Live-Blog on Coronavirus Impact on Garment Workers
Updated: May 10
This blog is updated with recent news and breaking reports about the economic and social fallout of coronavirus and apparel industry disruptions on garment workers. Clean Clothes Campaign keeps a more thorough live-blog, which we highly recommend. Remake keeps a thorough list of updates about the PayUp campaign.
MAY 8, 2020
From Bangladesh to Cambodia, basic labor rights unravel for some as the industry grapples with the coronavirus fallout. Myan Mode, a garment factory on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, produces men’s jackets, women’s blazers and coats for Western fashion companies like Mango and Zara. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it has seen a decrease in orders from international retailers. Of the more than 500 workers it let go in late March, almost all of them are union members.
MAY 6, 2020
Coronavirus could be the final nail in the coffin of the unsustainable fast fashion industry. But with some retailers failing to share the economic pain with suppliers, its demise could be fatal for millions of workers.
MAY 4, 2020 Coronavirus: Is Bangladesh putting its economy before people? [Al Jazeera]
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bangladesh have passed 10,000, with many dying from the disease. Yet, the machines at Bangladesh's garment factories have started to turn again. Business leaders have welcomed the decision, but labour rights activists want greater protection for employees who now face working together at close quarters during a time of unprecedented risk to their health.
MAY 1, 2020
While the richest in countries across the globe have access to healthcare and cash to get by, most of humanity faces the COVID-19 crisis with neither. Pre-COVID-19, one in two people struggled daily to survive, and Oxfam’s recent research shows that the economic fallout from the pandemic could push half a billion more people into poverty – setting the fight against poverty back by up to 30 years in some parts of the world. Not only will this make it more difficult to rebuild post-virus, it will also greatly reduce poorer countries’ ability to respond to climate change.
For years, apparel brands have promised to police their supply chains to root out unsafe conditions and worker abuse. But new research from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found a variety of problems in their efforts. For example, much of the information given to the auditors who inspect factories was inaccurate, particularly in China and India. More than half of the 31,652 factory audits conducted in those two countries over a seven-year period were based on falsified or unreliable information. The share of inaccurate audits was lower in the other 11 countries in the study, but still the average unreliability of all 40,458 audits examined was about 45%.
A sustainability report released Thursday from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Boston Consulting Group reaffirms the deepening bifurcation in industrywide sustainability progress.
The SAC is a group of more than 250 members including brands such as H&M, C&A and Patagonia, among others, with combined member annual revenue exceeding $500 billion. Its data has informed reports such as the recurring Pulse of the Fashion Industry. According to the International Monetary Fund, 2020 is likely to be the worst year for the global economy since the Great Depression, expected to wipe out more than 30 percent of the fashion industry’s business, and with that sustainability goals will crumble.
APRIL 29, 2020
Nearly half the world's workers are at immediate risk of losing their jobs, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Wednesday. Some 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy - almost half of the global labour force, and those at the most vulnerable end of the employment ladder - are in danger of losing their livelihoods, said the ILO, the oldest agency of the United Nations, in its latest report.
APRIL 28, 2020 Lack of workplace safety could trigger second wave of coronavirus, ILO warns [NY Times]
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has warned that without adequate safeguards for returning workers there could be a second wave of the virus. As the pressure mounts on countries to ease their lockdown restrictions the ILO has urged governments to take action to prevent and control COVID-19 in the workplace, with active involvement and dialogue with employers’ and workers’ organizations.
APRIL 27, 2020
Factory owner Mostafiz Uddin writes for The Daily Star: "My point is, after all of this is done, after business has returned to normal—a new normal, one might guess—Bangladesh's RMG sector needs to seriously consider the issue of contracts and purchasing practices generally. We simply cannot go on like this. What is the point of our industry having so many millions of dollars' worth of purchase orders with brands if, when push comes to shove, these contracts, these purchase orders, count for absolutely nothing? They are not worth the paper they are written on."
APRIL 27, 2020
UK civil society groups publish joint vision for garment and apparel sector A coalition of campaigners for fair trade, human and workers’ rights, environmental protection and transparency recently urged the European Commission, European Parliament members ,European Union (EU) member states and other stakeholders to back a strategy to initiate a global redesign of the textile industry’s broken business model for the post-coronavirus world.
APRIL 23, 2020
Organisations, like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Fair Wear, and ZDHC, have cropped up to help fashion brands navigate sustainability efforts. But their efficacy isn’t always clear.
APRIL 22, 2020
A group of employers' organizations, unions and major brands in the garment industry are working with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to support manufacturers affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the ILO said on Wednesday. Brands and retailers who have signed up to the call to action include Adidas, C&A, H&M, Inditex, M&S, Primark, Under Armour and PVH, the ILO said. [Editors' note: At writing, several brands, including C&A, Under Armour, and Primark have not paid in full for cancelled orders, undermining the ILO pact].
APRIL 3, 2020
The Arcadia retail group (Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Topman) at the heart of billionaire Sir Philip Green’s fortune has accepted U.K. “government support” to pay its entire shop staff during the coronavirus pandemic.