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COVID-19: Supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes

ILO welcomes joint action to tackle COVID-19 threats to global garment industry

Employers, workers, retailers and major brands will form an international working group – convened by the International Labour Organization – to address the already serious damage to the garment industry caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Press release | 22 April 2020
© Jean‐Pierre Pellissier / ILO
GENEVA (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization has welcomed the Call to Action by garment industry employer and worker organizations, leading brands and retailers to work with governments and financial institutions to tackle the devastating economic disruption and threat to livelihoods caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The call to action brings together key stakeholders in the industry in the wake of unprecedented social and economic disruption that has resulted in the closure of factories and retail stores, illness, and widespread loss of income and unemployment.

This initiative was announced in a joint statement by the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and IndustriAll Global Union.

It aims to mobilize 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.

“The International Labour Organization is deeply concerned by the threat posed by COVID-19 to millions of jobs in the global garment industry,” said Guy Ryder, ILO 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’ organizations. We urge all actors to heed this call and take joint action that will help us avert catastrophe for the industry.”

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

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

“The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on this critical industry requires a global response,” said IOE Secretary-General Roberto Suárez Santos. “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 organization that might not be able to join.”

ITUC 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 realize a future based on resilience and decent work.”