The workers' rights victims of the pandemic in North Macedonia

The COVID-19 impact has had a severe impact on the garment industry, and especially on garment workers. Workers’ rights have come under even more pressure than before, despite government support packages designed to alleviate some of that pressure. In garment factories in North Macedonia, workers have been struggling. They have been laid off for invalid reasons, they have not been paid even a minimum wage and they have been forced to work during the lockdown.

Local labour rights organisation Glasen Tekstilec (‘Loud Textile Worker’) was able to document the current situation in the North Macedonian garment industry. In the video, workers share their stories and Glasen Tekstilec explains the pressing issues and what steps they have taken to improve the situation.

The video tells the stories of two garment workers who were placed in even more vulnerable positions during the pandemic. Their accounts reflect those of over 140 others told to Glasen Tekstilec.

At a time where it’s very difficult to find a job, they were fired.

Despite being given government support to help pay employees, some garment factories in North Macedonia chose to not even pay their workers the minimum wage. Some of the hardest hit by this decision were workers who were most in need of government support, such as the chronically ill, pregnant women and those with young children. However, those that exercised their rights to that support were punished for doing so. Many endured threats and insults and feared they wouldn’t find new jobs, even after the pandemic. Others were forced to sign dodgy waivers exempting them from using state aid. Under this mounting pressure, many workers felt they had no choice but to continue working, even through quarantine and curfew, putting themselves and their families at risk.

Listen to the stories, and what Glasen Tekstilec have been doing to help the workers, in the video below.

For more information on the impact of COVID-19 on the garment industry in North Macedonia, see the country dossier.