Asian Garment Workers Owed About $12 Billion in Wages
The storyline for those who make the world’s clothing is far from done as fashion brands. Shops around the world return to profitability following what has been an extremely challenging time of international store closures and reduced profits for fashion. In the first year of the pandemic, the Clean Clothes Campaign estimated that Asian garment workers owed $12 billion in unpaid wages and severance.
Employers withheld or cut salaries, and multinational fashion labels and shops canceled orders, according to the ‘Still Un(der)paid’ report. Which estimates that Asian garment workers owed 11.85 billion dollars from March 2020 to March 2021. Refusing to pay for products or requesting deep discounts.
According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, the wage gap was determined using “all available information”. Including corporate disclosures, industry, and Asian Garment Workers Survey, as well as media sources.
The amount indicated “an unthinkable and often irreversible human pain,” according to Khalid Mahmood of Pakistan’s Labour Education Foundation. He claimed that this was occurring “not just at that one facility in Bangladesh or Pakistan”. But “through the entire clothing industry.”
According to the research, 1.6 million Asian garment workers in seven countries were laid off: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Pakistan.
Many fired workers were not paid their full legal severance pay rights. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, and others who were placed on furlough were only paid a small percentage of their regular earnings.
Except for Indonesia, workers in all of the nations studied had lost pay equivalent to at least twice the average monthly wage.
‘We can’t rely on brands to take action on their own.’
The Clean Clothes Campaign is urging apparel companies to reach an enforceable agreement that guarantees payment. Establishes a severance fund, and ensures basic labor rights are respected.
“Trade unions will be needed to sign brands in order to gain a binding agreement. Which will be negotiated and signed by brands, individual employers, or employer organizations. During the Covid-19 epidemic, workers in their supply networks are paid on a regular basis. As well as ensuring payment of severance compensation for workers at factories that close or underperform,” the organization said.
The research builds on the Clean Clothes Campaign’s August 2020 “Un(der)paid in the Pandemic” analysis. Which estimated a loss of 3.2 to 5.8 billion dollars in income and severance during the first three months of the pandemic.
Despite over 100 fashion companies banding together in a ‘Call to Action’ for the garment industry since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Clean Clothes Campaign’s Ineke Zeldenrust, not enough has been done to assist workers.
“We cannot rely on employers’ own initiatives or the voluntary programs they conceal to offer for workers,” she said. “It is essential that businesses talk to labor unions and create a formal. Enforceable agreement to keep millions of Asian garment workers and their families out of poverty.”