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Tearfund Calls On Clothing Companies To Protect Workers As Covid-19 Impacts Low-income Countries

Tearfund New Zealand and Baptist World Aid Australia (BWAA) are calling on fashion companies to commit to standing with the workers in their global supply chains in launching six Covid-19 Fashion Commitments designed to provide vulnerable workers with immediate support and protection during the Coronavirus pandemic.

COVID Fashion Commitments

In the face of the devastating impact of COVID-19 on garment workers, we commit to working together to do all we can to:

  1. Support workers’ wages by honouring supplier commitments
  2. Identify and support the workers at greatest risk
  3. Listen to the voices and experience of workers
  4. Ensure workers’ rights and safety are respected
  5. Collaborate with others to protect vulnerable workers
  6. Build back better for workers and the world

Known for publishing the annual Ethical Fashion Report which grades clothing brands for their efforts to address worker exploitation and environmental degradation, Tearfund NZ is concerned about the potential of the Covid-19 crisis to slow or reverse years of progress in improving the wages, rights and conditions of workers making clothes around the world.

Tearfund NZ and BWAA are asking the public to join them in encouraging their favourite brands to make and deliver on these promises to their workers.

Tearfund NZ CEO Ian McInnes says, “While we acknowledge that fashion companies have been hit by Covid-19 and their supply chains have faltered, it is garment workers in particular who will pay the steepest price. We believe companies must do everything in their power to honour contracts and safeguard workers. Similarly, consumers who benefit from the remarkable range of clothing lines in good times should let their favourite brands know they’re interested in how their workers are treated in challenging times as well.”

As retailers continue to close their doors, cancel or suspend orders and lay off staff here in New Zealand, production facilities around the world are being forced to shut, leaving thousands of workers in dire situations.

In Bangladesh, where most workers are paid only poverty-level wages, more than 1 million workers have already been let go—many without last month’s pay and with little chance of compensation or a social safety net. Those who remain employed are unlikely to be able to practice social distancing or have access to safe hygiene measures, increasing the risk of infection in regions where healthcare is often difficult to access.

In October, Tearfund NZ and BWAA will release a special edition of the annual Ethical Fashion Report. This will look into the response of the fashion industry, mainly focusing on companies with annual revenues of $30 million and above, to the vulnerabilities faced by workers during the coronavirus crisis. Tearfund NZ and BWAA will work to resource and encourage collaboration as companies step up to these responsibilities.

About Tearfund

We are Tearfund, a New Zealand faith-based aid and development organisation. Our faith is visible. It acts, it speaks, and it stands alongside those in need. Together with our partners on the ground and our supporters at home, we sponsor children, we restore, nourish and empower communities in need, and we protect the vulnerable from exploitation. We act and advocate against injustice and poverty overseas and call on New Zealanders to do the same. Assistance and care are always provided without bias or prejudice. And we’ve been doing it for more than 45 years.

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