Buyers must take responsibility
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Bangladesh’s developmental success would not have been possible without the RMG sector, responsible now for clothing much of the developed world, with some of the largest fashion giants sourcing their products from the sector.
But the pandemic has revealed the one-sided nature of the relationship between these fashion behemoths and the thousands of garments factories, as one by one, the buyers began to cancel their orders, eventually totaling billions of dollars’ worth of cancelled orders.
Such a move was uncalled for and is detrimental to the trust that buyers and manufacturers had garnered over the years, as factories were left with crores’ worth of raw material based on the orders they had received.
But that’s just business, isn’t it?
In fact, it is not: Relying on these thousands of factories were millions of workers who, due to the cancellation, were laid off, finding themselves without an income in the middle of a lockdown, unable to make ends meet.
While not contractually obligated, buyers have a responsibility that supersedes any legal agreement that they might have with individual factories, whereby they can simply renege on millions of dollars’ worth of promised revenue with no accountability, especially when the lives of so many people are at stake.
And, to make matters worse, even though many developed nations have more or less reverted to almost full economic capacity, these multi-million- and billion-dollar enterprises have seen it fit to demand extortionate discounts, as high up as 90%, or have yet to pay despite products having shipped last year.
Buyers must take responsibility and carry through with the promises they have made to manufacturers, and not take advantage of the massive imbalance in power to extort money from those who are barely scraping by.