The fashion industry is shrinking, and countless workers are losing jobs. But declining sales aren’t the only force behind payroll cuts: Brands and retailers, as well as factories manufacturing for large companies, are using the pandemic as a guise to get rid of unionized workers. According to a recent report by UK labor rights non-profit Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), garment factories are “using the pandemic as a cover to attack workers’ freedom of association.” This is of course against international labor laws.
The BHRRC report, called “Union busting and unfair dismissals” analyzes the plight of unionized workers at suppliers who manufacture for H&M, Primark, Inditex (Zara), Levi Strauss, Mango, Bestseller, as well as luxury brands Michael Kors, Tory Burch and Tapestry (Kate Spade) in India, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. Among the BHRRC report findings are that 4,870 unionized garment workers have been targeted for dismissal after asking for protections against Covid-19 infection; others were let go after registering a new union, and one was let go over a Facebook post.