The challenge for workers

A whole bunch of bad behaviour has been taking place in the garment industry during the pandemic. Unfortunately, it’s affecting the really vulnerable workers the most. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve seen so far: 

  • Masses of workers have been laid off no benefits or entitlements
  • Workers are not being paid or only being partially paid their wages
  • Workers who are members of unions are being targeted for layoffs.
  • Workers are being exposed to the virus in locations where public health and hospital infrastructure is poorly resourced
  • Workers are being forced to work overtime to make up for production that was missed due to lockdowns
  • Sick workers with no leave owing are effectively being forced to continue working to support their family

All of the above has impacted garment workers from all walks of life; however, certain groups are more vulnerable to their effects. Informal and temporary workers, migrant workers, and women are all more vulnerable to poor working conditions and poor treatment during the pandemic. These groups of workers make up a high portion of the overall workforce. Why? Suppliers are continuously pressured to have shorter production times and lower prices. This means they are prone to cutting wage and safety costs by employing workers with less ability to enforce their rights. As a result, the use of irregular employment such as subcontracting, homeworking, temporary contracts, and migrant work is very common in the garment industry.

The industry response

Our research in relation to Commitment Two looks at whether companies had undertaken specific supply chain risk assessments to identify the areas of greatest vulnerability across their supply chain during the pandemic and the measures they had established to mitigate the risks identified.

  • 55% of companies showed evidence of a Covid-specific risk assessment
  • Past behaviour is a great dictator of future behaviour – of well performing companies from our previous research 70% had done a risk assessment and of lower performing companies only 29% had done a risk assessment
  • 52% of companies demonstrated that they had implemented mitigation measures to support workers based off the risk assessment; 48% of companies provided no evidence
  • 40% of companies provided mitigation to particular vulnerable groups such a migrants or women

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1. Support workers wages by honouring supplier commitments

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Tuesday, 20 October 2020 — Alex Carter

 

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3. Listen to the voices and experience of workers

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Saturday, 17 October 2020 — Alex Carter

     

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4. Ensure workers’ rights and safety are respected

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