• Wednesday, Oct 20, 2021
  • Last Update : 09:43 pm

Pandemic hazard for garment workers

  • Published at 09:21 pm October 26th, 2020
RMG factory
File Photo: A group of women working at a garment factory in Bangladesh Claudio Montesano Casillas

About 40% of workers furloughed or laid off by the Covid-19 crisis were not back at work by the third quarter and those who do return could lose hard-won labour rights

The pandemic risks triggering a race to the bottom that could push tens of millions of Asian garment workers into greater hazard on the factory floor, with women hardest hit, the International Labour Organization said on Wednesday.

About 40% of workers furloughed or laid off by the Covid-19 crisis were not back at work by the third quarter and those who do return could lose hard-won labour rights, the agency said.

“Workers are extremely vulnerable and factories are vulnerable to agree to conditions with brands that don’t allow them to ensure proper working conditions,” said Tara Rangarajan of the ILO’s Better Work programme.

 “It’s important ... that this doesn’t become a race to the bottom where those at the lowest end of power and privilege are the ones that suffer the greatest,” she said at the launch of an ILO report on the pandemic’s effect on garment workers.

Garment workers have been heavily hit by the pandemic, with shops closed and factories shuttered.

Fashion brands cancelled billions of dollars worth of orders from suppliers around the world, costing workers up to $5.8 billion in lost wages, according to advocacy group Clean Clothes Campaign.

In the Asia-Pacific - home to about 65 million garment workers - orders from big Western buyers fell by up to 70% over the first half of 2020, costing the average worker between two and four weeks’ salary, said the United Nations agency.

While the industry has stabilised in some centres, in Bangladesh, where at least 70,000 workers have been laid off, fears are growing that many will become destitute.

 “Given that the situation is worsening, I think we can all imagine what that would mean,” said Christian Viegelahn, a senior economist for the ILO in the Asia-Pacific.

The crisis has given rise to union busting in Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar and seen countries introduce harsh laws that activists fear could be used to restrict worker rights.

Women make up the majority of garment factory staff and have born the brunt of the crisis, Viegelahn said.

 “There is significant risk that we see existing inequalities between women and men exacerbated and some of the progress we have seen over recent years will be reversed.”

The researchers studied Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan and the Philippines, with uncertainty due to last for months - at least.

Mohammad Akash has reverted to transporting stones for about $2 a day since he was laid off from a Dhaka garment factory.

 “It pays half what I used to earn and its twice as painful,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The 33-year-old lost his job in March and said he is still waiting on severance pay and other benefits promised by the bosses he had served for eight years.

 “I haven’t been able to pay rent for my house in four months,” he said.

Facebook 72
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail