Living in India, I have seen the suffering with which garment workers walked hundreds of kilometers back to their villages after Western brands refused to pay for the goods they had ordered in the weeks and months before Covid-19 hit. The workers would have died of hunger in the cities. They walked home to the village to at least have a roof over their heads.
The major brands in the US and Europe cancelled and/or refused to pay for orders estimated at 16.2 billion dollars between April to June 2020. These were orders that were contractually agreed but because of lockdown and pandemic restrictions closing retail, were no longer wanted. This has meant huge economic losses for exporters in developing countries that produced these orders, massive amounts of ready stocks that will finally need to be disposed of, and most importantly, tens of thousands of workers not paid for work done and the enormous unemployment that has ensued. It constitutes 1.6 billion dollars of wages not paid. Women constitute 85% of the workforce and unemployment puts them at a greater risk of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
In Fashion Revolution week, maybe it’s time to consider this. On April 24th 2013, the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh killing 1134 garment factory workers and injuring 2500. The fashion world may have gone into a shock that day, exposed for the first time perhaps, to its shameful underbelly. This day may have been announced as a day of revolution. But of what value is this, if eight years down the line, extremely rich and privileged brand owners, contrary to their claims, do something so colossally worse and that too, so blatantly and shamelessly? They ruthlessly turned their backs on the very supply chain that earned them their wealth. Is there no accountability? Can they be allowed to get away with this?
We at UCRF, have been supporting Pay Up, the most successful campaign that was launched in this regard. It is up to each of us to think and decide how we can contribute. We seek long and lasting change, for workers, for Earth, for us all.
Gitika Goyal on behalf of the UCRF Board
Sign the PAYUP petition to help release the rest of the funds.