Bangladeshi father Ashraf Ali, 35, who was on a rattling phone, described himself as suicidal and desperate to feed his family. Sokuntea Yin, from Cambodia, said he spent sleepless nights worrying about how he would repay the loans he had taken out to build his house. And only 23-year-old Dina Arvia, who lives in Indonesia, said she was hopeless about her future because there was no other job in her district.
All of them used to work as clothing workers in Nike, Walmart և Benetton հագուստ clothing և shoe factories. But in the last 12 months, those jobs have disappeared as epidemics in the United States, major European brands canceled or refused to pay for orders, and suppliers sought mass layoffs or layoffs.
Many garment workers receive chronically low wages, and few save. This means that the only thing that stands in the way of their extreme poverty is the legally provided benefits that most clothing workers owe from the moment they quit, wherever they are in the world.
According to a new report by the Consortium of Workers’ Rights, however, clothing workers such as Ali, Yin Arvia are being denied some or all of these salaries.
The study found 31 garment factories in nine countries where, according to the authors, a total of 37,637 laid-off workers were not paid the full legal compensation of $ 39.8 million.
According to the group’s CEO Scott Nova, the report covers only 10% of the global closure of garment factories, with massive cuts over the past year. The team is investigating an additional 210 factories in 18 countries, allowing the authors to estimate that the final data set will represent 213 factories with wage violations, with more than 160,000 employees owed $ 171.5 million.
“Increased wage theft has long been a problem in the garment industry, but has risen sharply over the past year,” Nova said. He added that the data are likely to rise as the economic aftershocks of the epidemic continue to develop in the retail industry. He thinks the lost earnings could total $ 500 million to $ 850 million.
The authors of the report note that the only realistic solution to the crisis will be the creation of a so-called rupture guarantee fund. The initiative, developed jointly by 220 trade unions and other labor law organizations, will be funded by mandatory payments from signatory trademarks, which can then be levied in the event of a large-scale non-payment by the plant or supplier.
Several house names involved in the Household affair made money during the epidemic. For example, Amazon reported that in 2020, net profit increased by 84%, while Inditex amounted to 11.4 billion euros ($ 13.4 billion) gross profit. Nike, Next և Walmart also had healthy earnings.
Some industry experts believe that the practice of buying players in the energy industry contributes greatly to the wage crisis. The vast majority of fashion retailers do not own their own manufacturing facilities, but instead contract with factories in countries where labor is cheap. Brands dictate prices, often pushing suppliers, offering more for less, և being able to move source sources at will. In developing countries, factory owners say they have to work with a lower margin, and few are able to pay better wages or invest in security breaches.
“The supplier falls on the supplier,” said LeBaron, a professor at the University of Sheffield in England who focuses on international labor standards. “But there is a reason that the spotlight continues to fall on larger actors above the supply chain.” “Their behavior can affect the ability of factories to perform their duties.”
“Historically, the rupture has not received as much attention as other types of compensation,” LeBaron added. “It simply came to our notice then. Employees who lose their jobs are often more vulnerable. “When they are not paid their debts, many are forced to take desperate or dangerous measures to survive.”
All major fashion brands publish labor rights code. Many say they guarantee that suppliers will pay employees their legally granted benefits. But in some cases, factory owners may hide or refuse to pay fired employees. In others, the owners claim that the operating contracts have bankrupted them or made it impossible for them to keep the funds for the break-up.
Clothes workers are caught in the middle. In Bangladesh, Ali worked for 17 years as a knitting operator at the Dhaka A-One plant before it closed in April 2020, laying off 1,400 workers. The plant, which Benetton և Next listed as a supplier, has been late in paying employees in recent months և has not yet offered any severance pay, which under Bangladeshi law equals about one month of annual service pay. Ali owes 000 350,000 ($ 4,130) and has since found it difficult to find anything other than casual construction.
“So many people have lost their jobs, which makes the situation even more frustrating,” Ali said in Bengali. “I want to believe that money will come because it will change everything for me.”
The former owner of A-One did not respond to requests for comment.
In an email, Benetton called the commercial value of his relationship with A-One “marginal” and did not answer questions about the severance pay.
A Next spokesman said the plant had previously placed orders for its subsidiary, Lipsy, that the brand’s code of conduct included checks to see if employees were receiving what they received after their closure or dismissal. The company did not respond to a request for comment on A-One’s waiver fees.
Most brands demean their relationship with The New York Times when it comes to wage theft in factories, although the Code of Conduct does not state that employee responsibilities are commensurate with the size of their orders.
Yin was one of 774 employees who resigned in June from Cambodia’s Hana I plant, which was supplied by Walmart և Zara. The bill estimates that workers owe more than $ 1 million in fines. Although he received an initial $ 500, 33-year-old Yi still owed $ 1,290 in retirement and is still unemployed this month.
Inditex, Zara’s parent company, said it had not worked with the plant for five years. Walmart said it believes the plant paid for the entire breakup, which was legally owed to workers in June. Factory owners did not respond to email requests for comment.
“We are deeply saddened by the financial hardships that have befallen many businesses and are particularly concerned about the impact they have on their employees,” said a Walmart spokesman. He noted that the company has made efforts to “check, hold” suppliers in line with its standards and local laws.
According to the report, the Hulu Garment Factory in Phnom Penh, which is a former supplier of Walmart, Amazon, Macy և and Adidas, owes $ 3.63 million to 1,000 former employees.
Adidas said the company used it only for small orders. Hulu owners did not respond to a request for comment.
Of all the companies listed by The Times, only Gap, which places orders at factories in Indonesia, Cambodia, India and Jordan, said in particular that it had investigated the allegations in the report.
“In any case, we have either confirmed that the rupture has been provided or we have repaired all outstanding payments,” said a Gap spokesman, adding that the company would consider any other evidence of unpaid rupture.
“When consumers put pressure on companies to make changes մաքր to clean up supply chains, brands are ‘narrowing their supplier bases,'” LeBaron said.
“It may be good for the long term, but it will mean further setbacks, closures and dismissals,” he said. “And that means the dilemma of partition will spread even further.”