How major brands and retailers are responding to questions about their handling of the crisis and impacts on suppliers and supply chain workers?

 How major brands and retailers are responding to questions about their handling of the crisis and impacts on suppliers and supply chain workers?

o UK retailer Primark announced it would create a fund to pay its supply chain workers. But questions still remain over whether the brand will be receiving and paying for orders already made or in-production from its factories, including covering the costs of raw materials that factories have paid for in advance to manufacture their orders not yet in production. o H&M, Target, Marks & Spencer, Inditex, Kiabi, and PVH have all publicly confirmed that they intend to receive and pay for products already made and orders already placed, but in some cases, no time frame has been outlined on when payments will be made – keeping in mind the urgency of the crisis and its catastrophic impact on workers unfolding already. o Brands that have yet to respond to calls asking them to #PayUP include C&A, Mothercare, Bestseller, Tesco, Kohls, Walmart, LPP, JCPenney, among others. At the time of writing, we cannot confirm whether these brands have paid for completed and in-production orders. However, they have not publicly responded when called on to make payments in a report by the Global Center for Workers’ Right. o UK retailer New Look has sent a letter to its suppliers cancelling in-production orders and suggesting payments would be delayed “indefinitely”. The retailer told suppliers, “This is a matter of survival”. Yet, like many brands in crisis, the fight for survival often doesn’t extend to supply chain workers or stakeholders not directly employed by the big brands. o UK Charity, Traidcraft Exchange has published a report outlining the governmental responses required by garment producing countries to support workers. They argue how the consequences of COVID-19 unveil a fashion system already reliant on widespread exploitation and an imbalance of power between big brands and developing economies. The report notes, “This supply-side model has not been compatible with the establishment of deep and wide social protection coverage. Instead, [producing] countries have, under pressure from financial institutions, followed a race to the bottom through wage suppression, deregulation and privatisation. Faced with the collapse of orders combined with the effect of the COVID-19 virus, these countries are all ill-equipped to provide support to the increasing numbers of sick people, workers at risk of exposure and families without income.” o IndustriALL Global Union , has urged signatories of its living wage coalition, ACT, to pay for all already-placed orders. The organisation also notes, “The government of Bangladesh will make available 50 billion Bangladeshi Taka (US$581,000) late April. However, this will be enough to pay workers’ wages for one month and it is a loan, which the employers have to pay back with 2 per cent interest.” o In South Africa, SACTWU (The South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union) entered into a collective agreement with the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry to ensure that workers receive 100% of their salaries during South Africa’s lockdown. o In Myanmar, thousands of garment workers have marched in protest of mass layoffs. The workers are asking not for a compensation package or due severance, but demand that the factories keep them on payroll. o After the entire country of India was put on lockdown, it became clear that mass starvation may surpass the threat of Coronavirus as migrant workers are unable to return to town and villages with public transportation halted, many are left homeless in city centres. And with supplies still needed for hospitals, some factories still remain open, subjecting their workers to potential infection at the expense of urgently needed medical goods. o In Tamil Nadu, where some 40,000 factories and mills operate, dormitory style living conditions will make social distancing near impossible. Experts warn that factory closures will reinforce the crowded surroundings, as lack of shift work means all lodgers are cramped into rooms at once.



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