On a call this morning, we listened to firsthand accounts from Kalpona Akter, a labor activist and the founder of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, and Mostafiz Uddin, owner of Denim Expert Ltd. in Bangladesh.
Here’s what we learned:
- All Brands Still Need to #PayUp: In Bangladesh, the situation remains dire with some of the biggest buyers: American Eagle Outfitters, Bestseller, C&A, Kohls, Primark, Tesco, VF Corporation and Walmart still refusing to take previously placed orders. With last week’s campaign pressure, 5 brands have agreed to #PayUp for their orders but without any clarity on when payment will be paid. As Uddin shared with us, “there is no time commitment on these payments. Garment makers are not getting paid because brands are not taking their goods yet. Factories are keeping goods in warehouses, with brands potentially holding off payments until June or July, if they ever pay us at all.” No brand has placed future orders, and by the summer, many factories will shutter. We need brands to #PayUp now, not based on prior contractual terms of shipment and 60 to 90 days of payment delay.
- The Government Bailout Is Not Enough for Garment Makers: Akter shared that the promised government bailout is not adequate for the 4.1 million garment makers as it is equivalent to one month’s salary. Akter noted that “brands need to create an emergency fund, as these are the same workers that have made them profits for years. If they don’t, the most vulnerable will not have food on the table. Brands need to step up. It’s not generosity that we’re asking for, it’s responsibility.”
Here’s What We Need to Do:
- Continue to Pressure Brands to #PayUp Until Money Has Exchanged Hands: Remake has had several conversations over past week with brands asking to be taken off our #PayUp campaign because they are “not cancelling orders.” Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium, detailed a growing gap between the public and official positions of the brands, stating that we need a mechanism to test the brands’ claims that they are actually paying suppliers. Brands should be notifying suppliers in writing about their promises to pay including specific language about how and when their payments will be received in order to be taken off our campaigning list. With this in mind, Remake has added H&M, Target, Inditex, and other brands back onto our #PayUp petition with emails going directly to their executives.
- Continue to Call for Emergency Relief Funds: In the interim there is an urgent need for relief funds to garment workers, especially as layoffs continue and workers are being paid very little, if at all, in severance. Atker asked: “If there are no orders for May or June — then what happens to our workers?” Even if brands #PayUp for cancelled and in-production orders, the future remains uncertain. Brand foundations and multilaterals must step in and provide emergency relief funds to garment makers being impacted by shuttered factories. Uddin shared with us, “Nearly 90% of factories are without any jobs until May. If people say factories are open, they are lying.”
We hope you will join us.