Garment workers are owed billions of dollars in unpaid wages

Darcey Sergison writes about the shockingly high numbers of workers who have gone unpaid around the world. 

Since the start of COVID-19 putting many jobs at risk, many garment workers have gone unpaid during the past months of lockdown. Clean Clothes Campaign has launched a report into why this has occurred.

The focus of this report is the non-payment of wages to garment works from March to May. It has been estimated that across South and South-East Asia, garment workers have received 38% less than their regular income. Meanwhile, in regions of India, this number has surpassed 50%. 

Khalid Mahmood, of Labour Education Foundation in Pakistan, says: “Many workers in the garment and textile industry have not been paid or have been underpaid because of order cancellations and Covid-19 lockdowns”. This has caused many families to struggle to pay for their children’s attendance at school or pay for basic amenities and medical care. 

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Even with this report focusing on only seven countries in South and South-East Asia, it is suggested that this pattern is likely repeated elsewhere. David Hachfield, Public Eye/Clean Clothes Campaign Switzerland, says: “We have no reason to believe the situation is significantly better in low-wage production hotspots that we did not research. Even though our estimates stay on the conservative side, they are quite shocking. We deduce in Indonesia, and Bangladesh workers were collectively withheld respectively over 400 million and 500 million USD in owed wages over three months.”

Clean Clothes Campaign has appealed to retailers and brands to ensure workers are given their full wages in accordance with local and international labour laws. Brands must make this commitment and fast to ensure the garment workers are treated fairly and equally in the supply chain. 

Christie Miedema, Clean Clothes Campaign International Office, says: “We [ask] brands individually to make a public commitment to avoid a situation in which everyone in a supply chain has responsibility, but in practice nobody assumes responsibility.”

Since the launch of this campaign in June, the Clean Clothes Campaign has reached out to dozens of brands. Beginning these tough conversations is crucial to responsibility being upheld to ensure that the garment workers worldwide receive their entitlement to their full wages. 

With campaigns such as Clean Clothes Campaigns and increasing awareness for worker’s rights, many hope that this will bring significant change to supply chain responsibility. Instagram has been a critical platform for these campaigns. In the future garment workers should never have to go unpaid again and justice for their work will be given. 

Feature image via MindfulMending on Instagram

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