The International Labour Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, has called on retailers, producers, governments, banks, associations, trade unions and leading brand suppliers to work together to support workers in the garment industry affected by the Covid 19 pandemic worldwide.
The ILO intends to convene an international working group, coordinated by the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The aim is to develop a sustainable system to guide the textile industry worldwide through the Corona crisis and to safeguard the health, income and jobs of workers. These plans require the immediate commitment of all those involved, the ILO emphasizes.
Governments and banks should be called upon to provide loans and income support, as well as tax breaks and the like. Brands and retailers should commit themselves, among other things, to pay manufacturers for goods already produced and to plan new orders on a binding basis. In addition, social, environmental and safety standards are to continue to be observed.
Particularly in countries with inadequate health and social systems, millions of people could be rapidly impoverished as a result of the pandemic, so the continued payment of wages and job security would be extremely important. H&M, Primark, Bestseller, C&A, Adidas, Inditex, PVH, Tchibo, VF, Zalando, Under Armour and others have committed themselves to the initiative.
"The importance of this ILO-led initiative cannot be overestimated. Manufacturers and their workers in the apparel industry supply chains urgently need financial support from international financial institutions and governments to protect jobs and get through this crisis," said Katharine Stewart, director of ethical trade and environmental sustainability at Primark. In the longer term, she hopes that this initiative will also support the introduction or strengthening of social benefits.
Primark has committed to paying £370 million for additional orders, in addition to the £1.5 billion of goods already in stores, depots and in transit, even though stores will remain closed. Independently of this, the discounter has set up a wage fund to ensure that workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam are paid as quickly as possible for their work on primary goods already in production.