Live-blog: How the Coronavirus affects garment workers in supply chains
Global: Media cite a new report published by researchers from the universities of Liverpool and Nottingham suggesting that amid the global pandemic, commercial and operational risks were prioritised by companies ahead of modern slavery concerns.
'Implications of COVID-19 for modern slavery challenges in supply chain management' assessed almost 500 managers in relevant positions, and held focus groups with expert practitioners to determine the scope of supply chain disruptions and the subsequent actions.
It found that whilst the managers of companies, including retailers, demonstrated a “small but significant” increase in their attention to modern slavery challenges exacerbated by COVID-19, it was often overlooked at times of operational uncertainty.
Read the full report here
Bangladesh: Media report that members of the Bangladesh Army, Board Guard Bangladesh and police set up check posts at different points on roads across the country as COVID restrictions resumed. Restrictions between July 23 and August 5 would be stricter than earlier ones, state minister for public administration Farhad Hossain told journalists on Thursday.
‘Like all offices, garment factories and export-oriented industries will be closed during these restrictions, this time the restrictions will be stricter,’ said state minister Farhad Hossain on Thursday.
Dhaka Tribune reports that people entering Dhaka in the morning had to walk for hours due to suspension of public transport.
Dhaka's streets were almost empty as no public vehicle was available, and all shops and malls, offices and factories remained closed till the end of the latest lockdown measures.
Vietnam: Media report that Vietnam garment makers face tough decisions between creating “bubbles” or choosing a temporary shutdown for manufacturers in Vietnam.
On Friday, as the two-week lockdown on the economic powerhouse and manufacturing base of Ho Chi Minh City came up for review, authorities announced an extension of lockdown measures lasting until August 1.
“All I can say is that the stress levels are really high, and for a factory that has more than 500 workers it is not quite worth it in terms of organizing the food and living conditions in these makeshift conditions. As Directive 16 will be implemented more strongly from this week, it will be harder to make it work,” a factory owner told Sourcing Journal.
There are more than 6,000 factories in the sector in Vietnam, which employ more than three million workers. More than half of Vietnam’s apparel factories are located in the Mekong and Dong Nai areas. In Hanoi, the requirements for factories, agencies and enterprises is to have Covid testing for workers every three to five days.
Cambodia: Media report the response to a Clean Clothes’ report finding that more than 780,000 workers in Cambodia's garment and footwear sector lost $109 million in wages during lockdown, the president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC) said that garment workers in Cambodia lost the wages due to salary cuts, suspension of work and dismissals.
He added that the unions will try to hold brands to account and that global brands’ owners should have obligations to help or provide financial benefits during lockdown, or when workers are in trouble because they have benefited from the labor force.
Global: Come and join “Solidarity in Claiming Back Wages and Benefits of Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic” on 22 July 2021 (Thursday) at 8PM-10:PM Manila (2-3pm CET), organized by both the Migrant Forum in Asia and Clean Clothes. Register here to join: https://bit.ly/3wcrZzF
Cambodia: Media report that the Cambodian government has relaxed Covid-19 rules for garment factory workers. Four business associations independently submitted letters to the government appealing for reprieve from some of the strictest restrictions.
These were the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations (CAMFEBA), Cambodia Footwear Association (CFA) and Japanese Business Association of Cambodia (JBAC).
Cambodia Footwear Association president Ly Kunthai said the government was attentive to the appeals of industry players in its decision-making, seeking to ease their burden during these trying times.
“We’ve now obtained solutions from the government that will help us, as factories grin and bear a wide range of issues during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Bangladesh: Bangladesh apparel factories close from 23 July as part of a two-week complete lockdown enforced by the Bangladeshi government to reduce the rising numbers of Covid-19. All apparel factories will have to close for two weeks after Eid-ul-Azha celebrations, according to media reports.
The latest lockdown will start from 6am (Bangladesh time) on 23 July and will end at midnight on 5 August.
Sri Lanka: Human Rights Watch has warned that the Sri Lankan government, factory owners, and international clothes brands sourcing from Sri Lanka should protect the safety and employment rights of garment workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered garment factories to remain open despite a strict lockdown imposed on May 21, 2021. Trade unions and public health inspectors have reported numerous virus outbreaks in factories, as well as in the congested boarding houses where many workers live, and alleged that employers were under-testing and under-reporting cases to maintain production levels.
Global: Large swathes of apparel-producing areas in Asia will be underwater by 2030. Media cite analysis released by the International Labour Organization, which overlaid maps of rising sea levels onto factory locations showed, threatening thousands of suppliers with submersion unless they relocate to higher ground.
While larger, trans-national suppliers may be able to shut down facilities in vulnerable areas and consolidate production on higher ground, smaller-scale suppliers will be most impacted, the paper's authors said, highlighting the example of Bangladesh - the second-largest apparel exporter.
Myanmar: A quarter of a million garment workers in Myanmar have lost their jobs following the military coup in February, reports Ecotextile, citing a new study by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The ILO says the coup, on top of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, has caused a deep employment crisis in Myanmar with the equivalent of 2.2 million jobs lost so far this year.
Malaysia: Media reports that The Federation of Malaysian Fashion, Textiles and Apparels (FMFTA) recently urged the government to allow the industry to resume operations as part of the country’s national recovery plan. Manufacturers and retailers have been facing losses amounting to RM163 million per day due to the shutdown.
Pakistan: Media reports that the value of textile and garment exports from Pakistan increased by 22.94 per cent year-on-year (in dollar terms) in the fiscal year 2020-21 ending June 30. During the period, Pakistan earned $15.400 billion from textile and apparel exports, compared to exports of $12.526 billion in July-June 2019-20.
Bangladesh: Media reports Chinese company Vanessa Enterprise Ltd has signed a $41.77 million deal with Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) to produce ladies garments in Ishwardi EPZ in Pabna. Some 4,028 Bangladeshi nationals will be employed in this factory.
Bangladesh: The Dhaka Tribune reports how order cancellations and brands and factory owners’ behaviour during the pandemic is causing workers to experience large drops in income, job losses and union-busting. This had extremely detrimental effects on workers as many of them had never been able to build up savings. One worker declared: “Those who have worked 2/3 months or 6 months/1 years here are being sacked. The management is saying that we don’t need you anymore, we have excess workers. But then, they are rehiring them at a lower salary. Those who were paid Tk9,000 are now paid Tk8,000.”
Media report that while income growth of wage earners in Bangladesh dropped to a six-year low in the last fiscal year, inflation on food prices continues to be on the rise.
Media report that factory owners associations have in a letter last week urged the government to allow export-oriented factories to operate during strict restrictions planned from 23 July 23 to 5 August, saying that otherwise orders would be lost. Other media reports say that the leather sector and PPE manufacturers will be exempted from the lockdown but that the government had not yet decided to the call to allow the apparel industry operate during this period. Pending a decision, articles say, workers had trouble deciding what to do and many went home before the Eid holidays, as they are unsure whether factories will reopen after.
The factory owners’ association BGMEA reports that 99% of their member factories have paid Eid bonuses. The Industrial police however reported that 477 factories had not paid the Eid bonuses by the end of the last working day before Eid.
Media report that the Palala garmanṭasa factory in Gazipur metropolis has been accused of locking the gate without paying the workers two months salary including Eid bonus.
India: Media report that garment export factories and other firms in different parts of India, including Tirupur, Surat and Chennai, operate on limited workforce in absence of migrant workers.
Indonesia: A new film launched by Clean Clothes Campaign today, called “How to steal your worker’s future” shows the importance of severance payments for workers upon dismissal and showcases through the lives of two Indonesian workers how worrying it is that many workers during the pandemic are not receiving their legally owed severance.
Media report that textile, garment and shoe factories are becoming a cluster for the spread of Covid-19. Unions say this is caused by the fact that many factories are still operating on 100% capacity in cramped conditions.
Sri Lanka: The Sri Lankan finance minister invited garment industry stakeholders to discuss the future of the sector in the light of the pandemic, however failing to invite union representatives.
Tunesia: Media report that garment and textile factories in Tunesia are hit hard during the pandemic, which causes labour rights violations and dismissals to spike. One worker who had not been paid for four months told Thomson Reuters: “How is there no money? We are working. The exports are going out as they always do.”
Vietnam: Media report that two Nike footwear suppliers in Vietnam — Chang Shin Vietnam Co. Ltd. and Pou Chen Corp. — have stopped manufacturing, in response to a regional lockdown. Other reports say also four Feng Tai factories, another Nike supplier, have closed. As a result Nike could run out of sneakers made in Vietnam.
Global: Clean Clothes Campaign today released a report estimating that garment workers have lost almost 12 billion in income between March 2020 and March 2021. More detailed estimates for seven Asian garment producing countries shows that workers have continued to steadily lose income during the pandemic. Workers in all researched countries, except for Indonesia, are dealing with a wage gap that is at least two times bigger than their average monthly wage. An estimated 1.6 million garment workers were dismissed in the seven countries during the pandemic and lockdown periods, with many dismissed workers not being paid their full legal entitlements to severance pay. The Financial Times reported on the price pressure by many brands on their suppliers as a major driver for this dynamic.
Bangladesh: Media reports that hundreds of readymade garment workers blocked the busy Dhaka-Gazipur Road on Saturday, demanding the immediate release of their salaries and other dues.Workers are said to be from Style Craft Garment, which has some 5,000 workers.
Media reports that, according to industry insiders, over 300 factories have not paid wages for June while workers of over 850 factories are yet to get Eid bonuses.
Babul Akhtar, chairman of Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF), said some factories have not paid wages and bonuses to their workers yet, although the provision for payment is within the 10th day of the month.
“But every day, several factories are paying wages and bonuses. More than 80% of the factories have already paid wages. Hopefully, all the factories will complete the payment,” he added.
Media reports that Indian-owned company Sewtech Fashion Limited has signed an agreement with Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority to establish a readymade garments manufacturing factory in Chattogram. The investment is said to be $9.26 million.
Sewtech, sister company to India’s largest apparel manufacturer company Shahi Exports Pvt Ltd, said it will produce 3.36 million pieces of woven tops annually and create employment opportunities for 3,393 Bangladeshi nationals.
Cambodia: Media reports that the country exported (US) $8.201 billion in the first six months of 2021, a 17 percent increase compared to the same period last year. Exports of garment products; cloth, footwear and travel goods, amounted to $4.721 billion, a 0.9 percent increase over last year.
Vongsey Vissoth, permanent secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said recently that non-garment product exports will increase while garment exports are expected to see a contraction.
Vietnam: Media reports that Garment maker Dony decided to shut down because it could not provide food for hundreds of workers. The company planned to rent accommodation for its 400, but said it found ensuring three meals a day for them amid social distancing orders was difficult. Director Pham Quang Anh said cooking at the factory meant potential fires and explosions
Bangladesh: Media reports that garments, textile, terry towel and garment accessories makers sent a letter to the government, demanding apparel factories remain open during the countrywide lockdown. In the letter, they say that Bangladesh will lose $119.38 million per day from garment export alone if the factories remain shut for any reason, and that if factories are kept shut, the garment sector will lose many work orders and few billions of dollars.
They urged the prime minister to shorten the lockdown period so that the production continues in the factories to offset the losses.
Media reports that protests by garment workers and officers of Stylecraft Ltd have continued, as workers protested on the streets from 7:30am, demanding unpaid arrears of three years. The workers blocked a road, and continued protesting until 7:30pm. Workers are not only owed unpaid wages, but four years of annual leave and two years of Eid bonuses. The employers have continued to delay their payments.
Media reports that garment exports from Bangladesh increased by 12.55% in fiscal 2020-21 ending June 30, compared to exports of the previous year. However, the country missed its export target by 6.89%.
Cambodia: Media reports that the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has notified the release of cash subsidies for workers whose employment contracts have been suspended in garment and tourism, as part of the government response package for the fallouts of COVID-19.
3,180 workers/employees from 32 factories and companies are entitled for the 63th release of the cash subsidies.
The workers/employees suspended from jobs for 7 to 10 days will receive 60,750 Riel (about $15), from 11 to 20 days 121,500 Riel ($30), and from 21 to one month 162,000 Riel ($40). Also covered here.
Media reports that in response to research conducted by Clean Clothes Campaign and Cambodian unions on wage theft during the pandemic, Pav Sina, president of Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), said that factories had set aside no budget to pay workers during pandemic-related factory closures. Brands had not given them any extra funds to do so.
“...If they do not [supply funds], it means that they do not think about the workers’ impact but they think only about their income.”
Khun Tharo, a program coordinator at CENTRAL said brands should do more to ensure factories are following labour guidelines and should set aside funds to pay those who aren’t allowed to work during lockdowns.
“They have to consider subsidising wages to workers who are facing job suspensions during lockdown. They must work to support their suppliers to establish social support assistance to workers that make their products during this period.”
India: Media reports that 10% of Tirupur’s garment orders have been diverted to Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and China. The sector faced a 9% drop in exports during the first wave, but it is predicted that the impact will be greater this time.
Indonesia: Media reports that according to the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI), the government’s emergency measures to ease the rapid spread of COVID-19 are ineffective, as all manufacturing factories are still working at 100% capacity. According to data collected in various regions of Indonesia, he reported that at least 10% of workers in the manufacturing or processing sector are affected by the virus.
Media reports that according to a survey conducted by the Indonesia Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (IBCWE), COVID-19 has led to workers, especially low-income workers, facing paycuts. Those in labour-intensive industries such as textiles, garments and footwear, have had wage cuts ranging from 25% to 50%.
Thailand: Media reports that in Chon Buri, three new COVID-19 clusters have been found, including a cluster of 30 cases at a garment factory in Pak Kret district. Chachoengsao also has a new cluster at a garment factory, with 10 cases.
Vietnam and Myanmar: Media reports that Hakers (supplies Tchibo and Hanes Brand) has closed its factory in Vietnam for two weeks due to the new wave of COVID-19. A factory in Myanmar has also been shutdown.
Vietnam: Media reports that businesses in Ho Chi Minh City have complained that it is impossible to implement the city’s new stay-at-work orders within the 24-hour deadline.
According to these regulations, enterprises can provide accommodation and food for employees on their premises, so they can operate normally. Otherwise, they must close down. A garment maker decided to shut down because it could not provide food for hundreds of workers, while cooking at the factory meant potential fires and explosions.
In relation to this, another article reports that while many businesses are taking measures to ensure accommodation for their workers, according to the chairman of HCMC Association of Garments, Textiles, Embroidery and Knitting, most factories in this sector have had to halt operations, as the number of workers is too large for them to ensure safe conditions, and it would also be very costly.
Media reports that two Nike suppliers have suspended production due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Changshin Vietnam, which employs 42,000 workers, will remain shut at least until Tuesday, with 177 infection cases. Pou Chen has suspended operations at its Pouyen Vietnam factory for 10 days, after 49 infections were detected at the plant.
Early on in the pandemic, Pouyen was forced to suspend operations for two days, after it was discovered violating social-distancing policies. It was quickly remediated and re-opened.
Bangladesh: Media reports that the discussion between apparel manufacturers and the cabinet secretary could not decide whether the garment factories will remain closed or open during the 14-day countrywide lockdown starting from July 23. Another meeting will be held to make a decision. More coverage here.
Cambodia: Media reports that Cambodia exported $357.8 million worth of garments, textiles, shoes and travel goods in the first six months of 2021, inching up 1.4%. Figures show the garment exports were produced in the special economic zones (SEZs).
Garment exports accounted for most of the total exports at $232 million, a 3.3% decrease compared with the same period last year. The EU and Japan markets were the biggest markets for the Kingdom’s garment products with a total amount of $77 million and $74 million, respectively.
Media reports that many Cambodian workers in Thailand are still waiting to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations, as workers must have legal working documents to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (Central) official Loung Sophon said, “The Thai government should give the COVID-19 vaccine to all workers whether or not they have legal working documents because it is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country.”
China: Media reports that China's exports grew at a much faster than expected pace in June, as global demand led by easing lockdown measures and vaccination drives worldwide eclipsed virus outbreaks and port delays. Exports in dollar terms rose 32.2% in June from a year earlier, compared with 27.9% growth in May.
Thailand: Media reports that factory activity is projected to contract in the third quarter of the year, following the enactment of new COVID-19 emergency public activity restrictions (PPKM Darurat) that are expected to impact overall business activity.
Sri Lanka: Media reports that there are about 270 Community Vaccination Centres manned by tri-forces and health authorities currently operational countrywide, with garment workers included among those prioritised to receive the vaccine.
Media reports that In May, earnings on merchandise exports recovered by 52% year-on-year and 9% month-on-month (MoM). In particular, textiles and garments, driven by a high number of export orders to the European Union (EU), rose by a notable 69.2% year-on-year to US$ 372.4 million.
Media reports that MAS Intimates, the largest division of Sri Lanka’s leading apparel manufacturer MAS Holdings (Pvt) Ltd, established an Intermediate Care Centre for the treatment of employees, their families and the general public in the North-Western Province, and has been set up with special facilities to accommodate the needs of critical COVID-19 patients.
Vietnam: Media reports that 49 infections have been detected at the Pouyen factory (Pentland Brands, Nike, Asics, Mizuno, VF Corporation, Lacoste, New Balance, adidas supplier), which has been temporarily suspended.
Media reports that Changshin Vietnam Co., Ltd has suspended production for six days for all 41,000 workers at three factories, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Media reports that Eclat Textile Co., a Taiwan-based garment and fabric supplier, has suspended production at its plant for four days in Vietnam after cases of COVID-19 infections were confirmed among its employees. During this time it will launch tests for the employees and disinfect the plant. The company did not release any details about the infections, including how many workers have been infected and their health conditions.
Global: Media reports that there has been rollback on labour rights in the global garment industry due to COVID-19, as fashion brands pile pressure on their suppliers and, in turn, on factory workers, according to reports by labour advocacy groups including Asia Floor Wage Alliance and Worker Rights Consortium. In-depth studies from these organisations have found workers around the world owed wages and severance pay since the pandemic began.
Abdul Wasid, a garment worker who was sacked from his job at a Pakistani garment factory in the early days of the pandemic was rehired three months later – for lower pay and longer hours.. “I was desperate because I hadn’t earned anything for months after being fired and agreed to everything they said. Now I’m depending on small loans to survive.”
Bangladesh: Media reports that garment workers from Style Craft garment Ltd factory demonstrated and blocked a road demanding their dues and Eid bonus, for a second consecutive day.
The workers and staff have been demanding their dues for the last few months and observed protests in front of the factory several times The authorities yesterday were given an ultimatum to pay the dues by evening but failed to do so.
Chameli, a worker of the factory, said: "We don't need any new dates or promises. We need our salaries.”
The factory is yet to pay the workers for three months of the current year and four months of the previous two years. Also reported here.
Media reports that around 530 factories, mostly textile and apparel manufacturing units, could face labour unrest over non-payment of wages and festival allowances before Eid-ul-Azha on 21 July.
Media reports that manufacturers fear the apparel industry will suffer due to the government's decision to keep factories closed for 14 days amid a peak season for export and purchase orders, and say they are receiving a large number of orders for spring and summer clothing from the US and Europe. If the factories are closed for two weeks, they will not be able to supply the products in accordance with the lead time as per the purchase order, then foreign buyers will cancel the purchase orders or take advantage of the discounts, said apparel manufacturers.
Cambodia: Research by Cambodian trade unions and Clean Clothes Campaign has found that Cambodian garment workers producing goods for international fashion and sportswear brands, such as Adidas, VF, Target, Nike and Gap, were deprived of an estimated US$ 109 million in wages during the April and May 2021 national lockdown.
Unions and activists call on international brands to pay workers’ full wages throughout the duration of the pandemic and sign an enforceable agreement to prevent future pay theft. Also reported here.
Indonesia: Media reports that in surprise inspections by the Serang Regency Covid-19 Task Force in Serang, five workers at PT Shinta Woo Sung (a Nike supplier) tested positive for COVID-19.
Vietnam: Media reports that after COVID-19 infections were detected at the Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone in District 7, 29 enterprises have had to cease operations. Many said they have had to apologise to customers for potential late deliveries. For example, Pouyuen Vietnam (Pentland Brands, Nike, Asics, Mizuno, VF Corporation, Lacoste, New Balance, adidas supplier), the biggest employer in Ho Chi Minh City with over 56,000 staff, had to suspend operation due to worker shortages caused by COVID-19. If the company cannot negotiate with clients successfully, it will have to compensate for late delivery.
In another article on Pouyen Vietnam, media reports that the company will be closed for 10 days after the company said it could not fulfill the district's requirements on having all employees stay back at the factory and get the new COVID-19 tests every three days, instead of workers moving back and forth between their residencies and the factory.
Cu Phat Nghiep, chairman of the company's labor union, said the factory could not arrange for all workers to stay in the factory because there are too many of them while a majority of the factory has been occupied by machinery."
Media reports that as of 10 July, over 10,000 employees of the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) were unable to come to the factory, accounting for 10% of the Group's workforce. The company says they are facing the greatest difficulties resulting from COVID-19 since 01 May 2020.
Employees are unable to attend work due to positive COVID-19 cases and resulting blockades and restrictions on workers and factories.
Thailand: Media reports that migrant workers' rights activists slammed a decision by the Ministry of Labour to end a project to carry out active COVID-19 testing on 30,000 high-risk migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia in Metropolitan Bangkok. The decision, which appeared in a letter, cited scarce resources and medical personnel due to the latest coronavirus outbreak.
Koreeyor said that those at highest risk should have access to tests and medical care first. “It’s a failure and naivety on part of the state and will put everyone at risk. We should not be indifferent simply because they’re not Thai.”
Media reports that the cabinet has approved a 42-billion-baht package of financial assistance for workers and businesses affected by the lockdown, currently implemented in ten provinces to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
Workers registered under Section 33 of the Social Security Act, will receive at most 10,000 per person for one month. Other workers registered under Sections 39 and 40 will receive a cash handout of 5,000 baht for one month as well. Employers and workers who have yet to be registered under the social security system will have to first register to become eligible to receive these benefits.
Media reports that many migrant workers have chosen to return to their home country, after the Prime Minister ordered the closure of worker camp sites across Bangkok, as a measure to curb COVID-19 transmission. Approximately 100-150 migrant workers are leaving daily.
Media reports that the Cabinet has approved a proposal to allow four groups of migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to legally stay and work in the country until July 27 next year, in order to allow them to sort out their employment status and work permits.
Migrant workers from these countries who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic will now have 60 days to find a new job and register with labour authorities.
Bangladesh: Media reports that all factories have been ordered to close operations after the end of Eid from July 23 for 14 days.
The closure will continue until 5 August to contain the rising rate of COVID-19. Union leaders believe that it will have little impact on production, as it will take a while for production to start in full swing after the Eid holidays.
Media reports that the government has instructed garment factory owners to pay all dues, monthly wages and festival bonus by 19 July. The minister also instructed factories to decide on Eid holidays through discussion with their factory workers, in line with government Eid holidays.
Media reports that officers and staff of Style Craft garments factory demonstrated Tuesday demanding three months’ salaries and other dues pending for the last three years.
The workers and staff have been demanding their dues for the last few months and observed protests in front of the factory several times. Dissatisfaction spread among the staff in the morning when the factory authorities refused to pay their dues. Even though the workers joined work, the officers and staff formed a human chain on Dhaka-Joydevpur Road for an hour and later blocked the road.
Later they took position in front of the factory till evening.
Cambodia: Media reports that migrant workers returning from Thailand who are quarantining in centres along the border in Oddar Meanchey province are facing a shortage of facilities, including medicine, toilets and mosquito nets. The lack of mosquito nets is causing particular concern, as workers fear getting malaria or dengue more than COVID-19. A factory worker said that in addition to the shortages, officials appeared scared to get near them. “They detest us strongly,” he said.
Media reports that COVID-19 patients are being taken to crowded quarantine centres, with new arrivals having to sleep in tents or stay in a campus building with fewer bathrooms. Patients say they struggled with the stress, boredom and lack of information and doctor attention during their stay. Choub Chanda, a garment worker from Hi-Tech Apparel was admitted to a centre with some of her co-workers, and said, “At first, I felt so broken and scared at the same time...I’m quite stressed here because I could not go anywhere. Just staying in one place.”
Media reports that the Project Advisory Committee (PAC), a UN-backed advisory committee charged with ensuring labour rights and adequate working conditions in Cambodia's garment factories, has said that it will continue to engage with partners to improve the welfare of workers in the Cambodian garment, footwear, travel goods and bag industries. It further stated it is committed to preventative COVID-19 measures, and to supporting an environment where employers and worker representatives can engage in dialogue. The Committee called for joint action from all industry partners in Cambodia and internationally to support the garment sector to sustain the industry and the lives of the workers throughout the global pandemic.
Media reports that the government has said that COVID-19 has made women and girls more vulnerable. For example, women and girls, who generally have lower income and less stable employment face greater economic uncertainty from COVID-19, and are at the highest risk in daily life. As a result, the government says they are prone to falling into poverty, and face rising unpaid workloads that are pushing more women out of the paid workforce. A factory worker expressed her happiness regarding the government intervening to provide more social assistance to alleviate the hardships of the people, but said that if the government did not speed up the focus on helping women and girls, it would make them more vulnerable in life. In her case, the factory she is currently employed at is facing temporary closure due to infected workers.
Japan: Media reports that the Japanese government is asking the domestic apparel industry to check for human-rights violations among suppliers, noting that many companies in Japan are using migrant worker interns in production stages, from spinning to sewing..
The report says the apparel companies are responsible for grasping the entire situation along their supply chains.
Tunisia: Media reports that Tunisian garment factories, which mainly supply European fashion brands, have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with thousands of job losses and a rise in complaints about labour rights violations, including non-payment of severance pay and regular wages in the sector, as exports to the European Union plunged.
A garment worker who works at the Fada factory supplying shirts for Italian brands including Renato Balestra group, Lancetti and Il Granchio has not received her wages since March, and is racking up debts. Three other workers said they had been evicted from their homes, unable to pay the rent, because of the wage freeze.
Some workers are organising between themselves to fight for their rights, with Fada workers organising to negotiate with their employer, who has told workers they will be paid in August. If this does not work, the workers will go to court.
Turkey: Media reports that workers at Denim Kumaşçılık (aka Dynamo) in Lüleburgaz protested at the factory gates against the dismissal of four workers who were members of DİSK/Tekstil union. They demanded the reinstatement of the workers and recognition of union rights.
Bangladesh: Media reports that the International Labour Organization (ILO) has launched a ‘Behaviour Change Awareness Campaign’ to identify and reduce COVID-19 risks faced by garment workers in their workplaces and communities. The campaign aims to inform workers, their families and communities about COVID-19 symptoms to help them take precautions and prevention measures against the virus. Special emphasis has been put on COVID-19 health tips for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
Ethiopia: Media reports that due to the pandemic, the workforce at Hawassa Industrial park reduced from 35,000 workers, to 26,000. However, capacity has now reached 30,000. Due to the scarcity of new orders at the onset of the pandemic, the factories shifted to PPE production, enabling them to maintain the 26,000 workers.
Meanwhile, wages are still low, as workers depend on incentives to increase income, which are highly dependent on a workers’ ability to meet productivity goals set for them by supervisors.
India: In an op-ed, the All India Trade Union Congress in Bengaluru called on the government to treat factory workers as frontline workers and ensure they are vaccinated and receive benefits on a priority basis. Workers have continued to work during the second wave, in factories that do not allow for social distancing protocols to be followed, and with limited support from the government to ensure health and safety measures are in place.
Sri Lanka: Media reports that Human Rights Watch has called on the Sri Lankan government, factory owners, and the international clothes brands sourcing from Sri Lanka to protect the safety and employment rights of garment workers during the pandemic, as factories remain open and numerous outbreaks are reported in factories and the congested boarding houses workers live in. Reports have shown inadequate occupational health and safety measures put in place in factories, while workers who are taken to quarantine facilities have their absences deducted from their annual allowance of 14 days unpaid leave. The police and military personnel are also intimidating workers to stop them from speaking out.
An activist who had assisted workers who were sick with the virus said, “The employers are busy with their orders and workers are not given PCR [Covid-19] tests, because if they are positive, they will not be able to employ them in production.”
Thailand: Media reports that Cambodian workers in Thailand are reporting losing their jobs and starving after the Thai government suspended factories, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to a worker from Cambodia, Cambodian workers are facing unpaid wages and food shortages living in the dormitories. In one case, a factory recently laid off about 70 Cambodian workers for no apparent reason.
Bangladesh: Media reports that one-third of young women who were employed before the pandemic were out of jobs as of January 2021, due to the impact of COVID-19. The rate of unemployment following the pandemic is three times higher in women at 29%, than that among men at 11%.
Among those who found a job later, income recovery dropped by 21% for female youths and by 10% for male youths as of January 2021.
Media reports that while garment workers continue to work during the lockdown and are having to walk or travel in private vehicles with other workers due to no public transport, they do not speak out, in fear of losing their jobs. While 70% of workers live close to their factories, 30%, live in housing further away, and very few factories have transport for those workers.
Rahima Akhter, Shefali Begum and Khorshed Alam, some of the garment workers, said, "I have asked the factory owner to make arrangements for transportation since the corona infection started. They did not pay attention to this issue. Didn't even feel the need. That's why we don't want lockdown. Our factory is open even if everything is closed in lockdown. If you say something, the owner says to quit the job. If you don't come to work one day, your salary will be deducted. I was forced to come to the factory in a rickshaw-van with double the fare. No one sees our suffering, no one evaluates it."
Turkey: Media reports that SML Label factory workers of the Dev Tekstil union have continued to protest in front of the factory for over 4 months against their dismissal, which was done under the context that the business was sinking. “You are responsible for our dismissal,” the workers said to Decathlon, H&M, Mango and ZARA.
Addressing the Decathlon, H&M, Mango, Tommy Hilfiger and Zara, one of the protesters said, “You are a top employer. In addition, in accordance with the Global Framework Agreements you have signed, national and international laws, conventions, regulations, etc., especially the right to organize. You are responsible for its implementation. You have responsibility for the attacks faced by the workers whose rights are violated, especially the right to unionize with your suppliers. If you do not remember that you are responsible, we will continue to come here...We want our job. We, as SML Label resisters, will not give up our struggle. We will protect our rights, our future."
Vietnam: Media reports that according to the Director of Viet Thang Jean Company (Gap and Fast Retailing – parent company of Uniqlo – supplier), three of its factories are located in the blockade area, as COVID-19 continues to spread. In response, the company has organised for over 1000 workers to stay at the factories to continue production. The company had to spend more than 1 billion VND on tests and to buy equipment for workers staying at the factories. "We have orders, customers are fixed, if we stop now, we will lose credibility, and it is easy to lose customers to other countries."
Media reports that six more foreign companies in Ho Chi Minh City with over 36,000 workers have had to shut down operations due to COVID-19 infections or isolated individuals in closed areas.
According to Long Rich (Brooks Sports supplier), a Taiwanese shoe manufacturer, about 4,000 workers had to take 14 days off work after a COVID-19 case was detected at the factory, disrupting production. Another Taiwanese shoe manufacturer Freetrend Industrial Vietnam, with about 21,000 employees, also suspended operations to re-evaluate COVID-19 measures, after it detected cases of COVID-19.
Bangladesh: Media reports that the Garment Workers Front has demanded workers of Sinha Group (supplies Levis) and Style Craft (supplies River Island, New Look, Next, H&M, and Debenhams) receive their unpaid arrears, after having protested for over three months.
Leaders say the factories are open and production is underway amid lockdown, and that many factories are yet to pay the workers' wages under the pretext of lockdown, even though there is a provision to pay the previous month's wages within 7 working days of every month. Furthermore, even though there are only 10 days left for the Eid holiday, almost no factory has paid Eid bonus to the workers.
The leaders said that by July 15, workers will have to be paid all dues including Eid bonus, June's salary and overtime wages, equivalent to at least one month's wages.
Indonesia: Media reports that due to lack of orders, minimal sales and the subsequent accumulation of stock, 50% of factories in Sukamaju Village in Majalaya Distrct, Bandung Regency have temporarily closed, which has led to temporary layoffs.
Asia: Media reports that Asia Floor Wage Alliance has filed legal complaints against fashion brands in major garment-producing countries across Asia, in an attempt to hold the global fashion industry legally accountable for wage violations during the pandemic.
Ashim Roy, an Indian trade unionist and AFWA member, said “Our core argument is that the reality of fashion supply chains is that brands do not just buy garments. They determine and control every step in the production process of that garment being made and so they should not be able to continue to argue that the workers who make their clothes do not work for them.”
Bangladesh: Media reports that due to the ban on public transport during lockdown, many garment workers are having to walk long distances to reach their factories, as the affordable housing they are living in is further away from the factory. Some workers are reported to have had their wages deducted for being one or two minutes late to the factory.
Media reports that according to a new study, garment workers are still in a vulnerable position as they can hardly follow health protocols to protect themselves from COVID-19, as they live in congested spaces where ensuring social distancing is difficult.
Media reports that labour rights groups have urged the government to bring garment workers under the vaccination programme on a priority basis, as they continue to work amid the surge of COVID-19 infection and death. Labour leaders health and safety guidelines were not implemented in many factories and many workers were walking a long way to join work due to lack of transport. Demands included 70% of of monthly wages of workers as risk allowance and Tk 200 as transport allowance for each worker in case of failure of factories in providing transport during the lockdown, suppliers to not terminate any workers during the pandemic, transport facilities with proper health and safety, and field hospitals
The labour rights group said that export earnings increased by 15% in last fiscal year but factory owners were not willing to invest in the safety of workers amid the pandemic.
Media reports that the management of garments maker Kwun Tong Apparels is trying to sell off the unit inside Adamjee Export Processing Zone, which suppliers Lidl, Tu Clothing, Amazon and George At Asda, due to suspended production, cancelled orders, and deferred payments from brands during the pandemic.
They said that the company faced big discounts and order cancellations from brands and retailers, with one US-based retailer cancelling orders worth $20 million and another, who had to be provided a discount of $25 million.
"The buyers have demanded long deferments in making payments that no one can survive as the banks will not spare the loan repayment. Nobody can survive as the retailers do not pay and the profit margin is so low."
Cambodia: Media reports that the government will launch the second phase of cash assistance for those who have been seriously affected by the COVID-19 lockdown period on July 13. Lockdown affected factory workers will receive 160,000 Riel ($40) each as a one-off subsidy.
Media reports that Svay Rieng Provincial Administration announced the identities of 60 new Covid-19 cases, 41 of whom are garment factory workers.
Indonesia: Media reports that Karawang Regent Cellica Nurrachadiana was irritated by a textile factory in Karawang Regency after discovering it had failed to report dozens of its employees who had been exposed to COVID-19. She was also upset that the factory did not form a task force to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Media reports that hundreds of workers from CV Garuda Solo Perkasa or GSP demanded severance after the textile company was confirmed closed.
Myanmar: Media reports that while the military has steered clear of a country-wide lockdown, it has imposed stay-at-home orders at townships in several states in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 which could put more factories at the risk of closure and likely form new clusters of COVID-19 cases.
In the factories, there are no masks they are very crowded and there is no social distancing.
South Africa: IndustriALL reports that industrial primary health care clinics in the garment sector, run by the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) and some employers, are now certified by the department of health to carry out vaccinations. The clinics, which have the capacity to vaccinate at least 6,000 workers per week, will be linked to the national vaccination roll-out programme.
Thailand: Media reports that three more garment factories have been shut down as COVID-19 infections continue to rise, with more than 1,500 cases confirmed in one week in Tak province. Two of the factories are owned by Top Form (a Hong Kong-based OEM of bras), in which a union official said about 100 cases have been discovered. Currently, access to eight garment factories and at least five dormitories, mostly occupied by Burmese workers, is restricted in Mae Sot Township.
Turkey: Media reports that Farmers Shoe factory workers, members of the Leather Weaving and Textile Workers' Union (DERİTEKS), made a press statement in front of the factory against unpaid leave, pressure and threats. Reading the statement, DERİTEKS Organizing Secretary stated that dozens of workers who were supposed to be back at work were put on unpaid leave as the laws were restored during the pandemic period at the Farmers Shoe factory. He said the factory management unilaterally imposed unpaid leave on workers for different periods from 4 days to 1 month without their approval. He said that although the unpaid leave arrangement ended on July 1, bosses wanted to continue arbitrary practice, and urged farmers' shoe management to respect workers' right to union and to end arbitrary unpaid leave.
Vietnam: Media reports that while factories are receiving abundant orders from brands, they are suffering from labour shortages, as many workers have had to isolate. According to reports, Hoang Thi Loan Textile and Garment have 1/3 of their workers currenting working, Minh Anh Kim Lien Garment (Target supplier) lacks 500 employees, and Prex Vinh (Kido Vinh)'s capacity is still less than 90%.
Many workers have had to isolate, causing production line disruptions, due to blockades in some localities and strict control of transport vehicles.
Further reports on the labour shortage highlight that the Bac Giang Garment Corporation (LGG) in northern Vietnam is experiencing a major labour shortage with only 10% of its employees working, as most workers are isolating, with the province being the second largest COVID-19 hotspot in the country. As a result the company is struggling to fulfil orders.
Footwear and bag producer Pousung Vietnam has had nearly 3,000 employees, or 12% of their total workforce, isolate.
Vietnam: Media reports that nearly 7,000 workers employed at 46 factories will now be able to stay at their factory for at least two weeks to avoid disruptions to production in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. Workers who agree to stay will receive 1-2 million VND per person. As of last night, Binh Duong, which has 29 industrial parks and 12 industrial clusters , recorded 918 infections, more than half of which were workers.
Media reports that authorities have lifted the blockade put in place following a positive COVID-19 case at Asia Garment.
Bangladesh: Media reports that garment manufacturers have called upon the government to step in and address the scarcity of containers which has, along with congestion at transhipment ports, has resulted in significant delays in shipments to buyers.
Media reports that thousands of garment workers in Narayanganj and Gazipur blocked three major highways for hours demanding the payment of outstanding salaries and allowances.
Thousands of workers of Opex and Sinha Group (supplies Levis) blocked the Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Sylhet, while, workers of Style Craft Ltd blocked the Dhaka-Gazipur Highway for two hours.
Opex and Sinha Group workers said that they did not receive their salaries for the last three to four months and the authorities concerned have shut down factories without any prior notice. They did not receive their Eid bonus during Eid-ul-Fitr either. Meanwhile, Style Craft Ltd (supplies River Island, New Look, Next, H&M, and Debenhams) employees claimed that they are owed wages for three months of last year and overtime allowances from over the past three years.
According to further reports, one worker from Style Craft’s garment factory said factory management had promised to pay the wages several times, but had later reneged on their commitment .Staff demanded their pay on Thursday morning but factory management deferred again, promising to pay by July 15, which led to unrest among staff, and around 600-700 employees protesting. According to management they were not able to give backpay by July 7 due to the pandemic.
Canada: Media reports that Canadian apparel imports remained stagnant with just 3.30% monthly growth in May this year compared to April However, year-on-year, its shipment value increased by 110%. Though all major apparel manufacturing countries increased their shipments to Canada year-on-year, many of them declined on a monthly basis. Excluding China, Pakistan and Italy, all other countries in the top 10 declined in their apparel exports to Canada compared to April.
Cambodia: Media reports that 92 garment workers from Meng Ieng factory (Target supplier) tested positive for COVID-19.
Media reports that Svay Rieng Provincial Administration announced the launching of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign for workers. Further reports highlight that the provincial administration announced it will start with people and garment workers who volunteer for a vaccination.
India: Media reports that among low-income families in industrial areas, predominantly informal sector workers, the economic shock of the second wave has been lower compared to the first wave, however its psychological toll has been higher than at the onset of the pandemic. The adverse effect on emotional well-being has not only persisted and remained high over the past year but appears to be worsening.
Media reports that three guest workers tested positive for COVID-19 immediately after their arrival to Tirupur. Guest workers from West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and other states had started to return after the lockdown was lifted and garment units resumed full operations. As guest workers stay in small congested rooms, and work in small units with workers in close range to one another, the possibility of transmission is high.
Sri Lanka: Media reports that a COVID-19 patient suspected to have been infected with the Delta variant has been identified as a worker from an garment factory in Borella.
Thailand: Media reports that from October 2020 to June 2021, factory expansion projects decreased by 70.23% year-on-year, while the number of factory registrations went down by 6.33% year-on-year, due to the pandemic.
Media reports that the government is being urged by the Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC) to speed up the allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to the manufacturing sector to increase exports. The group repeated its call for the administration to expedite vaccine distribution to cover all groups, especially workers in the manufacturing sector, to stop the spread of infection across the supply chain, which has led to factories halting production and postponing the delivery of goods to destination countries.
Asia: Asia Floor Wage has published a new regional study on the extensive wage theft over 2000 garment workers across Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have faced due to the practices of apparel brands during the pandemic.
Further reports highlight that according to the report, garment workers in Pakistan faced some of the highest rate of wage theft in the Asian garment industry, due to the provincial COVID-19 lockdowns that coincided with the cancellation of orders by many global brands.
Although the intensity of the crisis was felt most in April and May 2020, women workers, who are mostly employed in casual jobs, continued to bear the brunt of it even in early 2021 as most factories did not rehire women workers laid off in 2020, the report observed.
Cambodia: Media reports that Cambodia’s total exports were valued at $5.982 billion in the first five months of 2021, increasing by 1.6% compared with the same period last year. However, the export of garments decreased during this period.
Media reports that from January to May, Cambodia exported $139 million worth of goods to South Korea, a decrease of 0.4% compared to last year. Cambodia’s primary exports to South Korea included garments and footwear,
Reports via Twitter state that over two days, 137 workers at Meang Eang garment factory in Phnom Penh have tested positive for COVID-19.
Honduras: Media reports that in August 2020, 430 garment workers at Delta Apparel’s Villanueva plant were dismissed during the pandemic. Many of them had work-related musculoskeletal conditions and some were pregnant.
In a response to the case via BHRRC, Delta Apparel claim that due to the extended lockdown, the company had to reduce its Delta Apparel Honduras facility by 420 people in order to sustain business and maintain employment for the remaining employees in Honduras, and production workforce in Central America and Mexico.
India: Media reports that garment workers from small and medium garment units are unable to get vaccinated, as they cannot afford private hospitals, and are not getting time off to go to government primary health centres. Some workers say their wages will be cut if they take a day off for the vaccination. In addition, workers who can’t afford smartphones are unable to sign up for the vaccine, with walk-in registrations giving priority to those above 45 and vulnerable groups.
Shazitam a garment worker who has been told to show up to work with a vaccination certificate by the end of the week said, “We are a small garment factory with 30-40 people, and our employers have not arranged for us to get vaccinated. So far only two workers have been able to get the vaccine, while the rest of us are still trying”.
Many workers are also being forced to work despite the side-effects of the vaccine.
Bangladesh: Media reports that the BGMEA has called for the allocation of COVID-19 vaccines on an urgent basis for domestic and migrant workers in the garment industry, and has given a list of 47 lakh workers in the garment factory, as well as 700 migrant workers.
Media reports that the garment industry in Bangladesh is suffering the most from the global container crisis, brought on my excess congestion in many Asian trans-shipment ports. According to the BGMEA, buyers are now likely to ask for discounts if they cannot get their products to stores on time, and manufacturers are already starting to receive pressure from foreign buyers.
Media reports that amid Bangladesh’s lockdown, millions are compelled to continue working long hours without any risk incentives, due to poverty.
Jesmine Begum, 17, who works in a factory in Dhaka and sends part of he income to her parents in rural villages said, “The coronavirus or lockdown is nothing important to me. My regular income is more important for my parents.”
Labour rights leader Mushrefa Mishu said workers should be paid extra as a risk incentive for their duty during the lockdown, and demanded that all factories close for one month with pay for workers. “All lives are equally important, and garment workers are nothing different. They should not be treated as an income tool.”
Morocco: Media reports that Morocco’s textile exports to Europe have risen by 23%r compared to last year. The sector showed resilience in the face of the pandemic, as manufacturers shifted production to meet domestic demand in terms of masks and protective gear and exported the surplus..
Sri Lanka: Media reports that amid the second wave in Sri Lanka, garment workers supplying major brands have been forced to continue working during lockdowns, despite inadequate testing, quarantine or care facilities, and a lack of vaccine prioritisation for garment workers, increasing their vulnerability to COVID-19. Workers also face increasingly draconian behaviour from management with workers forced to meet high targets to make up for the loss of workers due to social distancing, no matter how difficult it is. Workers also face rising authoritarianism, with the army-led COVID response.
One garment worker said, “When I called the owner of the boarding house to say I tested positive for coronavirus, he scolded me, saying that we bring filthy diseases.”
Thailand: Media reports that exports could grow 10% this year, suggested to be largely due to vaccinations for factory workers.
Turkey: Media reports that workers protested at the European T-shirt Factory Tekstil (former Adidas supplier), after collective bargaining agreement negotiations were blocked. The workers, who will be put on collective leave on July 12, want the agreement to be signed before the mass leave. DERİTEKS President Musa Servi said that as of the summer of 2020, there were problems at the factory, including delayed bonuses, which were then split into instalments. 60 workers were also dismissed, and when the dismissal ban in Turkey started, workers’ were put on short-term work allowance.
Media reports that Turkey's exports to EU countries January-June increased by 42% year-on-year. The country's overall exports were up 39.9% in the same period. The main sectors in exports to the EU during the first half of the year included apparel, at $5.65 billion.
USA: Media reports that according to a recent study from the University of California, San Francisco, 'Sewing Machine Operator' was one of the jobs with the greatest increased risk of death since the start of the pandemic.
Vietnam: Media reports that despite an abundance of orders from buyers, labour shortages are leading to a risk of production stagnation, as enterprises stand ‘idly by’. Manufacturers are now trying to find ways to complete orders on time, while at the same time ensuring the safety of their workers from COVID-19. Labour shortages have been brought on by workers who returned to their hometown after businesses laid off workers last year, and a large number of workers residing in blockades and quarantines.
Media reports that authorities blocked and isolated Asia Garment Co. Factory after a worker tested positive for COVID-19.
Bangladesh: Media reports that exports rebounded strongly with a 15.1% year-on-year rise in 2020-21 fiscal year, thanks to the revival of garment shipments. In June, the earnings from merchandise shipment grew by 31.77% year-on-year. Of the total earnings from the garment shipment, knitwear items grew by 21.94%.
Media reports that it is estimated that orders for the garment industry have risen by 20-25%, due to the situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh. At the Chittagong port last month, the number of containers full of exported goods increased by 13.75% compared to May, and is predicted to increase further this July. 90% of these exports were garments.
Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, managing director of Eastern Apparels Groups said they received more orders than their capacity, from brand orders as well as bulk orders, including orders form Walmart.
India: Media reports that merchandise exports in June increased by 47.34% compared to June 2020, and 29.7% compared to 2019. In addition, between April-June 2021, merchandise exports increased year-on-year by 85.36%, and 17.85 compared to 2019. However, compared to 2019, exports of readymade garments of all textiles witnessed a negative growth of 18.76% and that of leather and leather products also saw a negative growth of 21%.
Media reports that about half of the women garment workforce in Bengaluru are back to work with the easing of the lockdown norms.
Since the reopening, many medium and large garment units have been holding vaccination camps on their premises. In a special COVID-19 vaccination drive organised recently, many garment units were successful in getting 70-90% of their on-duty staff vaccinated.
Bangladesh: Media reports that at least 12 workers of the Donglian Fashion factory fell sick at their workplace due to unknown reason, and the factory was closed for the day. Workers claimed they had been suffering from physical problems for the last few days.
Media reports that Bangladesh's export is facing unprecedented delays because of the container crisis globally and squeezed capacity in vessels, as the inland container depots (ICDs) fail to send goods to the port due to the acute shortage of containers and delay in getting space in vessels.
Anjan Shekhar Das, managing director of RSB Industrial Ltd, an activewear exporting firm in Chattogram Export Processing Zone, said five trucks full of goods had been waiting in front of two inland container depots ICDs for the last three days. He expressed his concern about whether he would be able to deliver his cargoes to the buyer in Europe.
USA: Media reports that apparel imports to the United states in January-May 2021, increased by 22.19% year-on-year.
- Bangladesh’s apparel export to the United States in January-May of 2021 grew by 15.38%, rebounding in the last two months as the US shifted some orders from China at the same time production was interrupted in India due to a high rate of COVID-19 infection.
- China's apparel export to the United States in January-May 2021 grew by 26.17%
- Vietnam’s apparel export to the United States in January-May 2021 grew by 19.48%.
- Cambodia's apparel export to the United States in January-May 2021 grew by 15.35%
- India's apparel export to the United States in January-May 2021grew by 21.95%.
Sri Lanka: Media reports that 30% of Sri Lanka's total apparel workforce has received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF). The association is aiming for 50% of the workforce to receive its first jab within the next two weeks, 80% by August, and the entire workforce by the end of 2021.
Bangladesh: Media reports that in a virtual discussion organised by the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), BGMEA President Faruque Hassan told the Western buyers that reduced prices for apparel exports do not align with the measures they have taken to make the country’s apparel sector sustainable.
Media reports that due to the military occupation in Myanmar and the second wave in India, export orders are now shifting to Bangladesh. Managing Director of MB Knit Fashion Ltd and Vice-President of BGMEA said he had declined many orders due to the price brands are offering, and that if he had taken them, he would have received 50% more orders than he currently has.
Global: In a new research report, Clean Clothes Campaign finds that H&M, Nike and Primark have driven factory workers in their supply chains in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia into desperation during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a devastating impact on the wages, working conditions, and labour rights of garment workers.
Almost 70% of workers in all brands' supply chains endured periods in which they were not paid their normal, pre-pandemic wages. All of these workers were surviving on poverty wages before the pandemic, and now it has become even harder for them to make ends meet.
A worker producing for Nike in Indonesia said, “COVID-19 makes our work more dangerous because we don’t have regular testing and social distancing at all...I’m afraid to get infected, but I have no choice” .
Bangladesh: Media reports that garment workers said they faced police harassment while on their way to work during the transport crisis.
Nizam Uddin a sewing operator, said around 90 workers made their way to work, but the police stopped their rented car and did not allow them to go forward. The workers then had to walk to work. Uddin said his factory did not arrange transportation for the workers, however the police assured them that they will allow cars in the next few days.
Rupali Aktar, another worker at Jamgora area, said she waited nearly one hour but did not get access to any vehicle.
According to the BGMEA, workers will not lose their jobs if they cannot come to their workplaces due to a lack of public transport during the lockdown.
Media reports on the lack of transport for garment workers during the lockdown with a photo story showing workers in Mirpur walking to work.
Some of the garment workers there said there were no hygiene regulations followed in the factories, rather, there were more people working together than before. Workers were not allowed to take their mobile phones with them, so pictures are not taken of the factory.
Another worker said COVID-19 had increased their working hours, resulting in them leaving at 10:30pm instead of 8pm. They said, “...aren't we garment workers human beings?...If we were considered human beings, we would also be at home today.”
Media reports that 138 unemployed workers staged a protest in front of the Southern Design Limited factory. They said that last Eid, the factory authorities gave them leave with their May salary arrears, then the workers were illegally laid off. The factory owners and BGMEA met with workers and said wages would be paid by June 30, but the owners told workers that the money could not be withdrawn due to banking issues, and it would be paid on Monday.
Cambodia: Media reports that Cambodian imports from China dropped last year nearly 7%, as lockdowns forced the closure of the Kingdom’s garment factories.
India: Media reports that India's factory activity contracted for the first time in almost a year in June as restrictions to contain the second wave of COVID-19 led to declines in demand and output that resulted in firms cutting more jobs.
Media reports that hosiery and knitwear manufacturers around the country are still struggling to revive after the lockdown in the past three months.
According to a manufacturer, "the major manufacturing hubs in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are unable to get back to 100% production as there are still restrictions on local travel for workers to return. This has caused a demand supply gap currently."
Raja Shanmugam, the President of the Tiruppur Exporters Association of Tamil Nadu says India has been put on the back foot in comparison to competitor markets for major global brands like Tommy Hilfiger, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Ralph Lauren etc., who source mainly from Tiruppur. "...Indian companies missed providing samples for two seasons to global players in the past two months, so the buyers sourced products from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia. We have lost out on orders for two upcoming seasons."
Media reports that Karnataka's garment industry, currently functioning at 30% capacity, has asked the State government for permission to function at full capacity. According to the Karnataka Employers’ Association, garment units have received good national and international orders with strict deadlines, and could face penalties if they are not adhered to. The association noted in a letter that due to the severe restrictions in Karnataka, customers were looking at states such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala where such restrictions were not enforced on the garment industry. It also pointed out that foreign buyers may divert their orders to countries like Bangladesh for uninterrupted supply.
Indonesia: Media reports that the Pt Bangun Maju Lestari textile factory in Jaten was temporarily closed after 150 workers tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in 1,400 workers being sent home. It was found that health protocols were not completely practiced in the factory, with no handwashing and only three temperature checks.
Jordan: Media reports that two garment factories have been closed due to garment workers testing positive for COVID-19.
Turkey: Media reports that 50 unionised garment workers at a textile factory in the İnegöl Organized Industrial Zone have been dismissed after their short-time working allowance expired. The workers believe the company has used the expiration of the short-term allowance as a means to terminate union members. TEKSİF Union İnegöl Branch President Selçuk Bozkaya said the union had negotiated a collective agreement but the company had not respected it.
Media reports that Turkish exports reached $19.8 billion in June, up 47% from the same month last year. In the first six months of this year, Turkey's exports increased by 40% year-on-year.
USA: Media reports that last year, at three Los Angeles Apparel’s headquarters in South Central LA where workers were making masks and hospital gowns, more than 375 workers tested positive for COVID-19, and 6 died. Workers say they not only contracted COVID-19, but also lost their incomes. The company also flouted public health regulations, and were forced to close the factory for three week, and were fined $102,000.
According to Garment Worker Center, after they met with the company’s management to advocate for cutting high quotas, improving social distancing, and notifying workers who came in contact with COVID-positive co-workers, the company denied responsibility.
One worker said, “...I spoke up and said that it wasn’t okay how they threaten workers. [My manager] said, “I’m the manager here, and I can do whatever I want. Go ahead and complain to whomever you want, no one is going to listen to you.” She fired me just like that.”
Asia: Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) has published the second volume of its report, 'Crying out for Justice: Wage theft against migrant workers during COVID-19'. The report analyses reported cases of wage theft documented in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Philippines, Bahrain, Qatar, China and Oman. Out of the 1,113 analysed cases, 753 cases of wage theft were experienced by documented workers and 359 cases by undocumented workers.
Bangladesh: Media reports that thousands of garment workers are suffering from the absence of public transport and higher travel expenses as a result.
Most factory owners did not arrange transport facilities for the workers although they were supposed to, although transport support was available for officers and management staff. Hundreds of garment workers waited for hours to find a vehicle.
"It is a hilarious decision to stop public transport while keeping factories open. The workers are suffering. Either factories should be closed, or the public transport should be open," said Amena Khatun, a garment factory worker.
Mohammad Arifuzzaman, a worker of Youth Jeans Ltd, said he had been going to the factory by rickshaws for the last two days. It cost him Tk 400-500 a day. "Our salary is low. It is not possible to go to the factory by rickshaws every day."
Finding no vehicles, angry workers blocked roads for an hour, demanding the resumption of the public transport service. According to some workers, health directives and related protocols were not being maintained inside the factories.
Another article reports Mirupur, garment workers were seen rushing to work on foot, leaving home as early as 6:30am.
Jubair Hossain, a garment worker who lives in Mirpur, said that he used to pay Tk10 to reach his workplace every day but paid Tk50 rickshaw fare on Thursday.
“We RMG workers are at the lowest level in Bangladesh. We are the most deprived. There is no safety for us,” he added.
Further reports highlight that factory authorities say there is no need to provide transport as most workers live near the factories and travel by foot. Hosne Ara, a garment worker said "I usually take the bus to and from the factory. But no vehicles are running today, so I was forced to walk.”
Cambodia: Media reports that the Kampong Cham provincial governor yesterday has led 760 doctors to vaccinate garment factory workers in four districts.
Svay Rieng province yesterday started to vaccinate people and garment factory workers in Bavet city, Kampong Ror and Romduol districts with around 20,000 doses of vaccines.
Media reports that Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that to detect COVID-19 cases quickly, companies and private enterprises should test their employees by themselves if they are infected with the virus. He added that factory management should buy rapid test kits and test their workers if they are infected with the virus to reduce the government’s expenses.
India: Media reports that migrant workers in garment units have trouble accessing free COVID-19 vaccines, and have said they are charged Rs 500 by garment units to receive vaccination through private hospital programmes.
"I am working in a garment unit in Mangalam Road for several years...The management decided to offer vaccination for all the workers in the unit to run the facility... As the management is receiving the vaccines from a private hospital for Rs 1000 per dose, they have demanded Rs 500 per worker and said that it will be deducted from the upcoming salary. It is a lot of money and it is also a workers’ one day salary.”
Sri Lanka: Media reports that at a discussion on the issues faced by Sri apparel factories and retailers, the Prime Minister called on all businesses to protect their employees and face the challenges they have to face during the epidemic instead of removing them from the workforce. The delegation requested the Prime Minister provide emergency relief to maintain business and trade during this difficult period. Representatives of these unions also said it had become difficult to keep employees while maintaining business and that there was no other option except laying them off.
Thailand: Media reports that over 600 Myanmar migrant workers were infected with COVID-19 in Mae Sot in Thailand’s Tak Province in June. COVID-19 tests were carried out after a female migrant worker from a garment factory in a village where some 3,000 Myanmar migrant workers are employed caught the virus. Six hundred and forty more workers tested positive. Thai authorities have imposed a lockdown on the whole village along with the two garment factories where the Myanmar migrant workers are working.
Vietnam: Media reports that many garment and textile producers have received more orders in the first half of this year, but a labour shortage has prompted calls for prioritised vaccination of workers.
Nguyen Xuan Duong, chairman of the Hung Yen Garment Company (Hugaco), said if the ongoing fourth wave of COVID-19 is not controlled, garment and textile enterprises would be in trouble because stopping production even for two weeks would sweep away more than 10% of their revenues. "We have continuously received orders from customers in the U.S. and the European Union...But if enterprises fail to fulfil the contracts in terms of goods delivery, they will be fined," Duong said, adding that buyers can even refuse to receive goods delivered late. Since production is slow, garment firms may have to transport products by air, instead of by sea, to meet delivery deadlines, he also said.
Global: Media reports that Better Work's has published annual reports for seven established country programmes in Cambodia Vietnam, Nicaragua, Jordan, Ethiopia, Haiti and Indonesia, which detail how Better Work teamed up with partner factories in these regions to mitigate the damage to workers and their livelihoods following the pandemic.
For example in Haiti, Better Work Haiti collaborated with the WHO to train medical personnel working in the sector.
Bangladesh: Media reports that economists and businesses have said that the government's budget has not proposed any direct support to revive the cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs sector), where milions of workers lost jobs. Faruque Hassan, the president of the BGMEA, demanded a special low-cost fund of Tk 1,0000 crore for the CMSMEs in the apparel sector. He says that a portion of this can be used to reopen closed factories and another portion to pay back the loans of owners of factories that had to close, who are unwilling to run their units anymore.
Cambodia: Media reports that Kampong Cham provincial administration has reported 48 new COVID-19 cases, mostly garment workers, in four districts.
Sri Lanka: Media reports that Chamila Thushari of Dabindu Group has said that the health sector must pay attention to the neglect of FTZ workers infected with COVID-19, as companies continue work as usual amid the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the FTZs across the country.
She points out that workers who have COVID-19 are quarantining in hostels with other workers, where facilities are shared. PCR tests are also being avoided and a limited number of workers have been vaccinated.
Media reports that Sri Lanka's earnings from textiles and garments exports increased by 6.3% year-on-year to $1.333 billion during the first three months of 2021. Exports of textiles increased 20.7% to $78.4 million, while garment exports were up 4.7% to $1.219 billion.
India: Media reports that 36 women textile workers from Jharkhand who were stranded in Tamil Nadu due to the COVID-19 lockdown in the southern state will return to their home district of Dumka.
Media reports that with the second wave of the pandemic impacting the recovery of India's garment Industry, the sector is expected to grow at 15-20% this financial year, almost half the 28-33% expected earlier.
Domestic demand, which accounts for almost three quarters of overall demand has been severely affected by the lockdowns.
Vietnam: Media reports that enterprises in the textile and garment sector are calling for workers to be prioritised for vaccines, since workers in industrial zones face great risk. Le Tien Truong, chairman of the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex), said delayed deliveries could result in contract cancellations and penalties running into billions of dollars, and so textile and garment workers should be prioritised for vaccination, especially in pandemic-hit areas.
Information and campaigns
General info on COVID-19 in the garment industry
PayUp campaign page -> coming
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'.
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"
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"
BHRRC report "Wage theft and pandemic profits"
IHRB and Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh studies at UC Berkeley report "The Weakest Link in the Supply Chain - How the Pandemic is Affecting Bangladesh’s Garment Workers"
Basic health information
Hesperian Health Guides' COVID-19 Fact Sheet
Covid blog archive:
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