Fashion brands and worker exploitation

In April this year, 1020 staff at Hulu Garment in Cambodia were being told that because of a decline in orders throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, they would shed their employment. This news was devastating for garment personnel, who had been now only paid a primary monthly wage of $192 for every thirty day period, a wage that hardly covered day-nowadays living expenses, let by yourself accumulating cost savings to tide them above in the course of a crisis these kinds of as this.

In a even further ruthless move, the factory proprietors requested workers to indication a document with their thumbprintsin purchase to receive their remaining wage payment, having hidden a statement within just the textual content stating that the staff experienced voluntarily ‘resigned’.  This deceptive transfer enabled the manufacturing facility to stay away from spending $3.6 million in legally owed severance spend to the employees.

The plight of the Hulu Garment staff is just one instance of how garment employees are at the sharp end of choices created at the top of offer chains, when manufacturers cancel orders, demandhefty discount rates or delay payments all over the pandemic. We estimate that garment personnel are owed $12 billion in unpaid wages from the 1st 12 months of the pandemic alone, and at the very least half a billion bucks in legally owed severance.

The dresses that Hulu Garment staff stitched, were not destined for small battling enterprises. Acquiring models involved Amazon.  Amazon is one particular of the most important companies in the environment. It acquired in $41 billion last yr for clothes product sales alone.Although the struggles of Amazon shipping, logistics and manufacturing facility staff for the duration of the pandemic have been very well documented, the company’s earnings for the duration of the pandemic have soared by 220%.


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The exploitation that enables corporations like Amazon to crank out such inflated gains is hiding in simple sight, in advanced offer chains with unpaid workers at one particular end, and a CEO flying into house at the other.

Soon after decades of deregulation and out-sourcing production, bands have productively disengaged any sort of responsibility for the employees who make their apparel. However it is the models, as key financial gain makers in the provide chain, that dictate the charges and timelines which in the end squeeze labour fees and really encourage sub-contracting and slicing corners on employee basic safety.

Workers, trade unions and labour legal rights groups recognise the pandemic as a vital turning issue for the garment market. We will need to re-set this model that ruthlessly pursues profit, leaving devastation for workers and the atmosphere in its wake. It is time for brand names like Amazon to be held definitely accountable for the ailments in its supply chain.

Massive corporations like Amazon have a duty to direct the way. The systematic passing of the buck to the most vulnerable in world wide offer chains can’t be allowed to go on as standard. The pandemic has shown that improve is essential, and the winners of the pandemic, like Amazon, must be created to dedicate to rights, wages and social security.

Together with practically 250 other labour legal rights groups and trade unions, we are contacting on brands to indication an enforceable agreement on wages and severance, to make certain that staff will never yet again be remaining so susceptible in a crisis. It would take no more than ten cents for each t-shirt for attire makes to be certain that garment staff, who have attained them billions in gains, acquire the economic aid required to survive the crisis and strengthen unemployment protections for the long run.

Our hope for 2022, is that this 12 months is a single of solidarity with staff in supply chains. We want this to be the 12 months that buyers and activists amplify workers’ demands for makes do greater. We want this to be the yr that brand names signal an enforceable settlement, which suggests that they no more time abide by human rights laws by means of voluntary initiatives which are unenforceable and have failed to produce modify. All of us can be element of making this attainable, so we want this to be the calendar year of action.


Meg Lewis is Strategies Director at Labour Driving the Label, an NGO that performs to make improvements to ailments and empower staff in the world-wide garment field. The group is campaigning to be certain that brand names acquire accountability for employees in their offer chain, and is pushing for higher transparency, dwelling wages and labour legal rights in the marketplace.” 

@labourlabel and @meg_lewis_