The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) said that factories were closing, or at risk of closure, in a range of countries including Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Albania, and Central American countries as a direct or ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The non-profit entity, which campaigns to improve workers’ rights and conditions, says the Covid-19 pandemic is having a particularly severe effect on garment workers in global supply chains.
“Due to their low wages and widespread repression of freedom of association rights, garment workers already live in precarious situations and the economic fallout of the pandemic is having far-reaching consequences,” said the CCC in a statement.”
“Brands must take responsibility for workers throughout their supply chains and ensure that the garment workers who have made their profits possible do not carry the industry’s financial burden during this pandemic.”
The CCC called on brands to stand by the workers who make their clothes and publicly commit to proper due diligence with regards to the Covid-19 crisis. Specifically, it urged brands to ensure that:
- Supplier factories close for the appropriate duration to protect workers and their communities, while maintaining contracts and full wages
- Workers who are sent home because of a lack of work are compensated at their full regular wage
- Workers who contract the virus, or suspect they have the virus, can take sick leave without negative repercussions and on full pay
- When factories reopen, deadlines for orders are reassessed to prevent workers from mandatory overtime to make up for delays
- Measures to fight the virus do not unduly restrict workers’ freedom of movement or their freedom to organise
“As brands continue to reduce orders due to declining consumer demand and mandatory closure of shops, more factories will be forced to close. The spread of the virus and the necessary precautionary measures recommended by governments are bringing further closures,” the statement added.
Tola Moeun, executive director of the Centre for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights, added: “Apparel brands have been profiting from the labour of Cambodian workers. These brands now need to step up in this time of crisis, and ensure protection for workers’ lives and livelihoods.
“Workers should be allowed to stay at home until the situation is manageable – and the brands need to ensure they are paid their full regular wage, attendance bonus, and room/transport allowance during this period.”
Garment workers live hand to mouth. If workers lose their jobs, they will lose their monthly wages that put food on the table for them and their families.
“If workers are laid off, brands should ensure immediate payments to factories so that workers receive their full legally-owed severance.”
The Cambodian government has announced a host of measures to alleviate the plight of garment workers whose wages have been affected because of production suspensions, in turn brought about by lack of raw materials.
A plan for garment workers whose factories closed to receive 60% of the minimum wage, with 40% being the responsibility of the factory owners and 20% provided by the government has been put into place since end February.