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17 Jun 2021

Jasmin Malik Chua, Sourcing Journal

Garment workers in supply chains of major global brands killed, injured and arrested while protesting against dangerous working conditions, wage theft and lay-offs

“Bangladesh Garment Worker Protests Kill 1, Injure 35”, 14 June 2021

Across the globe, garment workers who have lost jobs, missed out on wages or fear for their safety because of the Covid-19 pandemic have been taking to the streets to demand reparations, often with tragic results.

One worker was killed and 35 injured in Bangladesh on Sunday after hundreds of protestors demanding the payment of arrears clashed with industrial police on the Dhaka-Tangail Highway at Ashulia.

Protesting workers said Lenny Fashions’ management announced the closure of the factory without paying any of January’s dues.

… [T]he Garment Workers Trade Union Center said it “strongly protests the murder of this worker” and called on “all the workers of the country to build a movement against the killing [of] laborers one after another.”

Export data shows that Lenny Fashions supplied clothing to brands and retailers such as Ann Taylor, Gap, Talbots and Macy’s. Gap said it stopped working with the factory in 2018. The other companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Last Wednesday, Sri Lankan police arrested 10 people… following protests against the reopening of a garment factory amid another crushing wave of infection.

Despite mounting cases, President Gotabhaya Rajapakse has called for the continued operation of development plants and factories to prevent economic collapse…

Late last month, two people died and many others were injured after Lesotho security forces fired into a crowd of protesting garment workers in the capital of Maseru.

The Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), an affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union, is currently negotiating an end to the national strike, which began May 10, with the Ministry of Labor and Employment…

All of this comes as a recent International Labour Organization Call to Action update described bottlenecks that have prevented funds from European Union governments from reaching unemployed and destitute garment workers… Cambodia, the disbursement of funds is being “delayed” by the pandemic. Haiti, Myanmar and Pakistan have so far received nothing.

Brands and retailers typically point to their involvement in the Call to Action, meant to secure financing for the “income protection and business continuity” in the garment sectors of several countries, as their way of helping workers through the current health and economic crisis.

But labor advocates say this is mostly a fig leaf that masks efforts that are nebulous at best.