April 2021 Covid blog

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.

30 April

Global: Media reports that when brands were questioned on the report 'Fired then Robbed', which revealed the severance pay owed to workers during the pandemic, brands including Under Armour, H&M, Tesco and Gap stated they had addressed the issues regarding particular factories they sourced from. Other brands dodged their connection to the factories mentioned in the report, saying they were unauthorised subcontractors or that they were not sourcing from the factories at the time they closed, including Guess and John Lewis. Many others did not respond. 

Media reports that work is progressing to address the power imbalances that clauses such as the force majeure clause permit, which brands used to cancel orders with their suppliers during the pandemic.

Bangladesh: Media reports that out of a total of 641 member factories of BGMEA in Gazipur, 613 factories paid their workers last March. The remaining 26 factories have not paid their salaries until recently. Out of BGMEA and BKMEA member factories, there are 154 factories in six industrial areas of the country that have not paid their March salaries.

Cambodia: Media reports that three districts in Kandal province where many garment and footwear factories are located will be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccinations, due to an influx in positive cases.

Media reports that about 100 residents in a Phnom Penh lockdown zone protested for food on Thursday night, as the local commune chief labelled the protesters an “opposition group” who are “not poor”. The protesters said the village had yet to receive food donations from the state. Some were workers who could not get to their workplaces, while others were small business owners who had been forced to suspend their operations.

Media reports that another 100 people in a Phnom Penh lockdown zone commune protested for food aid on Friday, only hours after the separate group nearby made similar demands. Officials had given food aid to 300 families who really needed it near the site of Thursday night’s protests. A neighbourhood resident claimed the area had not been receiving any aid, and said authorities had also stopped vendors from entering the area. Sek Chinda, another nearby resident, said Friday’s protests were spurred by residents seeing food donations handed out to those who expressed their displeasure on Thursday.

Media reports that some 500,000 garment workers are languishing under lockdown regulations, with around 500 factories closed. In response to garment factory owners having no obligation to support their employees during the lockdown, Patrick Lee of CENTRAL said that if the government genuinely believes employers can’t afford to pay workers’ wages, then they should intervene and supplement workers’ wages rather than charging people for emergency food through the Ministry of Commerce. The adidas supplier Din Han Enterprise has not paid salaries for March 2021. Latest estimates suggest that some 700 of the 2,500 employees at Din Han Enterprise have tested positive for COVID-19 and, as of April 29, garment workers made up 13.2% of all Cambodia’s recorded infections since records began in early 2020. 

While workers are told they have a responsibility to remain home, this fails to acknowledge the reality of factory workers’ precarious working and living conditions, wrote Chak Sopheap, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, who cannot afford sick days, live and work in confined spaces not out of choice but out of necessity, and that, despite a whole year of warnings, no safeguards have been put in place by the industry or the authorities to protect them.

According to research by Sabina Lawreniuk, wages have been reduced by 25% on average between January and October 2020, largely in part due to a lack of demand. Workers interviewed by Lawreniuk told of increased targets, with Cambodia’s low-value manufacturing demanding a more than 80% increase in productivity amid degrading working conditions. Another issue was the rise in subcontractor factories. She estimated that some 220,000 Cambodians worked in subcontractor factories in 2020, compared with around 140,000 in 2019.

68% of workers said they were worse off after the pandemic, with 55% reporting they had eaten less in the month prior to being surveyed due to a lack of money.

Media reports that Phnom Penh continues to see the bulk of new COVID-19 cases, with Pur Senchey and Meanchey districts remaining the worst-hit areas in the capital. These are areas with a high concentration of factories and workers’ accommodations, which have been among the centres of the current outbreak.

India: Media reports that the Indian clothing and textile manufacturing sector is facing renewed disruption as the country is hit by the second COVID-19 wave. It is reported that labour has partially gone, production is down and demand is falling. For example, spinning mills are running on reduced capacities, as 15-20% of their workforce is suffering from COVID-19.  Migrant workers are also leaving garment clusters. With clothing manufacturing restricted by labour disruption, demand for polyester fibre has also fallen, causing problems for spinning mills. Businesses do have orders for exports, which are unaffected, but distribution is difficult, because the pandemic has hit container and shipping line operations. To maintain their labour force some workers often have to remain within the factory to prevent outside infections, and are fed and housed on site.

Media reports that the pandemic has hit India’s karigars - highly skilled artisans who specialise in handicrafts like embroidery, beading and appliqué — who work in the global luxury fashion industry. "Red-carpet dresses and cocktail outfit orders have largely disappeared, which has meant that financial pressure on specialist workshops has continued here,” Max Modesti, the founder of Les Ateliers 2M, a Mumbai embroidery firm that works with Chanel and Hermès, said.

Turkey: Media reports that witnesses were heard at the trial for workers Sevcan Gülboy and Pınar Toy, who were dismissed from the SF Trade factory because they  were union members. The women are seeking reinstatement.

29 April

Global: Media reports that according to Oxfam International, the pandemic has diverged the disparity in incomes between men and women even further. The COVID-19 crisis cost women over $800 billion in lost income, which is more than the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 98 countries. Globally, women lost more than 64 million jobs last year. That’s a loss of 5% for women, compared to a 3.9% dip for men. 

Bangladesh: Media reports that the State Minister for Labour and Employment has told garment factory owners they should complete the payment of salaries and festival allowances of their workers by May 10. She also instructed factory owners to observe zone-wise holidays to avoid a transportation crisis and help the workers maintain social distancing during their travel to village homes. 

Media reports that garment workers suffered a 35% pay cut during the lockdown for the ongoing pandemic last year, according to a new study. Many thousands of workers lost jobs and depleted their savings without having a safety net to fall back on. 

A report from the Institute for Human Rights and Business evaluates global retailers’ response to the pandemic and its effect on Bangladesh garment workers, and provides recommendations that may help avert future crises. In light of its findings, the report urges the importance of learning from the experiences of 2020: place the worker first; ensure worker safety; establish protection mechanism for the workers in case of job losses; create financial mechanisms to ensure that liquidity is maintained; intervene early and act proactively to establish meaningful dialogue between affected parties. It concludes that all parties – Bangladesh government, international agencies, brands, suppliers, and unions – have a role to play.

Media reports that although the economy was showing signs of recovery with higher remittances, exports and other indicators, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and the lockdowns are likely to trim GDP growth projection of 6.8% for FY2021 by at least one percentage points. 

Cambodia: Media reports that the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training says 60 factories in the Yellow Zones of Cambodia are allowed to resume their production chains, after shutting down temporarily for two weeks. Those in the Red and Orange Zones will remain closed temporarily. The Ministry’s Secretary of State and spokesman Heng Sour said up to 200,000 garment workers will resume their jobs once those 60 factories commence operating. Those factories’ production chains will be staffed with 60% of their normal workforce level because some employees live in the Red or Yellow Zones, which prohibits them from travelling

Media reports that there have been have 39 new cases detected in Kampong Cham, 38 of them are workers at Six Plus Garment Factory in Mok Kampol district and 7NG Factory in Ksach Kandal district.

Media reports that the Ministry of Labour has announced that factory workers who are in lockdown in Phnom Penh and Kandal province will receive 50% of their April salary. 

Media reports that the Director of the National Trade Union Coalition Far Saly recently requested the Minister of Labour Ith Samheng and other stakeholders temporarily suspend the payment of wages to garment workers through banks, to avoid the transmission of COVID-19. Saly said workers usually collect their wages at the bank or at an ATM, which puts them at high risk because there can be big queues and it can get crowded. He requested that the director of each company suspend payment of wages at banks until the COVID-19 situation improves and instead pay workers directly at each factory. 

Media reports that garment workers in Cambodia are struggling to cope under the Red Zone of the quarantine, with no income and difficulty accessing food. One garment worker without a contract and getting paid by the hour has no income to support her son and parents who live in a different province. “I am feeling sad and I wish to be allowed to work so that I can find a job. Sometimes, I almost cry while sleeping. Also, I can’t go back home and just stay in the room while the money keeps running out.” 

Media reports that the government on May 1 will start a COVID-19 vaccination campaign for those living in red zones, subjected to the highest level of lockdown restrictions due to high rates of infection. Local authorities, meanwhile, have been strengthening barricades around red zones. 

Media reports that a newly released report from the Asia Development Bank predicted a 4% expansion of the national economy this year. But now, it says it will be necessary to wait out the ongoing lockdown, which has effectively put major industries on pause in the nation’s economic hub, before making any accurate estimations.

According to the CCC Network, updated guidelines for the lockdown state that workers will receive 50% of their salary in April. All factories have to implement this decision. The Ministry has also adopted another decisionfor all factories to provide more bonuses to workers. 

Fiji: Media reports that the staff of Mark One Apparel and Lyndhurst Fiji Ltd are currently being screened by teams from the Ministry of Health, after one of five confirmed cases of COVID-19 announced was a woman who works at a garment factory from Kalabu Tax-Free Zone. 

India: Media reports that after the Delhi government announced a six-day lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19, a large number of migrant workers began leaving for their home towns and villages. Workers fear that the lockdown will be prolonged and that they will lose their source of livelihood and their housing. The only difference this time is that the roads are open, and buses and trains available. 

Media reports that the Karnataka government modified its earlier order, to now allow garment manufacturing units to operate with 50% of its workforce during the State-wide lockdown.. The reversal of the order comes after the Karnataka Employers’ Association (KEA) and the Apparel Export Promotion Council aggressively pitched for allowing manufacturing units to operate at 50% capacity. 

According to the CCC network, factories are operating in regions such as Tirupur, Tamil Nadu, where workers are under pressure to go to work. Hygienic measures are often very basic, and in Tirupur, there is a shortage of workers. Most of the workers come from other far away states. There are issues that affected the migrant workers from the first wave and as a result they have not returned. Those who are coming from those states now are new migrants who are unexperienced and might also be less aware of their rights. Companies are now using irregular measures to attract new employees.  The payment of workers remains an issue, as often full wages from the first lockdown are still due and negotiation about that is still ongoing. Furthermore, courts are closed so access to remedy is also more limited in case of irregularities. As schools are closed during the lockdown there is not child care, so workers have to choose between locking children up at home or not going to work. 

Media reports that the apparel retail and manufacturing sector is staring at another round of job losses in the wake of the lockdowns imposed by several state governments. About 20-25% of jobs were lost last year due to the lockdown, of which around 10-15% had found alternate employment. Amid the second wave, about 60-70% of manufacturing units have been forced to shut down due to cancellation of orders or manpower challenges. The lockdown in Maharashtra has particularly hit the industry as 18,000 units are located in the state and 10,000 in Mumbai itself. The Maharashtra government has allowed the manufacturing units to open on the condition that the workers inhabit the premises, and since most units do not have this facility, they had to cease operations. The exodus of migrant population has also been witnessed and is impacting the production though not to the extent seen last year.

A report from Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), “Crying Out for Justice: Wage Theft Against Migrant Workers during COVID-19” documented cases of wage theft from the period of November 2019 to January 2021, as the first in a series of reports to be published  on wage theft cases. MFA presented the various forms of scenarios in which wage theft occurs apart from non-payment of wages, such as through failure to pay on time, unpaid overtime, and reduced wages. It reiterates that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the issue of wage theft which has existed prior to the pandemic. The report also revealed the intrinsic lack of access to justice among migrant workers around this issue. 

Macedonia: New reports have found that in 2020, 7,000 textile workers lost their jobs, or up to 18% of the total number of textile workers are registered as newly unemployed. The most common reason for termination of employment is the expiration of the contract for a certain period. However, in 2020, this basis increased by 123% compared to 2019. Workers with fixed-term contracts are those who suffered the most, as a result of decreased and inconsistent production orders in the last year. The report states that if the government does not work harder to save the textile industry, then the consequences will be devastating. 

Sri Lanka: Media reports that COVID-19 sub-clusters have emerged in multiple areas across the country, and have been reported from the garment sector, with infected individuals having already been detected at a few factories. 

Media reports that in March, Sri Lanka's apparel exports sector recorded a 49.10% YoY growth to reach US $465.35 million, constituting to 43.5% of the country’s merchandise export earnings in the month. In the first quarter, apparel exports also posted a YoY growth of 6.19%, posting US $1.33 billion earnings, accounting for nearly 45% of the value of the country’s export basket. 

Media reports that the Asian Development Bank forecasts economic growth in Sri Lanka to rise to 4.1% in 2021, and 3.6% in 2022, as domestic and global economic activity strengthens and vaccination campaigns gather momentum domestically and abroad. 

Philippines: Media reports that garment manufacturers claim the government’s decision to purchase personal protective equipment from other countries cost 3,500 jobs, contrary to its pledge to revive local industries that had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The local garment industry had to let go of 25,000 employees, including 3,500 from three major factories, after the government chose to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) from other countries. They claimed that the Department of Health (DOH) opted to purchase PPEs from China, despite earlier asking local manufacturers to repurpose their garment factories to create more PPEs amid the pandemic. 

28 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that the rising cases of COVID-19 and lockdown have largely impacted the local handloom industry, which expected to recover sales after shops and markets were allowed to reopen. The sale of their clothing is now no more than 10-20% of its pre-pandemic levels, as most traders are unable to visit the market.

Media reports that banks will have to allocate around Tk 116 crore to carry out corporate social responsibility programmes in the form of providing essential goods and medical equipment to the underprivileged affected by the pandemic. They have to set aside 1% of net profits earned this year to cater to people in dire need.

Cambodia: Media reports that a document outlining the new colour-coded designations for city areas indicates that garment factories and other manufacturing facilities in Yellow Zones may be allowed to re-open in earnest by April 29. Workers living in Yellow Zones (areas with the least restrictions) may resume working. However, those in Orange Zones (those with moderate restrictions) and Red Zones will not be able to travel to and from work. Factories in these areas will also remain shut until at least May 5.

Media reports that the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has announced that more than 1,600 garment workers have been infected with COVID-19 in six provinces and in the capital. The Ministry’s spokesman Heng Sour said that the number of infected workers are from 206 factories. Phnom Penh has the highest infection rate at 1,598. Over 110,000 of the garment workers have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while more than 10,000 will have their second dose in three days. Meanwhile, 17,000 garment workers are currently undergoing quarantine.

Media reports that in spite of what officials insist has been large scale food distribution to those in quarantine, some of Phnom Penh’s poorest and most vulnerable say they are struggling to feed themselves and concerned over how they will make it through another week. Phan Sophors, 37, a garment worker, said that many of his neighbours who live in rental rooms have faced food shortages. For the first 10 days of the lockdown, none of the approximately 200 neighbours who live on his street received food or money from the government. On Sunday, the group decided to broadcast live on Facebook requesting help from the government. Only then did local authorities arrive to register them for aid, though they still have only received help from a private charity and not from the government.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) reports that in response to an invite from BHRRC to respond to allegations of union busting at the Clarks supplier Tripos International, the brand claims they are unable to corroborate the claims of management threats against workers in respect to their membership of CATU. CATU has responded stating the dispute has exposed their total lack of understanding about what freedom of association actually entails, and that they are yet to even try to speak with any of the affected workers at Tripos.

India: Media reports that Bengaluru, home to to one of the biggest clusters of garment manufacturers in India, has seen the biggest rise in COVID-19 after Delhi. While the manufacturing sector is exempted from the lockdown, the garment industry was not among them. Despite the risk of getting sick, many workers would prefer to see factories continue running, according to IndustriALL, fearing the effect the lockdown will have on their jobs and wages. Local media also report that the Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU) as well as the Bengaluru Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the Karnataka Employers’ Association are asking the government to allow factories to run with up to 50% of their usual staff, which would allow for more distancing of workers. It’s unclear if the government will offer any assistance. So far, it has not announced any support of garment workers.

Media reports that as Karnataka goes into a two-week curfew, a minister in BS Yediyurappa-led state cabinet said it was unlikely that the government will extend any financial assistance to residents who are facing the brunt of the second wave. The  Garments and Textile Workers Union (GATWU) said they were yet to hear from the government on compensation for the loss of wages of people working in garment sector. “There are over 500,000 workers dependent on this profession for their livelihood. Of these, 85% are women and nearly 50% of them single-handedly have the responsibilities of their families."

Media reports that apparel manufacturers across various hub are working with around 30-40% capacity, as COVID-19 cases continue to grow.  A new report says that the full recovery for Indian apparel players will be prolonged and pushed back to 2023.

Indonesia: An article from Better Work highlights how workers, factory managers and unions in Indonesia have strengthened bonds amid the pandemic, working together to ensure strong occupational health and safety in Indonesian factories.

Philippines: Media reports that a group of garment exporters are seeking the inclusion of its workers in the government’s vaccination priority, as new COVID-19 infections are recorded among employees weekly.

Media reports that exporters in the Philippines have expressed willingness to provide employment to Filipinos specifically in the local garment industry,  to support the manufacture of locally-made personal protective equipment (PPE) for the country. During a Senate hearing the group raised concern regarding a number of factory workers in different sectors who have not received aid from the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE), supposedly provided through the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP). The DOLE admits running short of funds hence some workers did not receive the cash aid. As for the manufacturing sector, only about 111,000 workers from 1,361 companies were given aid by DOLE.

Thailand: Media reports that the manufacturing production index (MPI) in March rose for the first time in 23 months, due to improved global demand and a low base effect, and is likely to increase again in April. While a third wave of Covid-19 infections has slowed economic activity, the manufacturing sector has not been affected.

27 April 

Global: Media reports that key garment producing countries need to put sound and resilient occupational safety systems in place to minimise risks for workers in the event of future health emergencies, in relation to the pandemic, according to a new ILO report.

Bangladesh: Media reports that after Dragon Sweaters' Dhaka factory closed due to the pandemic last year, former garment workers had to sign away rights to half of his termination benefits, after demonstrating for 9 months demanding their legally-owed dues. "Sitting at the ministry, This arrangement was only for 89 workers who were under the government-set wage board. Garment Workers' Trade Union Centre (GWTUC) said that the 269 "piece-rate" workers  would get no service benefit, nor would 75 staff members who only got their provident funds. Meanwhile, four payment dates came and went, but Kuddus -- a garment worker who was at the forefront of all the worker negotiations -- is yet to get anything. 

Media reports that the Bangladesh Bank asked banks to allocate additional funds for corporate social responsibility spending for the year 2021, so that those affected by the new COVID-19 wave could get financial support. 

Media reports that the Bangladesh Bank revised the interest rate for the pre-shipment refinance scheme loans for the export-oriented industries to 5% amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. Earlier, the interest rate for the loans from the scheme was 6%. 

Media reports that 80% of the workers in four industrial sectors have seen a fall in their wages due to the pandemic. To manage the situation, the workers had to seek loans from their relatives or microfinance institutions. Some of them had to take the food aid provided by the government. According to the survey, female workers in these four sectors get 77% of lower wages as compared to the male workers on average. 

Cambodia: Media reports that an estimated 1.2 million factory workers have been affected by the government’s lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province, which will now be extended to May 5. About 400,000 of the 1.2 million affected workers live in locked down areas, while the remainder live outside but are employed by factories in the restricted zones. The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training confirmed that although they cannot go to work, the factory workers would still receive their pay from employers for the work they did before the lockdown, along with an allowance from their employers and government assistance. “They had worked in the first two weeks of April, so they received 50% of their regular wages. For week three and four during lockdown, the Garment Manufacturing Association in Cambodia (GMAC) is working with its members to mobilise as much financial support as they can afford to provide."

India: Media reports that a 14-day lockdown-like curfew has been announced by the Karnataka government, and has specified garment factories will not be able to function. Migrant workers are now torn between the fear of losing their jobs if they return home and whether they’ll survive if the lockdown is extended. The Garments and Textile Workers Union (GATWU) questioned whether agriculture and construction activities are being allowed and why the garment industry is being penalised. They have also urged the government to allow 50% operations or provide compensation otherwise. 

Media reports the second wave of COVID-19 could lead to apparel manufacturers facing delayed orders again, and that the pandemic is particularly impacting small businesses. A large proportion of smaller players are closing down their businesses, plagued by an uncertain outlook, stretched working capital and liquidity, and rising raw material costs. Roughly 80% of the apparel manufacturing sector remains largely unorganized and highly dependent on cash and credit, which means smaller players are the first to get impacted with state-level closures. 

26 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that garment workers are still in a vulnerable position as they can hardly follow health protocols to protect themselves from the COVID-19, according a paper presented at a webinar yesterday. The paper said workers have to live in congested spaces where ensuring social distancing is difficult. They must also use common bathrooms, sit and eat in common places and use common transport, increasing the risk of infection.

Media reports that Swisscontact and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association has signed an  to support apparel workers and factories that are still reeling from the disruptions brought about by the pandemic. Through this collaboration, 400 garment workers will receive a portion of the wage subsidy. Many factories will be forced to partially or entirely stop operation in the coming months if they do not receive more production orders from the international brands. This will result in more layoffs in the apparel sector. So work will be done to identify small and medium RMG factories, who are struggling to receive production orders amid the pandemic.

Media reports that 81.1% of readymade garment workers have to walk to reach their workplaces amid the strict lockdown, as many factory owners did not arrange any transportation for their workers. 5.6% go by non-motorized vehicles, 7.3% by buses, and the rest use other types of motorized vehicles.

Cambodia: Media reports that 14 COVID-19 positive patients have been found at the Star Master & Frank garment factory. A total of 232 Covid-19 positive patients have thus far been found at Star Master & Frank factory as of 26 April. Kong Sophoan, the governor, has closed the Star Master & Frank factory temporarily and has decided any factory with at least 5% of its workforce testing positive will be temporarily suspended.

Media reports that garment workers quarantined in ‘red zones’ continue to face stress over health, food and money. One worker, Kong Neng, explained that workers drop a rope from their windows to vendors on motorbikes, who take the attached money and tie up pork and vegetables to be drawn to their dormitories, in order to eat. Ngoun Kong, another garment factory worker living nearby, says she has eaten only eggs and canned fish since the lockdown started, and had yet to receive free supplies from the state. “Do they want to leave me to die?” she says. The commune chief says the commune receives 1,000 to 1,500 packets of supplies to distribute each day, but there are 40,000 workers living in dormitories.

Media reports that Phnom Penh City ordered all public markets closed for two weeks, further straining residents’ access to food. Garment worker Un Sopheap says she received part of her salary and a small stipend while quarantining, but now cannot go out to buy fresh food after the block was designated a red zone. This meant she went four days in a row eating only rice with soy sauce, sometimes with egg. Police officers armed with firearms and wooden batons constantly patrol the block, Sopheap said, adding: “We’re scared of them.” The government initially handed out rice, instant noodles, canned fish and sauces but quickly changed to selling the products after the premier claimed the government would “face difficulty” to respond to all families’ needs. Local union president Bun Vann spent part of last week calling co-workers at New Orient Factory – a manufacturer for The North Face – to go for testing after more than 20 colleagues were infected. 

Vietnam: Media reports Vietnam’s textile export turnover in the first quarter has seen modest growth but is showing signs of recovery. Export turnover of textiles and garments in the first quarter was estimated at $7.2bn, up to 1.1% over the same period. The export turnover of fibres of all kinds increased by 31%, while turnover of curtain fabrics and other technical fabrics was up by 8.8%.

25 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that readymade garments and textile exporters have urged the government to allocate to the sectors a financial package similar to that of 2020 for payment of workers’ wages for three months saying that the sector had been facing financial crises due to the fresh surge in coronavirus infections across the globe.

Cambodia: Media reports that garment workers who have received their first dose of the vaccine were asked to return for their second shot from April 25 to May 6, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training announced. 

24 April 

Cambodia: Media reports that 197 workers at Master and Frank garment located in Kandal’s Ang Snoul district have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 678 workers working in this factory.

Sri Lanka: According to the CCC network, out of the 3500 workers at Benji Garment in Bingiriya, Kurungala, 250 have been tested positive. Villagers protested for the factory to close down temporarily to avoid further virus transmission. 

23 April

Africa: Media reports that textiles and clothing exports from the major African economies such as Lesotho, Mauritius and Kenya are expected to surge in 2022 due to current efforts of the governments of these countries and other stakeholders of the industry. However, exports are likely to slightly decline this year due to the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, total exports of textiles and clothing from Lesotho, Mauritius and Kenya were valued at $1,741.23 million with monthly average of $145.10 million. This figure dropped by 20.80% to $1,379.02 million in 2020 due to the pandemic. The monthly average exports is further expected to decrease by 14.44%  during January-August 2021 from the monthly average exports of $114.92 million in 2020.

Bangladesh: Media reports that intelligence and regulatory bodies fear a possible labour unrest ahead of Eid caused by the uncertainty over payment of salaries and festival bonuses of workers of some factories affected by the pandemic. The Police Headquarters (PHQ) has instructed the Industrial Police unit to make a list of factories which are not capable of paying workers' salaries and bonuses so that steps can be taken to avoid unrest. Fazlul Kabir Mintu, president of Bangladesh Apparel Workers Trade Union, Chattogram, said the law created scope for depriving workers of their bonuses, leaving it on the whims of owners. "For the first time in 2015, the government formulated a regulation under the Labour Law-2006. The regulation says festival bonuses of workers would not be more than their basic wage. But if it is less than the basic wage, it is not made clear in the regulation how small amount the workers will get," he said. 

Media reports that around 57% of the survivors of Rana Plaza have remained unemployed during the pandemic, a study finds. The income of most of the employed survivors has decreased drastically due to the COVID-19-induced economic fallout. In addition, 92% of the survivors did not get any support from the government during the ongoing epidemic. Of the employed survivors, 43% of them are engaged in various types of wage and self-employment where the household income of 37.5% is between Tk 5,001 and Tk 10,300.

Cambodia: Media reports that the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) has said that the government’s lockdown measures has severely affected the ability of the  garment, footwear and travel products sector to help workers. GMAC has called on its members in the restricted area to provide benefits to workers to facilitate their daily lives.

Media reports thousands of messages requesting emergency food aid have flooded a forum set up by City Hall, as some residents said their household incomes were down to zero because of the lockdown’s rising restrictions and they feared running out of food within days if they didn’t receive help. City Hall set up a Telegram group on Sunday to organize emergency food requests. Garment factory worker Eun Bunset, who is out of work, explained that he hadn’t received last month’s wages, and had about three days of food, adding that he had not received any reply to his message to the group. Another garment worker, Sieng Srey Pov, said prices at the market had doubled since the lockdown. Considering she now had no work, she wouldn’t last long, she said. “There are three people in the house and none of them have an income.”

Media reports that 21 workers of Master and Friend factory in Ang Snoul district have been tested positive for COVID-19 today after the district authorities and health officials tested 122 workers. The 21 infected patients were directly involved with two other infected patients in Phnom Penh.

India: Media reports that the textiles industry in Gujarat was severely hit last year—first due to the lockdown, and then by the migration of thousands of workers. However, as things were beginning to get back on track, the rise in COVID-19 cases in the state is now impacting the industry. According to the Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA) president Manoj Agarwal, production is down by over 40%. Meanwhile, lots of workers have returned to their home states fearing another lockdown.

Media reports that droves of workers in Gurugram employed in industries have started leaving fearing an impending lockdown due to the sharp spike in COVID-19 cases, despite repeated assurances by the state government. Factory owners in Manesar and Gurugram said that at least 15 to 20% of workers have left and they expect more to leave.

Media reports that despite the garment sector in Noida improving after the first wave of COVID-19 to some extent, it did not make enough business like it did before the COVID-19 era. As a result, during the 2020-21 fiscal, apparel exports suffered a loss of more than 25% as compared to the export figures in the previous financial year. Now, rising prices of raw materials and packaging items have hit the garment industry. 

Sri Lanka: Media reports that COVID-19 sub-clusters have emerged in multiple areas across the country following the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, with clusters reported from the garment sector, where infected individuals have already been detected at a few factories. 

Media reports that Sri Lanka's export earnings rose by 62.5% year-on-year (YoY) in March, while overall merchandise export earnings rose by 11.5% YoY. The apparel exports sector recorded a 49.1% percent YoY growth to reach US $ 465.35 million, constituting to 43.5% of the country’s merchandise export earnings in the month. In the first quarter, apparel exports also posted a healthy YoY growth of 6.2% YoY, posting $1.33 billion earnings, and accounting for nearly 45% of the value of the country’s export basket.

Vietnam: Media reports the textile and footwear industries are struggling to find workers, with many workers returning to their hometown and choosing not to come back. Many employees have also quit their jobs and turned to other vocations like online selling, industry insiders say.  During the first 9 months of 2020, around 90% of textile companies reduced working hours, while 11.1% laid off 20% of their workers. 

22 April

Global: Media reports that 63% of COVID-19 recovery funds went,  on average, to big businesses in eight of nine surveyed countries, instead of towards welfare, small firms, or to the informal economy, according to an analysis of public bailout funds disbursed in developing countries. Analyzing data from nine countries — Kenya, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — Only 2% of funds in the countries surveyed went to support workers in the informal sector. Much of the money allocated to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) never reached these companies.

Cambodia: Media reports that following the closure of garment factories due to #COVID19, Cambodia's GDP growth forecast for 2021 has declined from 4.6% to between 3 and 4%.

Media reports that Phnom Penh has been at the centre of the recent COVID-19 outbreak, reporting more than 2,000 cases in the past week, and 7,600 cases in just two months,. The outbreak has spread rapidly through the city’s markets and factories — leading to the country’s first lockdown and the creation of “red zones.” The worst-hit districts have been Meanchey, Pur Senchey and Toul Kork, where some communes and villages have been designated as red zones starting earlier this week. Residents there are banned from leaving their houses except for medical emergencies. At least 120 factories have been linked to COVID-19 over the past two weeks, including Din Han Enterprise, Dilux, Fortuna and Sing Garments have also been named.

Media reports that in response to thousands of garment workers now being under Cambodia’s strictest COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and facing unpaid wages and limited provisions, the Ministry of Labour has said: “It is not possible to pay wages during this period, wages will be paid after the lockdown ends and, during this, it depends on the employers’ ability to help workers based on the humanitarian spirit, solidarity and social responsibility.” Yang Sophorn, president of Cambodian Alliance Trade Unions, said the Ministry of Labour seems to favour employers, leaving employees in dire straits.  Factories outside the lockdown zone are also affected, as many staff members reside in the closed capital area.  The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) said the current situation has led to employment contract suspensions, meaning that, based on Cambodian labour law,​ employers and employees alike are free of their contractual obligations.

Media reports that workers and other people in need in lockdown and other affected areas by COVID-19 are receiving food assistance from the government, trade unions and other organisations. The Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central) provided food to garment workers in affected areas. Central executive director Moeun Tola said that 458 people staying at 216 rented rooms had applied to his organisation for donations. But until now, the organisation’s working group has distributed food to only 50 people because transport was slow. “The workers’ situation is not poor, but rather destitute. What we do is to ease the burdens of both the workers and the authorities. In fact, it is the state’s obligation to help people. But because there are so many things to do, the authorities sometimes respond in a timely manner, sometimes they don’t,” he said

Turkey: Media reports that Turkey's apparel and home textiles exports are expected to show an upward trend during the upcoming period of 2021. Turkey's exports to the US considerably increased last year, while exports to the UK have grown this year. It is forecast that these exports will reach monthly average exports of $1.80 billion during January-August 2021, with a rise of 7.48% compared to 2020.

Vietnam: Media reports that Vietnam's exports for the year as of March 15 increased year-on-year by 22.7%. This is reportedly due to the pandemic being gradually controlled around the world, especially after several countries started vaccinating their populations, enabling many of them to reopen their borders and trade to resume.

21 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that despite uncertainty amid the pandemic, international clothing brands are confident that Bangladesh will remain a major source of apparels in the coming months, according to a new study. The study found that COVID-19 caused the sale of US clothing stores to decline by 79% in April 2020. Meanwhile, 76% of suppliers had to reduce export orders and the highest proportion of order reductions in Bangladesh at 93%, Vietnam at 80%, China at 74% and India at 61%.The study also found that the fiscal constraints of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka squeezed domestic capacity to support the apparels sector during the crisis and initiatives of sourcing countries were inadequate.

Media reports thousands of workers across the country are now struggling to support their family as they have been without work, after COVID-19 restrictions were introduced. Day labourers or workers who are paid on daily basis in the informal economy said that they had been without earning for the past two weeks, and said that they did not get any assistance from the government, owners of their enterprises or even from NGOs this time as they had received in the past year after the nationwide shutdown was imposed for more than two months.

Cambodia: Media reports that Cambodia’s exports to South Korea rose by 5% to about $99 million in the first three months this year, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Cambodia’s major products exported to South Korea include clothes and footwear.

Media reports 271 Phnom Penh residents were tested positive for COVID-19 on April 19, 2021. Among them, many are garment factory workers. 

Media reports that after a garment worker from Adidas supplier Din Han Enterprise went into quarantine with her son in her rental room after the COVID-19 outbreak, her  entire commune was turned into a so-called “red zone”, and she was unable to get access to food, as food shops were ordered closed, “I, along with other people who stay in rental rooms here, will face a lack of food to eat when no people sell food because we can not leave the area to buy food,”. She eventually received a package of support from the government, but others say they have yet to get any food, and rights groups criticized the government for the hastily planned closures that put a large number of Phnom Penh residents at risk of hunger.

Another report mentions Garment worker Koeut Sinoeun, the mother of a four-month-old who rents a room in a red zone district, who said that she and her husband had both lost their jobs due to the latest outbreak, and are now running out of food and milk because of the shelter-in-place order. “I would like [the authorities] to pay attention to us, because we don’t have food to eat,” she said, adding that she and her husband did not prepare enough supplies because the lockdown order was announced with no prior warning.

Media reports that a concern for factory workers during the lockdowns has been wage payments. With factories closed and people unable to leave their homes, workers have not received wages for the first two weeks of April. Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodia Labor Confederation, said workers were reliant on their wages for living expenses, and without their salaries for this month, they would struggle to make ends meet. “workers work to just live for one month. If there is no wage, there is nothing for them.” Ath Thorn was also concerned about the spread of the virus among garment workers, who may not have the best access to treatments and health facilities. As of April 20, government figures show that more than 1,000 of the country’s 7,700 cases are among factory workers.

India: Media reports that given the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in India and some of the key export markets, the full recovery for Indian apparel players is expected to be prolonged and pushed back in FY23. Their business performance in FY22, however, is expected to be better than FY21, as companies are better prepared to follow protocols.

Media reports that textile production has decreased in India's textile city of Surat due to the onset of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restriction of working hours, migration of workers, and textile traders testing positive are among the factors adversely affecting textile production and trade in manmade textile hub. Fabric production has currently declined by around 22% compared to March 2021. Though the government is yet to announce a full-fledged lockdown, a number of workers are migrating from Surat due to the fear that it might be imposed. As a result, workers' strength in factories has gone down by 25-30%.


20 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that out of 6,982 factories, 630 factories have been declared closed since March due to COVID-19. 

Media reports readymade garment and shoe manufacturers who meet domestic demand are struggling with business, as the lockdown  restrictions are making it difficult to rebound from the past year’s setback. The government decision to allow factories to run during the restrictions failed to bring any positive result for the RMG manufacturers who meet the local demand due to shops and markets remaining closed, said businesses. It is reported that more than 300 small shoe factories in Lalbagh area in the city disappeared from business in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Media reports that garment workers protested against worker layoffs outside a C&A, Iconic and OVS supplier. In the last few days, the authorities have laid off over 20 workers under the pretext of COVID-19, without paying their salaries. Security personnel attacked the workers when they went to stand in front of the factory with labour leaders demanding reinstatement and their salaries. The workers said they would continue their sit-in until they get paid. 

Cambodia: Media reports that most of the newest-recorded infections in Cambodia were diagnosed among garment workers, as well as vendors and staff at Phnom Penh markets. There are two garment factories where COVID-19 has been found recently: C&A supplier Fortuna International (Cambodia) Industry and D’Luxe International (Cambodia). Phat Kosal, a worker at adidas supplier Din Han Enterprise, said food assistance promised by the government had arrived days after the April 15 announcement of the lockdown, leaving workers in a tough position. During that time, Kosal said, there were many workers posting on social media or on Facebook Live because they didn’t have food to eat. Garment workers normally receive their pay the first week of each month, but Kosal said he and other workers have not received salary from Din Han Factory. He did not have enough money to buy food through other means.

Media reports two pregnant workers at adidas supplier Din Han Enterprise, where there has been a COVID-19 outbreak, claim they were discriminated against in some hospitals and were refused a health check-up.

Media reports that more than 100 factories in the region have been confirmed to be infected with COVID-19. The drastic rise in infections led Prime Minister Hun Sen to issue the lockdown order last week, but residents of affected “red zone” districts said that they have yet to receive any promised food or supplies from the government, despite the threat of being arrested if they leave their homes. The residents are mostly laborers in garment factories and workers in the country’s informal sectors.

Garment worker Koeut Sinoeun, the mother of a four-month-old who rents a room in a red zone district, said that she and her husband had both lost their jobs due to the latest outbreak, are now running out of food and milk because of the shelter-in-place order.

“I would like [the authorities] to pay attention to us, because we don’t have food to eat."

India: Media reports that buyers from other states have asked factories in Ludhiana to cut down the quantity of already-placed orders or delay the dispatch, and it is very likely that full cancellations will follow. This is due to the closure of shops and malls on account of lockdowns. In desperation, some businessmen—who are dealing with customers in Delhi and Mumbai where complete closure of shops and malls have been ordered—have cut down their production. 

Media reports that migrant workers across Tamil Nadu are trying to return home in fear of a repeated 2020 lockdown. Bejoy Sahoo, a migrant worker from Kalahandi in Odisha said, "We are working as labourers in Tiruppur garment unit and we fear an imminent lockdown. I want to somehow get back to my home as we are fearing that there won't be food or accommodation to us once the lockdown is implemented." The state health authorities are trying to make each and every effort to prevent the exodus of migrant workers from the state, as they believe this would give a wrong message to the outside world.

19 April

Bangladesh: Media reports entrepreneurs will now get financial support from the government to produce medical and personal protective equipment (MPPE) for both local and international markets. Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi launched a $7.5 million Covid-19 response fund.

Media reports businesses including factory owners in Bangladesh have demanded a set of financial benefits including reduction and waiver of income tax and value-added tax (VAT) rates, to help businesses survive amidst the fresh wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Cambodia: Media reports that despite the pandemic and the imposition of curfews and lockdowns, new business activity continues to be approved and undertaken. Five new factories worth $20.5 million have been approved to be established this month, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC). 

Media reports the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) on Monday called on all stakeholders not to punish its members if they could not honour their delivery schedules because their production has been halted due to the COVID-19 lockdown. "The apparel, footwear and travel goods manufacturing sector is not considered essential sector that needs to stay open during the lockdown and thus we have to remain closed," GMAC said in a statement. "The lockdown is also causing disruptions to the logistics sector and we are unable to freely transport raw materials and/or finished goods...factories are unable to operate normally. This may result in delay in production as well as failure to meet previously agreed delivery schedules. We would like to appeal for your understanding to facilitate and make arrangements to help accommodate this special situation."

India: Media reports workers in the unorganised sectors, badly hit by last year’s lockdown, are anxious over the prospect of the severe restrictions returning again due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. Prathiba, president of the Karnataka Garment and Textile Workers Union, said workers in her industry strongly oppose the lockdown. “There are about 4 lakh garment workers in the state and 85% of them are women. They all earn just Rs 8,000 per month and usually don’t have any savings,” she said, pointing to a recent study that revealed 10,000 garment workers lost their jobs. “If the government declares a lockdown, it should ensure that these workers are regularly paid from the exchequer.” 

Media reports that exporters at some of the key hubs have started exhorting their workers to refrain from leaving the factories this time around, just when order flows are improving. The Tirupur cluster employs around 6,00,000 people. About a half of them are migrant labourers. It’s the country’s biggest garment hub, accounting for about a fourth of the annual apparel exports.

Media reports a garment unit has been accused of preventing migrant workers from leaving for their hometown. Women from Odisha were recruited as casual labourers by the garment unit in Velampalayam. With COVID-19 cases rising, a few workers moved out of the unit allegedly without informing the owners. When the remaining 19 told the owner that they wished to return home, the owners refused. A few women informed their parents who lodged a plaint with Tiruppur administration.

Indonesia: Media reports the government has disbursed Rp 6.53 trillion (US$448.08 million) in cash aid to some 9 million lower-income households to help cover heightened needs during Ramadan as many still reel from the pandemic-induced economic downturn. 

Sri Lanka: Media reports earnings from merchandise exports recorded US$ 952 million in earnings in February 2021, just 3.7% off from the same month in 2020, as commodities including textiles and garments made gains, signalling recovery. Textiles and garment exports in February 2021 was US$ 443.3 million, compared to US$ 468.1 million a year ago and US$ 423 million in January 2021. 

Vietnam: Media reports that a recent study of COVID-19’s impact on key export-oriented industries in Vietnam found that instances of mergers and acquisitions have surged in the textiles-garment and leather-footwear sectors in the last three years.  Experts say Vietnamese enterprises should proactively diversify technical solutions to keep the information transparent, identify the targets in M&A deals, and analyse partners to avoid risks during negotiations. 

18 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that according to a new study, over 3% of the labour force lost jobs, while 16.38 million people became 'new poor' amid the pandemic. In addition, between March and September last year, some 0.4 million migrant workers lost their jobs. The decline in income of salaried workers was much higher at 49% due to a sharp reduction in demand for the services. The head-count poverty rate has increased from 20% in FY 2016-17 to 33% in FY 2019-20. 

China: Media reports China's textile machine production accelerated while overseas factories were trapped amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year, but the trend seems to have turned in recent weeks. Experts attribute the change to a recent boom of clothing industry in other Asian economies, rising labour costs in China and overseas clients' reluctance to stockpile products. In March, China’s exports of yarn, textiles and other fabric products showed a slight fall on a monthly basis. In the first three months, the export volume of these products grew 40.3% on a yearly basis, compared to a 60.8% growth in the first two months of this year, the data showed. When it comes to exports of clothing, the trend is the same. From January to March, China's exports of clothing and accessories rose 47.7%, compared with a 50% growth in the first two months of 2021. 

Cambodia: Media reports that across Southeast countries including Indonesia and Philippines, it is relatively common for married women and mothers to migrate overseas for work, leaving their children behind with extended family, friends, institutions or even by themselves. Due to the pandemic, many migrant workers have been unable to return to visit their children. “Leaving behind our kids in the village is not what we want, but I can’t bring them to work with me as we don’t have day care service in this factory. Even [when I worked in a bigger factory with day care] it was not a proper service, none of the workers brought their kids in,” said Sophea, an internal migrant garment worker in Cambodia.

According to Twitter reports, 200 cases of COVID-19 have been reported at C&A supplier Fortuna. 

17 April

Bangladesh: Media reports leaders of different workers’ rights bodies on Friday called on the government and factory owners to ensure health, food and job securities of the workers during restrictions imposed to contain COVID-19. They raised a five-point demand, including food and cash money for the workers, risk grants for the workers, free COVID-19 treatments for the infected workers and an end to layoff during restrictions. They also called on the garment factory owners to ensure safety of the garment factories during the COVID-19 situation, stating that the factory owners must take responsibility for treatments of the workers infected with COVID-19. They also called on the factory owners to refrain from sacking any worker during restrictions as they did at the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Cambodia: Media reports that 788 workers and related employees from a total of 36 factories have been found to be infected with COVID-19. These numbers were from 21 March when the first cases were reported at the Din Han Garment Factory which also had the highest number of cases up to 15 April. Almost all the cases logged were in Phnom Penh and surrounding areas. Authorities fear more cases once the lockdown ends and factories resume operations.  This is because of the general living condition of the workers in cramped conditions in dormitories and also while in transit to and from work and their accommodations.

16 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that factory workers from Trousers Land Limited have protested in Ghazipur demanding arrears of salaries and allowances. The workers are owed salaries from the last three months as well as the last Eid festival allowance. The authorities have been threatening to lay off workers if they demanded their arrears. Garment workers also protested at the main gate of Tas Kit and Fashion Limited, demanding two-months’ worth of salary.

Honduras: In relation to a previous report mentioned earlier on Tegra Global shutting factories in Honduras and Nicaragua, supplying Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, another article reports that New Holland Apparel, a factory which mainly manufactures for the Under Armour and Adidas brands, announced its decision to close operations on May 28. This will mean sending the last 1200 workers still working there to unemployment.

India: Media reports that increasing activity  in Chennai, coupled with a smaller migrant workforce has resulted in a hike in the daily wage rates of temp workers. Industrial clusters are working with 80% of migrant workers who returned after the reverse migration seen during the lockdown. As a result, daily wages have gone up from nearly Rs 250 to Rs 350-400. Currently, orders are also good and the workforce has gone up by over 20%, as compared to pre-COVID days at 70-80 workers.

Media reports that migrant workers, who form a major chunk of the workforce in the textile hub of Tirupur have decided to ‘wait and watch’ the turnout of the COVID-19 situation instead of returning home. Many of the workers from North India are apprehensive to go back unlike last year, as they believe that they could overcome the pandemic by staying put in the workplace, rather than endure poverty in their native villages. Additionally, in order to make them stay back to avoid labour shortage, the industrial units have been telling their workers not to believe in rumours and have also taken up measures to build their confidence by organising vaccination drives. 

Indonesia: Media reports that apparel and fabric from Indonesia are expected to decline during the first seven months of this year, mainly on account of the continuing impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the country as well as major regions of the world. Around 70% of textiles produced in Indonesia are exported to the US, EU and Middle East.

Mexico: Media reports that exports of textiles and clothing from Mexico are forecast to move up in the first seven months of the current year. In 2020, exports decreased by 10.52% year-on-year to $3,759.74 million due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. During January-July 2021, the monthly average apparel exports are expected to surge to $281.01 million from the monthly average of $218.41 million in 2020.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that industrial production slipped in February from the levels seen in January, but apparel and textiles manufacturing made stronger gains continuing the momentum set forth this year. Manufacturing of textiles made the highest gain of any sector in the month, climbing 39.4% year-on-year (YoY) in February. Meanwhile, the manufacturing of wearing apparels added 0.8% gains (YoY).

Vietnam: Media reports that Vietnam's exports to its partners in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) grew considerably to $34.3 billion in 2019 before dropping marginally to $34 billion last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Exports including footwear and garment-textile recorded good growth.

15 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that garment workers faced immense difficulty today due to the shortage in transport on the roads amid the weeklong "strict lockdown". Dhaka Tribune’s photojournalist Palash Khan saw hundreds of garment workers walking to their workplace. Many were travelling in crowded human haulers that were plying the roads. Very few buses arranged by garment factories were seen on the road. The workers claimed they had to pay up to three times higher fare as there were not many human haulers. 

Another article reports that allegations were made regarding lack of adherence to health directives and related protocols inside the factories, and an overall lack of necessary arrangements in many factories. Babul Akhter, president of Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF), said at least 20% of workers of a factory use public transport to get to work. They have been suffering the most due to the lockdown. “They are forced to go to work on foot to save their jobs. The government instructed factories to arrange transportation for their workers using their own resources, but not a single factory followed that instruction,” Akhter also said.

Cambodia: Media reports that some garment factories in Phnom Penh and Takhmao City in Kandal province have been ordered to close for 14 days in a move to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Media reports that health authorities detected close to 400 COVID-19 positive cases, which involved workers from at least 14 garment factories in Phnom Penh and the surrounding city in Kandal province.

Media reports that due to the growing wave of COVID-19, the capital Phom Penh will go into a two-week lockdown. Moeun Tola, executive director at labour rights group CENTRAL pointed out that authorities have not announced new restrictions and have not given residents time to prepare. Tola also said the state needs to use appropriate measures to help low-income people. He agreed with the decision to close garment factories for two weeks but said workers should get pay and other benefits. “The state needs to help the factories and enterprises because they do not have the income to be able to suspend,” Tola said.

Media reports that people suffering from COVID-19, are not getting medical treatment, as vacant hospital beds in the city are running out and the government is scrambling to create health facilities. A couple who contracted COVID-19 while working at the adidas supplier Din Han Enterprise waited weeks to go to a medical facility or COVID-19 hospital, as the husband Oeun Sokheng’s symptoms got worse. His wife Phat Rath said, “They listed our names [as COVID-19 positive], but they didn’t come to take us for treatment. “I called the 115 [COVID-19 hotline] many times and I was told to wait...They said there is no space for treatment. I don’t know what to say.” Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said garment workers should be transferred to treatment facilities immediately because they live in congested housing, which was not safe for their health and could potentially infect others.

Haiti: Media reports that the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is supporting the garment sector in Haiti to help companies and workers navigate the COVID-19 crisis through job and investment retention, and in the medium term, attract private capital and create more employment. In the first phase, IFC will focus on a targeted response to help manufacturers quickly convert to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) and expand apparel production to meet a shifting global demand to navigate the COVID-19 crisis retaining jobs and investment.

India: Media reports that half of the manufacturing units in Maharashtra could remain shut for the next fortnight as the state’s new 15-day curfew and restrictions come into effect, after rising COVID-19 cases. These include appliance and apparel makers, which fall in the non-essential category.. According to the order, all factories producing essential goods and services will remain operational at full capacity. Export-oriented units will remain open to fulfil their export obligations. Industries that require continuous manufacturing, too, can operate with 50% workforce. Relaxation has also been provided for factories that offer in-house accommodation. But, all other factories must stop their operations for the next 15 days.

Media reports that migrant workers in Mumbai,  largely from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have been going back to their home towns and villages, due to rising COVID-19 cases. The rising cases, media reports say, meant that several migrants were already facing lowered wages and fearing for their jobs. Several daily wage workers said they have already seen work drying up and are unsure of how they will manage if the curfew is extended further,

14 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that readymade garment exports from Bangladesh declined by 2.55% year-on-year in the first nine months of fiscal 2020-21, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.

Media reports that factory owners including Mostafiz Uddin are in support of garment factories remaining open during the lockdown. Uddin said: “During the last heavy lockdown, many factories were prevented from completing critical orders. This has happened time and again these past 12 months, destroying confidence with customers – many of whom may never return if they start to believe we are in a perpetual state of closing down and opening up. This is doing untold damage to our reputation as a garment hub.”

Media reports that speakers in a webinar on Monday asked the government to extend food and cash aids to the poor with the enforcement of the strict ‘lockdown’. They also asked the government to involve communities and non-government organisations for a coordinated approach in maintaining health guidelines. Bangladesh Garment Sromik Samhati president Taslima Akhter and IndustriALL Bangladesh Council general secretary China Rahman said the fresh ‘lockdown’ would take a toll on readymade garment workers .They feared the recurrence of job cuts in the RMG sector.

Media reports some of the steps being taken to ensure factory owners strictly follow health & safety rules during lockdowns. The labour ministry has asked factory owners to follow a staggered schedule for workers, while the state minister for labour and employment called for ensuring that masks were worn alongside social distancing in the factories. She said 23 committees formed earlier would monitor factories in different zones to ensure that the health safety guidelines were being followed. Factory owners were also urged to ensure timely payment of wages to workers during the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr. 

Media reports that around 250 workers from the Versatile Attire factory blocked a highway, demanding 2 months’ worth of salaries. According to the workers, on 31 March, the owner closed the factory without paying the workers for February and March. Later, a complain was lodged with the Industrial police and a meeting was held with workers. The meeting decided that workers would be paid their monthly wage on 8 April. However, workers were later informed by factory authorities that their salaries would not be paid, resulting in the protest.

Cambodia: A recent update on COVID-19 cases reports that up to 650 garment factory workers from 16 different factories have tested positive for COVID-19.

Media reports that four more vaccination sites in Phnom Penh have been added to speed up the vaccination of garment workers. As of April 13, a total of 68,119 workers registered for the vaccinated. 65,823 workers have been vaccinated but the rest were denied access due to pre-existing health conditions.

Latin America: Media reports that a study has found the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that textile and apparel manufacturers in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic can be a viable source for the Canadian and the US markets. According to the report, the pandemic revealed a number of factors that could prove beneficial for textile and apparel manufacturers in these countries, for example, vulnerabilities in brands’ supply chains that are prompting them to consider changes such as hub and sourcing models, vertical manufacturing in individual countries or regions, and nearshoring. 

Vietnam: Media reports that the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (Vitas)  confirmed that most garment and textile enterprises have had orders until the end of June, some enterprises have had orders until July and August. . “Although the number of orders is not as many as before the pandemic, the fact that enterprises have enough orders to maintain production lines and jobs for workers is a positive element for the recovery process of the garment and textile industry. According to Vitas, with the Covid-19 vaccination and the ability to obtain large-scale immunity in the last six months of the year, the garment and textile industry will continue to receive more optimistic information.

13 April

Bangladesh: Media reports on the impact of lockdown on garment workers. Aslam Kaler, a garment worker from Gazipur, explained that he had walked about 6km to reach his factory, as public transport was closed. In the factory, there was no hand sanitiser nor hand-washing system. Manjur Moin, the International secretary of the Garment Workers’ Trade Union Center said that the Department of Factory and Establishment Inspection has not clarified what kind of hygiene rules must be followed in factories. Unions are now.

Media reports that for the seven-day 'strict' lockdown declared by the government, the Ministry of Labour has formed 23 special crisis management committees to monitor the factories that will remain open during the lockdown, in order to ensure that these are adhering to the health and hygiene guidelines. The industrial police and local administration will assist the committees. while the BGMEA and BKMEA, will also monitor whether the health rules are being followed in the readymade garment factories. Leaders of these two associations have said that stern action will be taken this time against any factory where the health protocol is not being followed. If necessary, the factory will be shut down too.

Cambodia: Media reports that adidas supplier Din Han Enterprise, which has seen hundreds of workers test positive for COVID-19, is struggling to pay last month’s paychecks to workers placed in lockdown. With workers unable to leave, the factory is finding it difficult to confirm their payment details or otherwise get the money to them, a factory administrator said. In the meantime, some workers said they were struggling to make ends meet.

India: Media reports that the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India (CMAI), which includes 4,500 members of the country's apparel manufacturing and retail market, has appealed to the government of Maharashtra against imposing a complete lockdown, following growing COVID-19 cases. It says the lockdown could further cripple the financial health of the state’s garment manufacturing units, and manufacturers are also concerned that lockdowns could again lead an exodus of workers from the state, something which has already started.

South Asia: Amnesty has called on governments in South Asia to ensure that vulnerable groups are not excluded from access to COVID-19 vaccines, while also calling on the international community to enable the production of vaccines at the national-level to address the severe shortfall in supply across the region. It states that groups, including garment workers, have so far been denied access, due to a lack of awareness and limited access to technology in most places.

USA: Media reports that US denim apparel imports declined in February 2021 by 17.22% compared to January 2021, despite showing signs of improvement in January. US denim apparel imports have also declined year-on-year by 9.8%in value and 4.78% in volumes.

12 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that apparel workers must walk to their respective factories on foot during the upcoming weeklong strict lockdown, despite the government's instructions for apparel factory owners to ensure their own transport systems. The factory owners claim that since most of them live within the vicinity of their workplace, they can easily walk to the factories during lockdown. Faruque Hassan, newly elected president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), added that only factories which have work orders may continue their operations despite the lockdown. Ruhul Amin, president of Bangladesh Federation of Workers Solidarity (BFWS), said that this decision may not affect those living near their factories, but will adversely affect those others who live far away. "Many workers live more than 5km away from factory are at risk of getting infected. If any worker gets infected, the whole factory will be at risk. Moreover, the responsibility will fall on the workers if they cannot reach the factories on time. Thus, we cannot accept the decision in any way."

Cambodia: Media reports that the AM2 factory has closed and workers sent for testing, following 27 positive cases found there. According to authorities, all workers were quarantined for 14 days but the 23 who had direct contact with the positive cases were put in isolation. The remaining 450 workers had not been infected. For those locked down or in quarantine, the government would pay utility bills for two or three months, respectively, he said, adding that microfinance institutions and banks have agreed to delay payments for two months for patients.

Media reports that thousands of Cambodian garment workers continue to be crammed in trucks for the journey to their factories each day, raising fears among workers of contracting COVID-19.

China: Media reports that Chinese manufacturers exported 3.4 billion garments in January and February of this year, an increase of 38.4% over the same period a year earlier. Over these two months, the combined operating revenue for 12,438 major garment firms surveyed rose by 21.4% year-on-year. However, China’s garment manufacturing sector has yet to return to pre-pandemic output or revenue.

India: Media reports that due to the economic impact of the pandemic, industrial production contracted for the second straight month by 3.6% in February, due to poor performance of manufacturing and mining sectors, official data showed on Monday. The manufacturing sector - which constitutes 77.63% of the index of industrial production - declined by 3.7% in February 2021.

Nicaragua/Honduras: Media reports that Tegra Global have revealed plans to shut two key activewear factories by May, axing 5,200 jobs in Nicaragua and Honduras. “They claim they are closing because of a financial and technical reorganization but what they want is to move production to El Salvador so they can save $5 million in social benefits,” top union boss Pedro Ortega told SJ shortly after Tegra’s labor relations director Julio Pineda informed workers of the decision. The union is calling for Under Armour, Nike and Adidas, who have their garment manufactured by Tegra Global, to put an end to this, or pay compensation to the workers.


11 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that Bangladesh’s apparel and textile manufacturers on Sunday demanded that the government should allow them to keep their factories open during the complete lockdown. Garments and textile sector leaders, holding a press conference, said that if the government brought the apparel sector under lockdown, the export sector would lose its share on the global market as the factories of competing countries remained open amid the pandemic. Media reports that following the press conference, the apparel sector leaders said the government had assured them that factories would remain out of the purview of the ‘complete lockdown’.

Cambodia: In relation to a previous report on the Meng Ieng Garment Factory outbreak mentioned below, a recent article reports that the factory, along with 7 houses rented by the workers, in which authorities discovered 9 COVID-19 cases, has been locked down by authorities. The location has been cordoned off by banning entry and exit. The 9 patients are waiting for a team of doctors to receive treatment.

 In relation to a previous report on the Din Han Garment Factory outbreak mentioned below, a recent article reports that the street of the factory is located on has been closed. The factory has become the first factory cluster for COVID-19, with hundreds of cases. As of the morning of 10 April, 638 workers were infected. Several villages around the factory and where workers live have also been locked down.

India: Media reports that more apparel manufacturers are coming forward to get their workers and staff vaccinated within the company premises. Gurugram-based Richa Global Exports, one of the leading apparel export houses in India, has also worked towards getting the nearby factories and villagers vaccinated too, alongside its own workers. 

10 April 

Bangladesh: Media reports that the Bangladesh Garment Workers Solidarity today in a statement demanded that 100% of workers' wages are paid during the  lockdown. The organisation in its statement said, "During the last lockdown, we have seen that government officials took salaries and other benefits from the government without attending offices but the opposite scenario was found in the context of garment workers." The workers won't let this happen this time, reads the statement calling upon government to take precautionary measures.

Cambodia: Media reports that the Prime Minister announced the government will pay 5 months worth of water and electricity for families whose members have died of COVID-19, in addition to a gift of $2,500 and food supplied provided by the Ministry of Health. For the household with members infected with COVID-19 but still alive, the government will pay their utility bills for three months. Meanwhile, the government will do the same for 2 months for families who are in quarantine or stuck in the lockdown areas as well as food supplies. “A garment factory worker who lives alone in the lockdown area or is in quarantine shall be counted as a family,” he said. “However, if few of them are living in the same room, the government will pay the utility bill for them as a single household.”

Media reports that more than 250 Covid-19 cases were found at a Meanchey district garment factory, Phnom Penh City Hall announced, as workers spoke of fears and alleged delayed action. In a list detailing Phnom Penh’s new cases, at least 251 were connected to Din Han Enterprise. Prime Minister Hun Sen said the total cases at the factory now numbered over 630. Reports show the first COVID-19 case was found there on April 3, another on Monday, 13 on Tuesday, 22 on Wednesday, and 251 on Thursday.

Preang Net, a 32-year-old machine technician at the factory, said that when the first case emerged, he asked his union representative to have the factory suspend operations for a period of time. However, the factory refused. “They said it doesn’t matter. [If] one is infected, the one leaves; two infected, two leaves,” Net said. “Now it has spread everywhere and everyone is panicked.”

Din Han union leader Nov Huot also previously alleged that the factory owner had been reluctant to inform the Health Ministry about the potential outbreak. “I do not understand,” Huot said. “Even with testing, they didn’t inform the Ministry of Health, and they just let the workers go to get tested by themselves at testing centres.”

8 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that according to a study, 79% of marginalised households in Bangladesh experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic.  As a coping strategy to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, 80.6% of households cut down on food expenses and 64.5% cut down on non-food expenses. In 70% of marginalised households, at least one family member lost their job or had to shut down business.

Media reports that between July 2020 and March 2021, exports declined by 0.12%, to $28.93 billion.

Cambodia: Media reports that Adidas supplier Din Han Enterprise, which employs nearly 3,000 workers, has been shut down and thousands of workers ordered to take COVID-19 tests, after 50 workers tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, a worker at D’Luxe International factory, which employs about 9,000 people, has tested positive. Mann Seng Hak, deputy president of the Free Trade Union of Kingdom of Cambodia raised concerns about workers cramming into the back of trucks to and from factories and then working at close quarters for long hours, increasing the risk of further outbreaks. 

India: Media reports that garment manufacturers in Tiruppur, who are already struggling to stay afloat due to the soaring prices of cotton yarn and a drop in export orders, are worried the second wave of the pandemic could further worsen production at their units. “Several top brands and showrooms have been shut in Europe due to COVID-19, so they can’t even accommodate our old orders that have been exported. This has caused a reduction in the number of new orders,” explained Tiruppur Exporters Association president Raja M Shanmugam. A manufacturing unit owner pointed out that many units have facilities to house workers, so it is difficult to monitor workers' health.

Myanmar: Media reports that garment factory owners have been struggling to continue business, due to reduced orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the coup which has resulted in stalled orders from buyers. One owner, who has been operating on about 20%, and surviving only on orders placed before the coup explains “We would have no choice but to give up on Myanmar if there are no new orders in the next few months.”

Nepal: Media reports that the pandemic has worsened conditions for informal workers, who are often unregistered and undocumented, making the bare minimum and living just above the poverty line. The existing challenges are now exposed by the pandemic and further aggravated by sudden demands for COVID- 19 testing, quarantine measures, sanitizing equipment, medical visitations, healthy and immune boosting diet etc. Estimated by the International Labor Organization (ILO 2020), between 1.6 to 2 million jobs have been disrupted in Nepal by the COVID-19 crisis. Among the most-affected are the ones in informal sectors who are neither taxed nor regulated by any form of government and are hence “invisible” to any crisis relief or security measures .With predictions that the effect of COVID-19 may push more people out of formal to informal line of jobs, understanding their needs becomes crucial than ever.  

Sri Lanka: Asia Floor Wage reports in a press statement that six months after the COVID-19 Outbreak at Brandix Minuwangoda, where 1000 out of 1400 factory workers tested positive for COVID-19, Sri Lankan unions are demanding respect for workers’ rights from Brandix and the World Bank. This comes after the news that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a part of the World Bank Group, is considering a $50 million loan to Brandix, despite reports from Brandix workers that their concerns were repeatedly ignored and criticised, and COVID-19 guidelines were broken. The unions are asking the IFC to highlight and address the impact of the outbreak on women workers, engage in substantive consultations with unions and workers’ organisations, and revise its environmental & social action plan for the loan to ensure workplace and safety and freedom of association.

UK: Media reports that the UK government is facing legal action over links between personal protective equipment and alleged modern slavery, after NHS staff were provided with PPE sourced from Malaysian manufacturers that have a history of exploiting workers. The lawyers involved are representing former and current migrant workers who worked for manufacturers Brightway, Supermax and Top Glove. 

USA: Media reports that apparel imports have fallen by 8.7% in February 2021 year-on-year. The country imported US $ 5.39 billion worth of garments in February this year as against US $ 5.91 billion in the same month of 2020.

7 April

Cambodia: Media reports that garment workers who aren’t vaccinated for COVID-19 could be barred from factories and lose their jobs. The country began its vaccination program for factory workers on with the labour ministry stating  280,000 of about 700,000 workers in the garment sector, or 40%, had voluntarily registered to receive the vaccine as of this weekend. Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodia Alliance of Trade Unions, said the number of registered workers was still low because some had not yet received clear information about the effectiveness and quality of the vaccines. There should be better information rather than pressure, she said.

Media reports on a case mentioned earlier in the live-blog, that the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions is calling on Tripos International to stop threatening workers’ jobs as they try to unionise. Sleh Farita, a factory worker who is leading the attempt to unionise, said management had repeatedly told her and about 10 others to give up their efforts or face termination. “For me personally, I will not give up, I still represent the union to protect the rights and interests of workers, because this factory oppresses workers very much,”  

Media reports that 103 non-governmental organizations, farmer communities, associations and worker unions publicly called on the government to direct financial institutions to suspend all loan repayments and interest accrual for at least three months. Yang Sophorn, president of Cambodian Alliance Trade Unions, said workers are currently earning far less as they struggle for employment. “Some of them just work part-time on a reduced workload. They earn not even enough for daily living, so how can they spare some [money] to pay an interest rate or principle,” she said, pointing to research suggesting about 90% of garment workers are indebted to MFIs. 

Sri Lanka: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reports that following a global campaign, Next has agreed to recognise the rights of the FTZ&GSEU Union to be a representative of its workers in the Next Manufacturing Ltd Katunayake Plant, and that it will now begin a bilateral engagement with the union to be the agent of collective bargaining in the plant.

United Kingdom: Media reports that garment workers supplying Lara Intimates in a London factory face “extremely unsafe” conditions, with reports of bullying, no social distancing on the factory floor, workers displaying symptoms of heatstroke working in hot temperatures, and pressure to reach impossible targets.

6 April

Global: A new report from Worker Rights Consortium reveals that many garment workers are being denied some or all legally-mandated severance benefits most garment workers are owed upon termination, in violation of the law and labour rights obligations of the brands and retailers whose clothes they sewed. The WRC has identified 31 export garment factories in nine countries where there is definitive evidence that the factory fired workers and then failed to pay them severance they legally earned. In total, the wage theft at these 31 facilities robbed 37,637 workers of $39.8 million. In total, WRC projects that severance theft in the global garment industry during the Covid-19 pandemic is between $500 million and $850 million. Media coverage from New York Times shares worker accounts of those who have yet to receive compensation.

Bangladesh: Media reports that export earnings rebounded sharply with a 12.59% year-on-year rise to hit $3.07 billion in March, thanks to the recovery in garment shipment over the last few months on the back of relaxed lockdowns. However, apparel export fell 2.55% year-on-year to $23.48 billion in the July-March period this fiscal. year.

Media reports that many workers and employees had to walk to factories on the first day of lockdown, due to a ban on public transport during the week-long pandemic. Despite measures on social distancing, workers on the first floor of Brannserson Apparel Factory factory in Mirput were seen working very close to each other, and most were not wearing masks. Workers’ leader Joly Talukder questioned the decision to keep the factories open amid a surge in the virus cases. She also said the transport shutdown made the lives of the workers difficult. “I don’t think it will be possible to contain the outbreak by keeping the factories open. It will only bring suffering to the workers.” 

Cambodia: Media reports that the Ministry of Health has said it has prepared enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the first phase of inoculating Cambodia’s labour force, which aims to vaccinate 100,000 garment workers. However, while unionized factory workers are set to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, the fate of employees in the informal sector remains unclear—even with union support. Prime Minister Hun Sen asked the Ministry of Health to give priority to informal workers in Phnom Penh to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but the recently established curfew in the capital has seen informal workers harassed—often with no home to return to. Vorn Pov, president of Independent Democratic Association of Informal Economy (IDEA) also encouraged those working in the informal economy to get vaccinated, but was unsure what mechanisms were in place to facilitate this.

South Africa: Media reports that the Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) has concluded South Africa’s first ever COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Campaign Industry Framework Agreement, that will covers the domestic clothing industry, and commits the employer and trade union parties to facilitate vaccination in the textile and garment industry.

Sri Lanka: According to the CCC network, Sri Lankan media has reported on last week's press conference Sri Lankan unions partook in, covering non-payment of bonuses and wages, the $24 million owed by employers, the refusal to set up bipartite health committees, and the need for JAAF to engage with unions.

Vietnam: Media reports that a survey evaluating working conditions in industrial parks in has found that income in the first 6 months of 2020 of textile and footwear workers decreased sharply, on average by 22-29% compared to 2019. Loss of income had a huge impact on workers’ ability to feed themselves and their families, with 86.9% of workers stating their income could not meet basic family needs including food, electricity and water. Mental health issues and gender-based violence also increased. The rate of violence against women in the home during COVID-19 doubled (53.2%) compared to 2019. Additionally, in the workplace acts of gender-based violence also increased, with scolding and cursing reported by 64.5% of the workers. 12% of workers said there was an increase in sexual harassment of female workers such as crude jokes about body parts.  

5 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that industrialists, including garment manufacturers, have found it difficult to instantly implement emergency measures and continue the smooth running of manufacturing operations, after the government suddenly announced a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

Cambodia: Media reports that in the latest round of financial assistance, the Labour Ministry will distribute $26 million to 9,972 employees at 40 companies, who have lost their jobs in the garment and tourism sectors.

The Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) has published a media statement, condemning Tripos International Cambodia Co. Ltd’s persecution and discrimination of leaders, members and activists of the Cambodian Union of Tripos. Management has continually threatened members of the Cambodian Union to resign from the union and submit resignation letters to the union. The company has also, on three occasions objected to the registration of the Cambodian Union. CATU calls on the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and brands sourcing from this factory, such as Clarks, to intervene and ensure that leaders, members and activists of the Cambodian Union of Tripos can fully exercise their rights and freedoms in forming and joining as members of the Cambodian Union.

India: Media reports that India’s factory activity grew at its weakest pace in seven months in March, as renewed lockdowns to curtail a resurgence in COVID-19 cases dampened domestic demand and output, a private survey showed, resulting in a spike in layoffs. Despite foreign orders growing at a faster pace in March, overall demand has declined to its lowest since August 2020. Output also grew at its weakest pace in seven months. Survey participants indicated that demand growth was constrained by the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the rise in input buying was curtailed by an intensification of cost pressures. Factories intensified the rate of layoffs to its strongest in six months in March.

Media reports that 2 clusters have been reported from the Kolar district where  33 garment workers from a factory have tested positive for COVID-19. Following one positive case at the garment factory, all 1000 workers were tested for COVID-19.

4 April

Global: Media reports that a study by supply chain compliance solutions provider QIMA found that in 2020, Taiwan scored the highest in an ethical auditing survey, followed by Bangladesh and Vietnam. The demand for inspections and audits in Southeast Asia rose 19% year-on-year across the board last year, likely propelled by  factors including increased orders for PPE. The study also found that intertwined challenges of the  pandemic have strongly exacerbated human rights risks in global supply chains, including modern slavery, child labour, labour violations in factories and less scrutiny on non-virus related safety measures due to health and safety resources being stretched thin. Some of the most pressing issues at re-opened factories are working hours and wage compliance.

Bangladesh: Media reports that public services in Bangladesh will be suspended, as the government begins a countrywide lockdown to control the rise in COVID-19 cases. Another article highlights that there has been no indication as to how garment workers will commute to and from factories in a series of specified directives, and emphasises that the poor have not been considered in these restrictions. Meanwhile, the notion of setting up field hospitals near garment factories has also been mentioned in these directives.

Cambodia: Media reports that bilateral trade between Cambodia and ASEAN was valued at $11,330 million in 2020, a year-on-year increase of 22.42%. The figures from the Ministry of Commerce shows that from January to December 2020, Cambodia exported $3,722 million goods to ASEAN, up by 185% compared to the same period last year.

3 April

Bangladesh: Media reports that Bangladesh’s readymade garment factories will remain open, despite the government's announcement of a weeklong lockdown across the country to curb the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic's second wave. The garment factories have been given directives to comply with during the lockdown, such as implementing social distancing, to prevent workers being infected. 

India: Media reports that a garment export unit at Washington Nagar in Kannakampalayam panchayat was shut down for 2 days after 31 workers out of 165 in the firm tested positive for COVID-19.

2 April

Global: just-style has published an in-depth evaluation of trade trends in the world’s three largest apparel exporters – China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh – during the pandemic, and highlights the export performances of these countries in 2020. It finds that COVID-19 significantly impacted apparel exports of all three countries, resulting in both unexpected and expected trade patterns. Furthermore it suggests that it is impossible to predict how soon exports will return to pre-COVID levels, and new order cancellations or postponement this year are not unlikely. Among the three countries, Vietnam is in the best position to expand its apparel exports in 2021.

Media reports that there were definite signs of improvement in global manufacturing in March as demand grew and new orders increased. However, the global pandemic is still leaving its mark around the globe in limiting expansion. The article looks into manufacturing in USA, Canada, Eurozone, Brazil, UK, China, Vietnam.

Bangladesh: Media reports that workers from Apex Weaving garment factory in Ghazipur, Bangladesh protested and blocked roads demanding unpaid wages from February.

Media reports that a study from the BGMEA and Global Reporting Initiatives of the United Nations Development Programme mentioned previously in the live-blog found that the first wave of COVID-19 hit workers in 1 in 4 garment factories. Additionally, on average, workers remained absent for 25 days and 13% of the factory owners had to lay off workers due to losses in business.

Cambodia: Media reports that despite the global economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia's total trade volume remains positive, reaching $35.8 billion last year, a rise of 2.5% compared with the year before. Cambodia’s total exports were worth $17.21 billion, up 16.72% year-on-year in 2020, its major export products including garments at $7.42 billion (a YoY decline of 10.24%), and footwear at $1.11billion (down 11.6% YoY).

Media reports on the hardships factory workers have faced amidst the COVID-19 crisis, which left them facing economic hardship, loss of income and inability to pay for water, electricity and rooms. One worker explained: “ I am a worker who is in a very difficult situation to earn money, I especially need to spend a lot on daily food, market goods, room for rent and 4,000 riels per cubic meter of water. I work hard even though the situation of COVID-19 is spreading, so please consider my life as a worker. At the time of COVID-19, I lost my income because I was suspended from work for medical treatment, but my monthly expenses, rent, water and debt continued." 

Dominican Republic: Media reports that Alta Gracia, a factory hailed for providing living wage and labour rights to its workers has struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic, as workers were furloughed without pay and work was temporaily suspended for three months.  Union leader, Eduardo Cabrera, said: “They gave us two options. Temporarily suspending activity or definite closure.” The Dominican government gives furloughed factory workers a monthly subsidy that represents only 30% of the monthly living wage of 27,027 pesos ($475). Since the Guardian started reporting, the company secured funding from private donations and committed to paying 50% of the living wage for six weeks to compensate for some of the workforce’s loss during the furlough. In addition, workers will continue to be entitled to the government subsidy.

Sri Lanka: Media reports that Sri Lanka’s leading trade unions pointed out at a press conference that during the pandemic, apparel brands, traders and manufacturers in the garment industry in Sri Lanka are slashing workers’ health, job security, as well as workers' rights and making huge profits from their oncome. They requested brands and employers of the Sri Lanka apparel sector to initiative a national dialogue with the trade unions to ensure the protection of the rights, wages and health of workers in the garment sector.

Information and campaigns

General info on COVID-19 in the garment industry

PayYourWorkers campaign

PayUp campaign page -> coming

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.

Labour Start collects materials coming in from trade unions around the world.

The International Trade Union Confederation collects trade union news on the COVID-19 crisis.

ICNL has a civic freedom tracker.

Omega research foundation tracks excessive use of force by law enforcement during the pandemic.

HRDN resource on business, human rights, digital rights and privacy.

Background and position papers

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

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

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

ECCHR policy paper "Garment Industry in intensive care?"

ECCHR, SOMO and Pax paper on responsible business relationships.

AFWA's paper The emperor has no clothes.

Traidcraft Exchange "Bailing out the supply chain"

ECCHR-WRC paper "Force majeure"

COVID-19 Report by Decent Work Check: Indonesia and Ethiopia garment industry.

UN Special Rapporteur report "Looking back to look ahead"

WRC and Penn State University paper "Unpaid Billions"

WRC and Penn State University paper "Apparel Brands' Purchasing Practices during COVID-19"

ILO research brief "The supply chain ripple effect"

WRC research report "Hunger in the Apparel Supply Chain" & Spanish version

BHRRC report "Wage theft and pandemic profits"

Basic health information

Hesperian Health Guides' COVID-19 Fact Sheet

published 2021-04-30