Why should brands step up and support garment workers?
Global supply chains are designed to limit brands’ obligations to the factories where their clothes are made. Huge power imbalances mean that brands have the freedom and leverage to push costs down the chain onto their suppliers.
As brands only pay up to three months after delivery of goods, they can cancel orders and even decline to pay for finished orders, even though factory owners have already paid for fabric and labour. In supply chains where brands call the shots, costs and risks are pushed further down the chain onto suppliers and the workers themselves.
Most factory owners operate on narrow profit margins and lack sufficient cash reserves and access to credit to pay their workers during inactivity and survive the kind of economic shock that we are seeing from COVID-19.
Brands have wilfully sought out production in low-wage countries with poor social security systems. Over many decades, this system has allowed brands to make huge profits, whilst garment workers are exploited.
The same system which has built huge profits for CEOs, has left garment workers living in poverty. Workers have been unable to accumulate savings in order to sustain the current economic shock. This is why we are calling on brands to step up and protect the workers who have made them rich.