For years, the union has sounded alarm bells on the unfair treatment of migrant workers. However, the government continues to amend laws to worsen their working conditions. With the increasing discrimination and limiting of workers’ rights, the union wants labour laws to be enforced, and adequate protection to be given to migrant workers in Mauritius", Veer Gukhool, migrant workers specialist at CTSP, explained.

Myanmar: Media report that thousands of Myanmar migrant workers are returning home after losing their jobs in Thailand. In September alone, over 3500 migrant workers have returned. 

Media report that the government of Myanmar has re-extended the tax payment deadline, giving pandemic-hit businesses across the country until the end of December to make payments as they grapple with the impact of COVID-19's second wave. The Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry announced that the government had eased the deadlines for paying quarterly income tax and monthly commercial tax for small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as garment and textiles businesses. Last week, Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) reported that garment factories are struggling to survive following a decline in orders from the EU, the sector's major market. 

Philippines: Media report that, according to an industry survey conducted by the Confederation of Wearables Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP), manufacturers are expecting to cut around 21,000 jobs until the end of the year, as orders from the US continue to plunge. Workers are calling on international brands, including Adidas and Under Armour, to help avert further layoffs. "What you're seeing is a direct impact of the pandemic", Conwep executive director Maritess Agoncillo said in an interview. Sports City Group have already laid off over 4000 workers early this month and more job cuts loom, according to Dennis Derige, a coordinator for the Mactan Export Processing Zone Workers Alliance. "This crisis is temporary, but layoff is permanent. We hope they advise their sub-contractors to put the layoff on hold. They are the buyers, they have a big say in this", Derige said. Adidas' spokesperson did not comment on the situation at Sports City. 

Thailand: Media report that the Ministry of Public Health is still worried about COVID-19 infections in Myanmar following predictions that the virus could reach the Thai-Myanmar border in the next two weeks and has thus intensified border control with Myanmar and Cambodia. 

7 September 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that, according to a new survey conducted by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) and Microfinance Opportunities (MFO) during the month of July, around 82% of garment workers' livelihoods' have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The survey interviewed about 1300 workers, employed in factories in Chittagong, Dhaka, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Savar and found that: 

  • 25% of garment workers spent their saving to cover living expenses during the pandemic;
  • 18% of garment workers borrowed money in order to cover living expenses;
  • 9% relied on extended family assistance to survive amidst the pandemic;
  • 15% workers were forced to disobey quarantine rules to earn alternative incomes;
  • Only 2% of laid-off workers managed to find new jobs;
  • 18% of the 50% of workers who sent money to their families before the pandemic reported being unable to continue to do so. Many are sending less money or less frequently.

Media report that laid-off garment workers in Bangladesh are still waiting to receive aid from the EU's €117 million fund, as authorities are yet to provide a list of laid-off workers. The government's economic relations division and factory owners said that they are mulling over sitting with officials of the EU embassy in Dhaka and will soon determine who will get the incentives and how. Workers have been waiting for three months. 

Media report that manufacturers are hopeful that apparel exports will continue to increase as US and EU markets reopen. Bangladesh's merchandise export earnings increased by over 4% year-on-year in August. Experts attributed the hike in earnings to the release of goods in June and July, which were stuck in warehouses because of the pandemic. The article explores the different exports' figures. 

Media report that workers from CNT Aranjuez and IWW Belfast picketed local Lidl stores in solidarity with workers from Dragon Sweater, Bangladesh, who were illegally laid off and are still fighting for their full wages and benefits.

Cambodia: Media report that the government of Cambodia continues to arrest activists protesting for other activists' release, including union leader Rong Chhun, as protests have been declared illegal amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Chak Sopheap, director of Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that "the space for freedom was dwindling", as politicians, journalists, human rights defenders, unionists and ordinary people were finding it hard to fulfil their work without fear.

Media report that that Pactics Cambodia factory's strike has been put on hold by the union as workers and factory management await the Minister of Labour's decision regarding the case. Late last Friday (4 September), workers agreed to return to work today even though their demand of reinstating two fired unionists remains unheeded because the Department of Labor Disputes in Phnom Penh, the Department of Labor in Siem Reap and the Committee for Resolving Strikes and Demonstrations requested that they do so while waiting for a response from the Minister. From 28 August until 4 September, the factory stood almost empty, as around 400 of its estimated 500 workers abandoned their production lines in solidarity with their dismissed union leaders. 

India: Media report that business operations in India's garment industry have come to a standstill as a result of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, Indian apparel exporters continue to face severe labour shortages, limiting the orders they can accept, even though the country’s five months COVID-19 lockdown has largely been lifted. Raja M Shanmugham, president of Tirupur Exporters Association, said that manufacturers are not delivering the “promised record” on quality, quantity and timing. He explained that half of Tirupur’s workers are still in their home towns, often many hundreds of kms away from the textile hub. As a result, production is at about 50% of its capacity. The situation is similar in Ludhiana, Pujab and other apparel exporting areas around Delhi.

Media report that many migrant workers from India and Bangladesh who recently lost their jobs abroad are reluctant to leave the countries because of the economic impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on both countries' economies. Many are trying to find new jobs abroad in order to avoid facing unemployment by returning home, where salaries are much lower. The article further reports that many migrant workers who are already home are eager to go back abroad. "I didn’t want to go home because the salaries here are a third of what I used to get. I would have preferred to stay in Singapore, look for a job, and directly transfer my work permit to a new employer", Krishnan Hariharasudhan, who migrated from India to Singapore before the pandemic, said. Recently laid-off migrant workers explained that, as they return back home, they are experiencing shame and impoverishment and face discrimination from locals who think that they are carrying the coronavirus.

Myanmar: SMART Textile & Garments report that 60,464 cash transfer payments totalling over 4.6 billion MMK have been issued by the EU Myan Ku Fund to over 34,000 laid off and furloughed garment and footwear factory workers in Myanmar. Cash transfers have been made using a mobile money system.

Nepal: Media report that local authorities in Nepal are trying to create jobs for Nepali migrant workers who are returning home. Workers are expected to work in agriculture and local development sectors. Some governments have announced that they will provide returning workers with skill training courses.

Meanwhile, media report that Nepali migrant workers in Lebanon have expressed that they feel forgotten and left out, as Nepal is yet to approve a flight to bring workers that have been stranded in the country back home. "We have been hit hard on many fronts. First, there was a shortage of US dollars, then came COVID-19 crisis, followed by a deadly blast in Beirut and now the Lebanese economy is taking a hit due to inflation. On top of that, we cannot go home", Manju, a Nepali migrant worker who is stranded in Lebanon, explained. Workers demonstrated in front of the Consulate of Nepal in Lebanon, calling on the government to bring them home immediately.

Thailand/Myanmar: Media report that Thailand has intensified military patrols along its border with Myanmar in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Thailand, as Myanmar reports a spike in COVID-19 cases. In August, over 6000 Myanmar migrant workers who attempted to enter Thailand through illegal routes were arrested by Thai authorities. Ko Ye Min, from the Aid Alliance Committee for Myanmar Workers in Thailand, urged migrant workers not to attempt to cross the border, as many have been arrested, spending up to 6 months in jail and are blacklisted from entering the country. Passports and visas of workers who attempt to cross are revoked.

6 September 2020

Global: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre will be hosting an online discussion on the 16th of September titled "Building a Just Recovery: Workers' views on the post-pandemic economy". The discussion will be led by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Chair of The Elders. Panelist include Anannya Bhattacharjee, International Coordinator of Asia Floor Wage Alliance; Mónica Ramírez, Founder & President of Justice for Migrant Women; Leah Eryenyu, Research, Advocacy and Movement Building Manager of Akina Mama wa Afrika; Thulsi Narayanasamy, Senior Labour Researcher of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre; David Pitt-Watson, Co-Founder of Hermes Focus Asset Management and Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of International Trade Union Confederation. 

Bangladesh: Media report that Bangladesh's apparel exports to the United States from January until July fell by over 18% due to the global economic slowdown related to the coronavirus pandemic. Exporters said that, although earnings from the US increased slightly in July, the data reflected the adverse impacts of the pandemic in April-June.

Media report that recently terminated workers from Debenhams' Bangladesh office are demanding full wage payments and other monetary benefits which are owed to them as per Bangladesh's labour laws. "By our calculations, Debenhams owes $1 million in salaries, allowance and other service benefits", Bahauddin Mohammed Ataullah, president of the Debenhams Bangladesh Employees Association, said. Workers reiterated that the company fired workers illegally, as the three months' prior notice before closing an office was not respected. The article further reports that Debenhams continues to take orders from garment factories in Bangladesh, although on a more limited scale, but still owes a staggering $66 million to its suppliers in the country.

Cambodia: Media report that Cambodia's apparel exports to the United States from January until July opposing the global trend, increased by $89 million compared to the same period in 2019. 

China: Media report that China's apparel exports to the United States from January until July decreased by almost 50%, compared to the same period last year. 

India: Karnataka Garment Workers Union (KOOGU KGWU) reports that workers from a garment factory in Karnataka refused to enter the factory following factory management's announcement that transportation would no longer be provided. Most workers are unable to afford rent in nearby villages, which means that they are unable to report to work if there is no bus. After workers' protest, management agreed to meet with union representatives tomorrow in order to discuss the issue. 

Nepal: Media report that, as India's economy gradually reopens, thousands of migrant workers from Nepal are starting to return to India for work. Likewise, thousands of Indian migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh also crossed the border to work in various sectors in Nepal. At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, over 200,000 Nepali migrant workers returned to Nepal. Now, as businesses in India reopen despite a rising number of COVID-19 cases, Nepali workers, despite knowing the risk, are returning to India for jobs.

Vietnam: Media report that Vietnam's apparel exports to the United States from January until July fell by over 11%, compared to the same period in 2019.

5 September 2020

Bangladesh: Dina M. Siddiqi, NYU professor, has published an article on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Bangladesh's garment industry, which brought into focus both the striking power differential between Euro-American retailers and national suppliers and the damaging effects of this asymmetry. 

Cambodia: Media report that several of Cambodia's independent garment workers' unions joined a global anti-union busting campaign. They said that dozens of factories have been union busting during the pandemic, unjustly firing hundreds of union members, leaders and activists. "Nowadays, I see union’s freedom’s being walked back, so we must send a joint message to the world to ask global governments to protect the freedoms of unions and to not abuse or discriminate against them", Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), said. 

Media report that IOM Cambodia and KOICA Cambodia have signed an agreement which will allow IOM to continue providing COVID-19 prevention information to migrant workers, improve the efficiency of COVID-19 testing in provinces and provide essential food and hygiene packages to migrants in quarantine. The program will initially run until December 2020 and will be implemented in provinces with the largest numbers of returning migrants. At least 100,000 migrants and community members are expected to benefit from this program.

Myanmar: Media report that a worker at a leather bag factory which employs over 7000 workers in Yangon has tested positive for COVID-19. According to the Health and Sports Ministry, close contacts have been sent to a quarantine centre and health authorities have submitted a letter to the Yangon regional government to shut down the factory. The government replied by saying that it is not yet necessary to close the factory. The article further reports that the factory employed over 8000 workers until March, but laid off hundreds of workers amidst the pandemic.

Media report that, following a spike in COVID-19 cases, the government of Myanmar has reimposed COVID-19 restrictions in Yangon, which has forced many businesses to suspend operations. Meanwhile, garment manufacturers in the country continue to face significant declines in orders from Europe and the US. As a result, many factories are planning to lay off workers. 

Media report that activists and academics are calling for workers' rights to receive better protection amidst the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, at least 250,000 workers have lost their jobs during this crisis, either in the formal sector or among migrants returning from abroad. However, considering that 83% of Myanmar's labour force works in the informal sector, there is good reason to believe that the real scale of the job losses are much higher. The article reports that many of the advancements that had been made in recent years are being rolled back amidst the coronavirus pandemic, such as: 

  • Fundamental labour rights for workers coming under assault, particularly in relation to freedom of association;
  • Failure to pay severance to laid-off workers;
  • Using the pandemic as an excuse for union busting;
  • Hard-won gains in establishing minimum wage protections for workers are currently at stake;
  • Unsustainable levels of debt for garment workers; 
  • Increase in precarious and exploitative forms of work;
  • Increase in gender-based violence. 

The article further reports that the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on Myanmar's garment industry have disproportionately affected migrant women from poor rural areas.

Pakistan: According to reports from the CCC network, Al Karam Textile, one of Pakistan's largest factories has illegally laid-off 577 workers. Workers organised a protest in front of the factory gate against retrenchment and the contractor system. 

Philippines: Partido Manggagawa (PM) and media report that around 4000 workers have been illegally laid-off from four garment factories in the Mactan Economic Zone, which operate under the umbrella of Sports City Group, producing for major brands such as Adidas and Under Armour. According to PM, this is the single largest layoff in the Mactan Economic Zone since 2009. The majority of laid-off workers are women who have families to feed and little prospect of finding new jobs amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has severely affected the national economy. Workers received no prior notice. "Some 4,000 breadwinners had the surprise of their lives when they were unceremoniously terminated without any clear criteria", Rene Magtubo, from PM, said. Another article reports that the factories in question are Vertex One, Mactan Apparel, Globalwear Manufacturing and Feeder Apparel

4 September 2020

Global: Today, as part of IndustriALL Global Union's call for a global day of action against union busting in the garment industry, workers and activists from all over the world are calling on employers, brands and governments to stop union busting, making clear that the coronavirus pandemic cannot be used as an excuse for exploitation. The conversation on union busting with Valter Sanches, from IndustriALL, textile director Christina Hajagos-Clausen and union leaders Khaing Zar from Myanmar and Athit Kong from Cambodia can be accessed here. In a video released today, Clean Clothes Campaign shows how widespread the issue of union busting has become during the pandemic and how it brings insecurity and dire poverty to activists willing to speak up for the safety and livelihood of their co-workers in these difficult times.

Asia: Media report that, according to a global index, the risk of modern slavery in Asian manufacturing hubs has surged and is set to worsen with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, increased labour rights violations and poor law enforcement. Based on the report, countries such as Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia are at increased risk of slave labour. Both India and Bangladesh dropped into the 'extreme risk' category of the company’s Modern Slavery Index for the first time, joining China and Myanmar in a list of 32 countries. "Even in the same jobs, the conditions have become more exploitative", Apoorva Kaiwar, from IndustriALL, said. 

Bangladesh: Media report that the government of Bangladesh is creating a database on Bangladeshi migrant workers who are returning from abroad in order to be able to provide proper assistance. 

Media report that Bangladesh's export earnings in July and August, the first two months of the current financial year 2020-21, grew by 2.17%, as the global economy starts to rebound slowly. As previously reported, experts and exporters have said that the export earnings had returned to a positive trend due to the revival of work orders, which had been suspended or halted by global fashion brands at the beginning of the outbreak. The same article reports that leather goods exports are growing at slower pace and that leather-footwear exports are still declining. Sourcing Journal reports that this represents a "glimmer of hope" for garment workers, as some garment factories have announced that they are looking to hire thousands of workers to manage the recovering workflow. "I think the worst is over. Some retailers have placed new orders and revived some old orders", one manufacturer said. According to the BGMEA, around 80% of the previously cancelled orders have been reinstated. 

Cambodia: Media report that the first three-party meeting to set the minimum wage for garment and footwear industry workers for 2021 was held yesterday, with employer representatives seemingly looking to avoid a raise due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and unions proposing a nearly $12 increase. Another article reports that, as no final decision was made, the negotiations will be continued on 9-10 September. Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC), said that he thinks there is still hope for a higher minimum wage in 2021, as this was only the first meeting on the issue. Unions said that, before the next meeting, they will have internal meetings and consider the proposed figure again. 

Media report that 28 Cambodian migrant workers were arrested in Thailand and deported to Cambodia after trying the enter the country through informal routes in order to find work. 

Media report that a new report on the Impacts of COVID-19 on farmers, sex workers, garment workers and students in Cambodia found that mass cancellations of orders within the important garment and footwear industries forced hundreds of factories to suspend operations and over 100,000 workers to lose their jobs and that mass layoffs and the return of tens of thousands of Cambodian migrant workers from Thailand placed additional burdens on already struggling families. It also found that: 

  • Around 58% of the garment workers' surveyed experienced contract suspensions amidst the pandemic;
  • Around 13% of the garment workers' surveyed experienced layoffs;
  • Many workers are working in worse conditions than before the pandemic;
  • Many reported that the US$70 government subsidy for laid-off garment workers was inadequate and demanded policies to ensure social protection for workers. 

Malaysia: Media report that the government of Malaysia has announced that no migrant workers from India, Indonesia and the Philippines will be allowed to enter Malaysia as of 7 September. Officials have singled out India, Indonesia and the Philippines because these three countries have been experiencing large-scale COVID-19 outbreaks.

Myanmar: Union organiser reports that 112 union members have been fired from San Yuan Factory, which produces for Bershka. The factory used COVID-19 as a pretext to union-bust, trying to destroy the factory's union. 

Vietnam: Media report that two groups of garment factories have signed a multi-company collective bargaining agreement which aims to secure the jobs and improve the working conditions of nearly 5000 garment workers in the country. 

Media report that, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Vietnam's textile and apparel sector has declined by over 12% from January until July, compared to the same period last year. The Ministry reported that, as of July, many businesses had almost no orders for the last two quarters, especially in high-value products. The Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) recorded an average rate of cancellation of orders at businesses in the industry at about 30-70%. 

3 September 2020

Global: Media report that, according to new data from UN Women and UNDP, the coronavirus pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line, reversing decades of progress to eradicate extreme poverty. The projections also show that, while the pandemic will impact global poverty generally, women will be disproportionately affected, especially women of reproductive age. The study found that, overall, women's employment is 19% more at risk than men's. "Women are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis as they are more likely to lose their source of income and less likely to be covered by social protection measures", Achim Steiner, UNDP administrator, explained.

Bangladesh: Media report that the €117 million incentive declared by the European Union to help laid-off garment workers in Bangladesh amidst the coronavirus pandemic is "stuck in indecision" due to complications regarding the definition of "jobless workers" and determining the number of laid-off garment workers in the country. The article reports that the reasons behind the delay are, indeed, lack of a list of laid-off workers, criteria of "jobless workers", failure to create a proper work plan and lack of consensus amongst stakeholders.

Media report that workers from Dragon Sweater, Bangladesh, who were illegally laid off, organised a rally in Dhaka on the 31st of August and blocked the Ministry of Labour, demanding their full wages and compensation. Workers held an assembly the following day to discuss further steps. According to the post "more can be expected to come." Another article reports that acts of solidarity with workers  from Dragon Sweater in Bangladesh were carried out in different parts of the world, such as England, Ireland, Spain, Argentina, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. 

Media report that Bangladesh's export earnings rose by almost 3% in August compared to the same time last year, after witnessing a sharp decline for four months due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Apparel exports showed similar levels to those of 2019; knitwear products were up by almost 7% and woven garments declined by over 7%. 

Cambodia: Media report that Cambodian migrant workers are still returning from Thailand after losing their jobs abroad, as factories continue to close due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The article reports that 32 migrant workers have returned from Thailand due to a lack of work and are now in quarantine. "The Cambodian migrant workers left Thailand to return home because the factories they worked in were closed due to COVID-19", Cambodian authorities said. 

Haiti: Just Style reports that it reached out to Walmart and Fruit of the Loom about garment workers’ working conditions in their supply chains following reports of union busting in Haiti and that none of the brands responded.

Myanmar: Media report that a garment factory in Myanmar's Shwelinban Industrial Zone, Su Xin, has been auctioned off after the owner fled without paying salaries. The aim of the auction was to pay workers, but the agreed amount is not enough to pay workers their full salaries, which has led workers to oppose the auction. Hnin Ei Tun, a workers from the factory, explained that workers were dissatisfied because, with such an amount, they could not even get their full salary. "The amount is just Ks27 million. The February salary for the workers totals about Ks65 million. Each can receive about Ks70,000", she said. 

Media report that 611 Myanmar migrant workers have returned from Thailand today under their own arrangements. Most workers returned due to job cuts and closure of factories and will have to undertake a 21-day mandatory quarantine in Myanmar. 

Media report that Myanmar and Japan signed a bilateral agreement on September 1st, which will provide Myanmar with emergency loans worth about $180 million in order to aid in the country's response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Turkey: Media report that, according to official figures, manufacturing activity in Turkey continued to show signs recovery in August, as orders have started to pick up again. The article further reports that, as a result of this recovery, companies in Turkey have expanded their purchasing activity and employment. 

Vietnam: Media report that the National Wage Council has advised the Government of Vietnam to keep the minimum wage unchanged until the end of 2021, instead of raising it as previously planned, because businesses have been heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Almost 85% of businesses in the country reported having encountered financial difficulties due to the impacts of COVID-19. The article further reports that Vietnam's unemployment rate has reached its highest level in five years, with more than 11% of companies expecting to reduce their workforce even more in the third quarter of this year. 

United States: Media report that, according to a report by the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), economic activity in the manufacturing sector grew in August, with textile, apparel and leather products among the sectors reporting growth. The Institute made clear, however, that, despite the recovery, issues such as plant interruptions and transportation challenges continue to impact manufacturing activity. Experts report that these issues, which are related to the coronavirus pandemic, are "not expected to diminish in the near future and, at this time, represent the biggest hurdle to production output and inventory growth".

2 September 2020

Bangladesh: The Daily Star has published an op-ed on the legal basis of "force majeure", which the author describes as "the biggest problem faced by [Bangladesh's] textile industry right now". The writer explains that many of the brands and retailers who called on "force majeure" in order to cancel orders did so illegally, as they terminated or cancelled orders because of economic hardship, which does not constitute a force majeure event. 

In the new podcast episode of "Actions Make Movements", Monika Hartsel, from Solidarity Center, shares how union organisers among Bangladeshi garment workers are adapting their strategies during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cambodia: Media report that Cambodia's embassy in Bangkok announced that Cambodian migrant workers living in Thailand will be allowed to stay in the country until March 2022. In order for migrant workers to be allowed to stay, Thai employers must sort out residence visas and work permits before the end of October. Cambodian migrant workers who have contracts expiring within four years, have invalid documents or have been fired or suspended, have expired documents which were not renewed by their employers or migrant workers who return to Cambodia each night after their shift, will be allowed to apply for new work permits and stay until 2022. Cambodian NGOs said that the government should negotiate with Thailand to give opportunities to all Cambodian workers and to provide aid to workers who lost their jobs and incomes in Thailand amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Media report that about 400 workers at Pactics (Cambodia) factory in Siem Reap entered their fifth day of strike action yesterday, demanding the reinstatement of two outspoken union activists and back pay and benefits for 80 employees who were laid off in April due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Cambodia's garment exports. Union activists said that the company fired them because they told other workers that the union was calling on Pactics to either reinstate the 80 unfairly-terminated employees or provide them with seniority indemnity pay and wages owed. "I think that the company is discriminating against our union and made an excuse to terminate us", Met Rath,  president of the Employees’ Independent Solidarity Union at Pactics who was fired in June, said. Workers made clear that they would keep striking until the company allowed the fired union activist and leader to return to work.

Media report that the COVID-19 crisis is severely impacting the livelihood of workers in Kandal's silk industry, as they fear losing their jobs due to a large drop in sales amidst the pandemic. Weavers have expressed that, if silk product sales keep falling, they will have to stop weaving, which is the only means they have to earn a living. 

Media report that activists continue to protest for the release of union leader Rong Chhun, calling on international communities, notably countries that are signatories to the Paris Peace Agreements, to pressure Cambodia's government into securing his release and that of other activists who were arrested last month. Yesterday, around 50 activists submitted the petition at the Japanese and German embassies seeking help for the arrested activists. According to them, the German embassy promised to make efforts to negotiate between the governments of Germany and Cambodia to release the arrested activists. 

China: Media report that, contrasting with the data from an official survey that was released earlier this month, a new survey reports that manufacturing activity in China expanded at the fastest clip in nearly a decade last month, as factories ramped up output to meet rebounding demand. 

India: Media report that India's factory output grew for the first time in five months last month, as the easing of lockdown restrictions created demand. Despite the numbers, analysts do not expect a quick turnaround in the economy, which contracted at its steepest pace on record last quarter.

Media report that the Supreme Court rebuked the governments of Maharashtra and Delhi to show compliance with the welfare enactments for migrant workers, going against the order passed on 31 July regarding the COVID-19 migrant worker crisis. The order required states to submit an affidavit showing the implementation of Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act 1979, the Construction Workers Act 1996 and the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act 2008, which these two governments failed to submit. The court has now granted the two States two weeks to file the affidavits.

Myanmar: Union organiser reports that garment workers from the Amber Stone factory, who make clothes for Primark have won reinstatement after being fired for organising a union. The factory owner, however, has now pressed charges against union leaders threatening them with arrest. 

Thailand: Media report that the government of Thailand is planning new cash handouts and job measures worth about 68.5 billion baht to support the national economy. 

United States: Garment Worker Center LA and media report that a bill intended to prevent wage theft in Los Angeles' apparel industry died in the chaotic final hours of this year's legislative session when it failed to come up for a vote before the midnight deadline. Indeed, the SB11399 did not make it out of the CA Assembly last night. 

Vietnam: Media report that Vietnam’s garment industry continues to suffer from an ongoing shortage of orders amidst the coronavirus pandemic, only partly mitigated by the production and exports of PPE. Manufacturers are hopeful that exports will pick up by next year due to the EU Vietnam free trade agreement, which took effect in August.

1 September 2020

Bangladesh: Media report that garment export growth in Bangladesh became positive this month, after showing negative growth for seven months. In August, garment export growth stood at almost 45% year on year. Exporters termed the trend as encouraging and said that the revival of export orders was due to the revival of orders that had been put on hold or cancelled at the beginning of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The Daily Star published an op-ed on how the coronavirus pandemic is not gender blind, as several studies have revealed. Studies have revealed that women have been the hardest hit both economically and socially. Particularly in Bangladesh, where over 85% of women are engaged in the informal sector to earn their livelihoods, it is clear that women workers have been disproportionately affected, as many became unemployed overnight when the country went under lockdown and most are yet to get their jobs back, even though the economy has started to open up gradually. The author argues that, "since the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic vary across people, measures towards the recovery from this crisis should also be focused towards each section of society distinctively." 

Cambodia: Central Cambodia reports that Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) members at Pactics (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. continued their strike today, demanding reinstatement of their local union President and a local activist. 

Media report that, although Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said that the state of emergency in Thailand should not affect Cambodian migrant workers who are currently in the country, the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights made clear that migrant workers who are seeking opportunities in the country could face obstacles because of the government's state of emergency. "Workers and vendors who cross back and forth over the Cambodia-Thai border and people who depend on jobs generated by trade relations between the two countries will face challenges", Khun Tharo, from Central Cambodia, said. The organisation called on Cambodia's government to expand social protection services for both formal and informal workers and employees who are facing difficulties. 

Media report that a medical mask and glove factory in Krakor is set to open by the end of October in order to supply domestic and foreign demand amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The factory is expected to generate at least 3000 jobs for locals. Meanwhile, the government of Cambodia encouraged garment factories to produce all kinds of face masks, medical equipment and protective clothing for both domestic consumption and exportation.

Media report that unions have settled on a recommended minimum wage increase of around $12 ahead of three-party discussions with factory and government representatives that will determine the base salary for Cambodia's garment and footwear industry workers for 2021. Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), said that the unions' recommendation had taken into account the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the EBA withdrawal, and said he hoped the other parties would not use the incidents as an excuse to undercut the minimum wage. Sina appealed to the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) and the Labor Ministry to consider workers’ struggles when making their minimum wage suggestions.

Guatemala: Media report that, according to manufacturers, over two dozen Guatemalan garment factories could close this year as suppliers seek cheaper production in Nicaragua, Haiti or Vietnam. "We could lose another 20 to 25 factories of the 200 we have", Alejandro Ceballos, president of leading apparel chamber Vestex, said. He added that many manufacturers are hanging on a "loose string" because, although US orders are gradually recovering, retailers are demanding price cuts to satisfy recession-hit consumers. Currently, Guatemala's garment factories are operating at about 70% of their production capacity, revenues are down by about 15% and employment is still down by 60% compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

Haiti: Media report that Haiti's industrial associations are calling for the renewal of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), which has helped US businesses facilitate trade within the region, as Haiti's garment industry struggles to pick up during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Data from the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) reveals that both the volume and value of US apparel imports from Haiti took a precipitous fall in the first half of 2020, as both imports and value decreased by almost 35%.

India: Media report on the need to increase the visibility and recognition of India's home-based workers, most of whom are women who work and almost all informal. This is a long-standing demand that has been made even more urgent now. The article points out that, as working from home becomes the new norm in COVID-19 times and the extreme vulnerability of the urban poor living in informal settlements is out in the open, it is crucial to advocate for the cause of millions of home-based workers who contribute valuable products and services to domestic and global markets. 

Indonesia: Media report that the coronavirus pandemic has severely affected Indonesia's textile and garment industry due to lower demand from global markets. According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS), the industry declined by 14% year on year in the second quarter of this year compared to last year's 21% growth rate. 

Myanmar: Media report that over 600 workers have been fired by  Power Fashion 1 Garment Factory in Yangon and sent a complaint to the Labour Affairs Department demanding their full compensation. The garment factory closed yesterday due to the lack of raw materials during the COVID-19 crisis. Aung Myo Thet, from the factory's union, said that it could also be possible that the factory closure comes after the establishment of their union. "We workers can think that the factory is going to shut because we established the workers’ union. Such a rumour is spreading outside. They (factory officials) said the closure was due to the lack of raw materials. There used to be frequent complaints as they violated the law", Aung Myo Thet said. Workers were compensated based on their basic salary (Ks4,800 per day) instead of their latest salary rate, which is illegal. Aung Aung, organiser from Solidarity Trade Union of Myanmar, said that workers were forced to give their signatures.

Media report that Myanmar's garment industry is struggling to pick up as garment factories report a 75% fall in order amidst the coronavirus pandemic. the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) reported that factories have only received 20 to 25% of orders, compared to 2019. "We usually have the final orders for winter clothing by October. But the orders declined this year. And we have not yet received any orders for summer clothing", U Kyaw Win, vice chairman of MGMA, said. A factory owner further reported that some factories have not received any orders, particularly those who mostly manufacture winter clothing. As a result, many factories have reduced their staff numbers. The same article reports that, following a wave of COVID-19 cases in Rakhine State, the Minister of Labour warned that they will be performing surprise checks in garment factories. 

Nepal: Media report that five charted international flight to and from Nepal transported Nepali migrant workers today. As a result, 264 Nepalis have been repatriated to Nepal. 

Qatar: Media report that the government of Qatar has passed two laws which could strike at the heart of the kafala system. The government abolished restrictions on migrant workers changing jobs without their employer’s permission and introduced a monthly minimum wage of 1000 Qatari riyal plus basic living allowances for some workers. 

Thailand: Media report that Thailand has stepped up its border surveillance in order to stop migrant workers from neighbouring countries from crossing the border through informal routes. The crackdown comes after Myanmar reported a spike in new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, particularly in Rakhine. The same article reports that, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, over 22,000 Thais have sought to return to the country in the past two months. 

This is the content of our ongoing coverage from September 2020.


For the latest news go to https://cleanclothes.org/covid19

Our blog archive:

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

published 2020-10-01