When COVID 19 had devastating repercussions on Garment Workers, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) mobilised a Call to Action across the supply chain to respond to the impact. The main areas of focus were: protection of workers’ income, health and employment, support to factories to survive during the COVID 19 crisis, and the establishment of sustainable systems of social protection.
Engage with 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 other forms of support.
Channel funds to enable manufacturers to ensure business continuity including payment of wages for all workers regardless of employment contract
Promote respect for the ILO core labour standards, as well as safe and healthy workplaces.
Support the development of social protection floors and to extending social protection for workers and employers
Brands commit to 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 should financial circumstances permit, offer direct support to factories.
Image via ILO
Over the past month, the Garment Sector Call to Action has been making strides at both the global and national levels. The International Working Group, together with endorsees, has continued its engagements with international financial institutions (IFIs) and bilateral donors.
Concurrently, employers and workers in the priority countries have been establishing National Working Groups to guide and implement the Call to Action. The ILO has helped to provide working groups a mapping of available funds and schemes that could support implementation in each country. During the initial meetings at the country level, constituents have been working to develop shared priorities, identify gaps in funding, and advance plans for government, IFI, and donor engagement. Each country has a slightly different process depending on the national context. In most countries, workers and employers have chosen to work together directly before inviting other endorsees to join the discussions.
Financing totalling Euro115M from EU and German Government as main donors has been committed to support cash transfers for workers in the garment sector, pending administrative approvals through the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and establishment of the disbursement mechanism. A global multi-donor ILO initiative, with funding from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), on “Income protection for the workers in the RMG sector,” includes $1.8M USD for cash transfers in Bangladesh. The ILO has proposed to the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MOLE) to convene a tripartite meeting – including government, employer and worker representatives - to discuss updates related to the Call to Action and to advise on social protection mechanism development. The ILO has proposed the establishment of a formal tripartite committee to guide such a process and to advise on current social protection and cash transfer initiatives. The first tripartite meeting is expected in early October, after which point the ILO will engage endorsees in the National Working Group on related issues.
The BMZ funded “Income protection for the workers in the RMG sector” initiative overseen by the ILO includes funding 1.95M Euro for cash transfers for the garment sector in Cambodia. The Cambodian Call to Action National Working Group, with support from the IOE and ITUC, will be meeting to discuss disbursement and oversight. With support from the ILO, Cambodia’s garment sector development strategy will also be launched as part of the sector’s Economic Response Strategy to Covid-19.
The BMZ funded “Income protection for the workers in the RMG sector” initiative overseen by the ILO includes funding Euro 4.9 for the garment sector in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will coordinate the National Working Group in Ethiopia shortly to discuss accessing and dispersing the funds. The Ministry has also appointed its representative to occupy the open government seat (observer status) on the Call to Action International Working Group.
COVID-19 response funding has been committed to the country, but to date has not been targeted to the apparel sector. Employers and unions in Haiti have been negotiating a joint statement outlining shared priorities for the garment sector under the Call to Action, which will be discussed with the Prime Minister’s Office for alignment and discussion with IFIs who have pledged funds to Haiti.
The BMZ funded “Income protection for the workers in the RMG sector” initiative overseen by the ILO includes funding Euro 2.2M to the sector in Indonesia. This complements significant fiscal support from the Government of Indonesia. A joint statement by Indonesian garment unions and employer associations (APINDO/API) was launched in August outlining policy priorities for the garment sector during the pandemic, including under the Call to Action framework. The national constituents met with brand representatives at the end of September and are currently finalising an action plan to work with all partners in the sector, including Government Ministries, to implement the joint commitments.
The first National Working Group meeting in Myanmar was held in August. The endorsees have committed to work together within the National Working Group in ways that complement significant efforts already undertaken to support income replacement. Initial priorities include a rapid assessment of the financial needs of the sector, which is currently under discussion.
Meetings in September between Workers and Employers Organisations discussed priority actions and agreed on the need to understand short- to mid-term impacts on workers and businesses and to assess priority financial needs. The ILO is currently supporting the Working Group in this effort.
COVID-19 response funding has been committed to the country, but to date has not been targeted to the apparel sector. Employers and unions in India held their first meeting in September and are currently developing a process to agree on a shared set of priorities.
Words via the ILO | October 2020