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As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, the actions taken by fashion brands to protect their profits have had profound impacts on garment workers. Brands are using their disproportionate power over factory suppliers to cancel agreed orders, pay suppliers substantially less than agreed, or to grossly extend payment terms.

These decisions have a devastating impact on the 40 – 60 million garment workers in global fashion supply chains. Millions of workers have lost their jobs, have had months of unpaid wages, or have been forced to work for a fraction of their usual wage – an amount that has never been enough to cover a basic standard of living in the first place.

Labour rights advocates are appealing to buyers to pay for orders and support workers with wages and benefits they are owed. While many brands have acted responsibly and committed to paying for orders in full, the details of these commitments have been held in private and are still changing. We are tracking commitments made by 35 global fashion brands, the emerging demands from the labour movement, and recommendations on how to build back better.

By The Numbers

To date civil society has focused on whether brands have paid for orders placed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, details of these payments have not been made public, which hinders the ability to hold companies to account. To encourage a move towards greater transparency, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre conducted a survey of 35 fashion brands and retailers, asking for disclosure of payment terms and commitments made to suppliers. Our findings on the brand's actions are encapsulated through this tracker.

US$16bn

Orders Unpaid

Worldwide by retailers

1 million

Workers Fired or Furloughed

In Bangladesh

US$5.8bn

Unpaid Wages

For garment workers worldwide

57%

Wage Reduction

For garment workers in India

Further Reading

The effect of COVID-19

COVID-19 has been referenced in news articles and reports in the following countries.

Impacts of COVID-19 on the garment sector

Information and labour and human rights trends for major apparel exporting countries in Asia as a result of the pandemic

Resources from the Labour Movement

COVID-19 Coverage by Clean Clothes Campaign

Clean Clothes Campaign provides live coverage of news relating to how COVID-19 affects garment workers in supply chains.

Which Brands are Acting Responsibly toward Suppliers and Workers?

Workers Rights Consortium is carrying out an ongoing assessment of whether brands are honouring their commitments to act responsibly in direct dealings with suppliers.

How Much in Wages are Garment Workers Owed?

Clean Clothes Campaign estimates the total nonpayment of wages to garment workers in during the months of March, April and May resulting from order cancellations by apparel brands, unpaid leave, and state-sanctioned wage cuts during the COVID-19 crisis.

International campaigns and demands

Campaigns and demands from civil society organisations and trade unions to protect garment workers’ rights during COVID-19 and beyond.

Build Back Better

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and magnified the structural inequalities that face garment workers in global apparel supply chains. Trade unions, Civil Society Organisations and rights advocates are not calling for business as usual to resume, but instead for a new social contract to emerge with shared prosperity and a more equal distribution of wealth in supply chains at its core.

Business and human rights in a just recovery

Access to COVID-19 bailouts must be conditional on strong labour rights provisions & responsible business conduct. Part of Recovering Rights series by the Center for Economic and Social Rights.

Joint Letter: Recommendations for protecting workers in response to COVID-19

More than 40 CSOs present steps the International Finance Corporation (IFC)'s clients should take to align with IFC Performance Standards and international labor and human rights standards.

Human rights due diligence in times of (economic) crises

This ECCHR policy paper explores how textile companies and retailers should have been practising proper human rights due diligence in the years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, and how companies should act now to protect workers.