Wage theft and pandemic profits: The right to a living wage for garment workers - Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Millions of vulnerable workers in the garment industry have been denied full wages legally owed to
them for work already completed due to order cancellations, non-payment and other

harmful commercial practices by brands during the COVID-19 pandemic. When brands don’t pay their
suppliers, or demand discounts, it has a direct impact on suppliers’ ability to pay their workers even for

work already completed. In many cases workers – the vast majority women – have been owed wages for
several months and are left struggling to support themselves and their families.

In stark contrast to the destitution faced by garment workers in their supply chains, most major
fashion brands are once again turning pro ts – in some cases unprecedented pro ts –
having already recovered from the initial disruption caused by the pandemic.

This report demonstrates how the business model of fashion brands and the structure of global
garment supply chains create and sustain poverty wages for garment workers. It features eight case

studies from Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, involving allegations
of unpaid wages and bene ts (wage theft) linked to the COVID-19 pandemic a ecting

over 9,800 garment workers. These workers were producing for 16 international brands: Carter’s Inc.,
Hanesbrands, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., LIDL, L Brands, Matalan, Mark’s Work Wearhouse, Next,
New Look, Nike, PVH, River Island, Sainsbury’s, s.Oliver and The Children’s Place.

Combined, these 16 brands have recorded over US$10 billion in pro ts in the second half of 2020

alone. All brands included in the report have policy commitments to ensure workers in their supply

chain are paid. Ten go further and explicitly refer to aspirations to pay a living wage, and ve of these
brands are members of the key voluntary initiative on living wage payment, Action Collaboration
Transformation (ACT).



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