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Primark backs UN’s appeal for garment worker support

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

Apr 23, 2020

Business

Fast-fashion retailer Primark has endorsed the UN’s International Labour Organisation calling for urgent collaboration between stakeholders to support garment industry workers across the world affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The International Labour Organisation has issued a joint statement alongside International Organisation of Employers, the International Trade Union Confederation, and IndustriAll Global Union to mobilise sufficient funding to enable manufacturers to ensure business continuity, payment of wages as well as income support, and job retention schemes to protect garment workers’ income, health and employment.

Employers, workers, retailers and major brands involved in the collaboration will form an international working group, convened by the International Labour Organisation, to implement measures to limit the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic to enterprises and livelihoods.

“The International Labour Organisation is deeply concerned by the threat posed by Covid-19 to millions of jobs in the global garment industry,” said Guy Ryder, International Labour Organisation director-general. “This is an unprecedented crisis that can only be solved through global solidarity. The priority must be to sustain businesses and protect workers. At the heart of this is effective social dialogue between governments, workers’ and employers’ organisations. We urge all actors to heed this call and take joint action that will help us avert catastrophe for the industry.”

The working group has also committed to supporting the development and expansion of social protection systems for workers and employers in the garment industry as part of the recovery.

International Labour Organisation welcomes joint action to tackle Covid-19 threats to global garment industry

Katharine Stewart, ethical trade and environmental sustainability director at Primark said in a statement: “The importance of this initiative led by the ILO cannot be overstated. The manufacturers and their workers in the garment supply chain are in urgent need of funding from global financial institutions and governments in order to protect jobs and get through this crisis.

“Longer term we hope this initiative will also support the introduction or strengthening of schemes many of us take for granted, such as employment protection and health benefits. It will take the collective efforts of all the signatories to make this call to action a reality.”

Primark has been working closely with the International Labour Organisation and its own suppliers for a number of weeks, explained the retailer, to help determine a constructive way for stakeholders to collaboratively deliver the necessary support to those affected by the crisis.

This week the retailer confirmed that it had committed to paying suppliers for 370 million pounds of additional orders for product over and above the 1.5 billion pounds of stock in stores, depots and in transit, and earlier this month, Primark also pledged to create a fund to pay factory workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

International Trade Union Confederation general secretary, Sharan Burrow, underlined the need for cooperation: “We cannot afford the human and economic devastation of the collapse of our global supply chains and millions more in developing economies thrown back into poverty. Jobs, incomes and social protection are the dividends of business continuity and this statement calls for emergency funds and social protection for workers to guarantee industry survival in the poorest of our countries. Leadership and cooperation from all stakeholders are vital to realise a future based on resilience and decent work.”

The joint statement called on governments and financial institutions to accelerate access to credit, unemployment benefits and income-support, no or low-interest short-term loans, tax abatement, duty deferral, fiscal stimulus, and others forms of support.

While also asking for brands and retailers to commit to a range of actions to limit the deleterious effects of Covid-19 on their supply chains, including Paying manufacturers for finished goods and goods in production; maintaining quick and effective open lines of communication with supply chain partners about the status of business operations and future planning; and promote respect for the International Labour Organisation core labour standards, as well as safe and healthy workplaces.

Image: courtesy of Primark

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