COVID-19 | Defending Workers’ Rights and Livelihoods in the Time of the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the immense and historical structural inequalities of the global garment and footwear industry. Millions of garment workers around the world have faced widespread loss of jobs and income, forcing many deeper into poverty and hunger.
Brands and retailers responded to the crisis by refusing to pay their bills for clothing orders and using the decreased demand for clothing to extract even lower prices from suppliers. A year into the crisis, many brands’ profits have returned to previous levels, with some registering record level earnings, while workers in their supply chains struggle to survive.
MSN is working closely with labour and women’s rights organizations and trade unions in Central America, Mexico and Asia, and with allies at the international level, to ensure that workers' health, incomes and rights are protected throughout the duration of this crisis and beyond.
As part of the Clean Clothes Campaign global network, we have been calling on governments, international financial institutions, brands, and other stakeholders to take a series of actions to mitigate the immediate and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers in global supply chains, and to ensure that workers have access to a living wage and a more resilient social safety net, moving forward.
In March 2020, the #PayYourWorkers #RespectLabourRights campaign was launched, which is endorsed by more than 200 unions and civil society groups from over 40 countries, including national garment worker unions like the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers’ Federation, UNI Global Union, and international organizations and networks such as MSN, Oxfam and the Clean Clothes Campaign.
The campaign is demanding that brands make enforceable commitments to ensure workers who make their products receive their full wages throughout the pandemic, legal severance pay when factories close and respect for their basic labour rights. The coalition launched a website (payyourworkers.org) and a petition, urging major brands and retailers to live up to their responsibilities to the workers who make their products.
Information on how COVID-19 is impacting workers in the industry
- Pay Your Workers campaign site - available in 7 languages.
- Covid-19 Tracker: Which Brands Are Acting Responsibly toward Suppliers and Workers? (as of April 2021)
Country-specific information and actions
- Pay Your Workers Victories
- Thai garment workers win historic severance settlement financed by Victoria’s Secret
- Cambodia: Tell NIKE to #PayYourWorkers from the Ramatex factory
- India: Reversing Wage Theft: $28.6 Million in Back Pay for Karnataka Garment Workers
- India: Garment workers in Karnataka, India owed millions in unpaid wages
- Sri Lanka: Union-employer agreement in Sri Lanka addresses key worker rights issues
- El Salvador: Industrias Florenzi workers win US$1 million in severance pay
- Cambodia: Fashion brands fail to address pandemic-era wage theft
- Bangladesh and Sri Lanka: Over 50 organizations call for safe workplaces in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka
Photo Credit: Solidarity Center/Molly McCoy