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GENEVA – The UN’s International Labour Organisation is calling for urgent collaboration between global stakeholders to support garment industry workers across the world affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Unions, brands, civil society organisations and trade bodies have signed a statement committing to, “take action to protect garment workers’ income, health and employment and support employers to survive during the COVID-19 crisis, and to work together to establish sustainable systems of social protection for a more just and resilient garment industry.”

Signatories include the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), IndustriALL Global Union, Bangladesh Employers’ Federation and major brands and retailers including Adidas, H&M Group, International Apparel Federation, Inditex, M&S, Primark, PVH Corporation, Ralph Lauren, Tchibo, VF Corporation, Under Armour and Zalando SE.

Details on what this initiative will involved in practical terms are thin on the ground. The ILO says an international working group will be established within the next two weeks convened by the ILO and coordinated by IOE and ITUC, including brands and manufacturers, workers and employer organisations and governments, to elaborate implementation steps necessary to deliver on these commitments.

IOE secretary-general Roberto Suárez Santos said: “The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this critical industry requires a global response. IOE joins this call for action with the aim of supporting business continuity as well as the livelihoods of workers in the garment industry during this disruptive period. This is a voluntary initiative that focuses on mobilising collective action. It is not aiming to disregard stakeholders, companies and organisation that might not be able to join.”

ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow added: “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.”

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder added: “The International Labour Organization is deeply concerned by the threat posed by Covid-19 to millions of jobs in the global garment industry. 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 this call and take joint action that will help us avert catastrophe for the industry.”

The full version of the call to action is available here: Joint Call for Action In the Garment Industry

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