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Bangladesh: IHRB report analyses consequences of pandemic for garment workers, highlight impact of brands’ order cancellations and suspensions on workers’ livelihoods and job security

“The Weakest Link in the Global Supply Chain: how the pandemic is affecting Bangladesh’s garment workers”, 28 April 2021

… The report evaluates global retailers’ response to the pandemic and its effect on Bangladesh garment workers through in-depth interviews with major international brands, Bangladeshi suppliers, local labour leaders, and international civil society…

The report … is drawn from a timely study of global retailers’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on Bangladesh garment workers.

The report covers three main topics:

  1. The structure of the readymade garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh;
  2. Stakeholders’ responses to the pandemic and the subsequent impact on workers; and
  3. Expectations of the industry going forward and recommendations for international brands, suppliers, the government, and international community and consumers.

The country’s significant dependency on the RMG industry serves as a cautionary case study for how businesses impact the decision making of governments and the well-being of its citizens, and of their responsibility to respect human rights and to demonstrate that they do so through ongoing human rights due diligence processes.

The power dynamics between brands, suppliers, and workers strongly favour the brands over the suppliers, leaving suppliers with limited capacity to negotiate terms. Workers lack good systems for representation on issues of substance to them and are therefore largely at the mercy of the industry’s push to keep costs as low as possible to satisfy consumers demand for fast fashion.