The challenge for workers

Covid-19 has made it clear that the challenges faced by workers in the global fashion industry are urgent and only getting worse. It has showed us just how vulnerable workers are, how unreliable manufacturers are, and how limited the care of many countries is for the safety of their citizens.

The issues of the global fashion industry are interwoven, meaning there are no quick fixes. We need more than just one company to change things – we need a whole world.

One of the biggest issues garment workers face is the total lack of a safety net. In New Zealand, we have legislation that sets out how employers have to treat employees and we have systems in place to uphold employee rights. Our country also has public healthcare and education systems. These basic necessities aren’t provided in most major garment manufacturing countries.

Most garment workers barely earn enough to survive from pay-check to pay-check, so savings have long been out of the question. Because of this, a shock like Covid-19 leaves workers without the ability to provide the basics for themselves and their families.

Industry response

We know that these challenges are extremely difficult for any fashion company to tackle by themselves, especially at a time where they are facing their own internal challenges. But we also know that companies have a duty of care to those in their supply chains.

It’s deeply important that companies do what they can to protect workers from the immediate impacts of Covid-19. We desperately need collaboration across companies and manufacturers, through to unions and governments, so that we can start to address together issues that no one company can tackle alone.

Collaboration – among companies, manufacturers, unions, governments and civil society through multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) – is essential in addressing big issues. One of the new global MSIs to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis is the International Labour Organisation’s Call to Action, which brings together all sorts of different people - worker and union bodies, fashion companies and employers, national governments, non-government organisations, and international financial institutions. It’s hugely encouraging to report that 27 of the companies covered by our research have signed on to the Call to Action.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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