In March, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) launched the report Wage theft and pandemic profits: the right to a living wage for garment workers. Reflecting back on one year in the COVID-19 situation, the report reveals that garment workers producing for major fashion brands are owed months of unpaid wages, benefits and severance pay, while most brands are once again turning profits – in some cases unprecedented profits – having already recovered from the initial disruption caused by the pandemic. The impacts of wage theft are amplified for garment workers who have only ever earned poverty wages. Key findings of the report include:
- More than 9,800 garment workers not paid in full for work at eight factories supplying 16 fashion brands including H&M, Nike & Levi’s
- Combined, these brands have recorded profits of at least US$10 billion in the second half of 2020 alone.
- In seven of the eight cases, workers have still not been paid what they are owed. This in spite of policy commitments from all fashion brands guaranteeing workers are paid for making their clothes.
- Our research found the minimum wage in 12 major apparel exporting countries is, on average, over four times less than the wage workers need to live on.