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On 28 September 2020, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) launched a ‘pay your worker’ campaign. They are calling attention to the high number of workers in garment supply chains worldwide who have not been paid their full wages during the pandemic, or who have lost their jobs without adequate financial compensation.
The labour rights group calls upon brands to take responsibility and invite brands to publish a wage assurance on their website, using the text they propose.
The COVID-19 outbreak is having an enormous impact on the different actors in the garment supply chain. Most garment workers face a double threat – to their lives and livelihoods. On the one hand, they must protect themselves from contracting the virus; on the other hand, they are faced with losses in income and dismissals. Fair Wear supports the call on brands to assure wages are paid. All apparel, textile, and footwear workers in the supply chain of brands, who were paid to produce or handle goods at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, regardless of employment status, should be paid their legally mandated or regular wages and benefits, whichever is higher. This includes wage arrears (back pay) and, where applicable, negotiated severance pay. Workers should be paid their full regular wages during work stoppages. Piece rate workers must be paid the wage according to the standard stipulated in the labour contract. Factories need to follow existing legal regulations. In the absence of legal requirements or financial support from governments, brands, local NGOs and unions should work together with suppliers to provide support to workers.
The COVID-19 crisis is of course an exceptional situation. However, the plight of garment workers in this crisis is closely related to their structural financial vulnerability. Most garment-producing countries do not have adequate social security systems. At the same time, structural underpayment means workers can’t create personal financial buffers or take out private unemployment insurance. On a structural level, we therefore call on governments in garment producing countries to implement social protection floors for workers in the garment industry. Brands’ purchasing practices should facilitate contribution to such systems. Fair Wear supports solutions strengthening social protections for the workers, in line with ILO Recommendation 202, Convention 95 and Convention 76. In addition, we support our member brands to contribute to systemic change by focusing on enabling payment of a living wage. We aim for our member brands, together with their suppliers, to cost for a living wage following our labour minute value and product costing calculators to enable suppliers to act upon their due diligence as a responsible employer.
As long as adequate systems are not in place, Fair Wear wants to contribute to the discussion on how their development can best be supported. This includes a role for brands. The aim is for brands to help ensure that, when combined with other support provided to workers by employers, local governments, and international institutions, workers have income, equal or greater than, the amount they received prior to the crisis. This should provide relief to workers and support brands to act upon their responsibility to prevent and mitigate adverse human rights impacts in their supply chains, and to provide for or cooperate in the remediation of harm. The way this aim is best facilitated concretely, through a guarantee fund or otherwise, is in the process of being discussed.