For many of the 4.1 million workers in Bangladesh’s garment industry, their income from stitching clothes for customers, which include some of the world’s largest fashion companies, can be critical to survival.
But more than a million have already been fired or furloughed as global fashion companies have canceled or suspended orders in Bangladesh due to the coronavirus crisis, according to a report (pdf) by Penn State University’s Center for Global Workers’ Rights and the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), an independent labor-rights monitor. The numbers only look set to rise, and don’t count workers in Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, and other countries facing similar situations.
A number of suppliers in Bangladesh and elsewhere have said the companies they sew clothes and other products for effectively abandoned them and refuse to even cover the costs of work already done. Many factories expect to close unless something changes. “The immediate impact on workers and their families will be devastating,” said Mark Anner, director of the Center for Global Workers’ Rights, in an email. “Going forward, as no new orders are placed and the industry shuts down, workers will have trouble putting food on the table.”
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