Actions taken by fashion brands to protect their profits at the expense of worker rights have had profoundly negative impacts on vulnerable garment workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brands have used their disproportionate power over factory suppliers to cancel agreed orders, pay suppliers substantially reduced prices for orders, or to grossly extend payment terms.
These decisions have a devastating knock-on impact on the 60 million garment workers in 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.
Labour rights advocates are appealing to brands to contribute to wage funds to make up for the wages that have been lost, estimated as up to US$5.8 billion over just a three-month period from March – May. While many brands have acted responsibly and committed to paying for orders in full, our findings show that most major fashion brands have still not implemented new policies to ensure that sourcing teams are paying a fair price to suppliers in light of their new struggles during the pandemic. Yet, over half of factory suppliers have accepted orders for below the cost price under pressure from global brands.
We are tracking and publishing the commitments made by 51 global fashion brands, the ongoing 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, new trends of how garment workers are being impacted continue to emerge – from discriminatory dismissals to wage loss. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre conducted a survey of 50 fashion brands and retailers, 6 months after an original survey, asking for disclosure of payment terms and internal policy commitments in response to the pandemic . Our findings on the brand's actions are encapsulated through this online tracker.
Estimate for garment workers worldwide (from March - May)
Worldwide by retailers
Of orders below cost
Which suppliers have been forced to accept
Out of 50 companies
Have implemented a new policy not to ask factories for price reductions/discounts
Resources from the Labour Movement
International campaigns and demands
Campaigns and demands from civil society organisations and trade unions to protect garment workers’ rights during COVID-19 and beyond.
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 towards 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 non-payment 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.
Apparel Brands' Purchasing Practices during COVID-19
Report by Center for Global Workers' Rights and Worker Rights Consortium examines brands' purchasing practices as they place new orders with suppliers during the continued pandemic, based on supplier surveys.
Impacts on Garment Workers
Report by Asia Floor Wage Alliance mapped the initial impacts of the pandemic on garment workers in global supply chains, including concerns around wage payment, lack of social security and access to healthcare, and the exodus of migrant workers due to factory closures or lockdowns.
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.
Latest News on Supply Chain Workers during COVID-19
Visit our Big Issue area for the latest news on the impacts of COVID-19 on supply chain workers