One Big Thing: Do you support global worker protections and rights as COVID-19 impacts livelihoods?
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What is it?
- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect everyday life across the globe, workers’ rights have come under fire. With stores, shops, and malls closing their doors to practice social distancing, there has been a global drop in demand for many everyday items. Down the supply chain, many of the workers who produce these items are being laid off, often without pay or compensation for the goods they already produced.
- In Bangladesh, many garment manufacturers were not paid for the work they had already completed because of lower global demand. This has led to the firing or furlough of more than one million Bangladeshi garment workers since the start of COVID-19.
- The Chinese government also forcibly relocated over 30,000 Muslim Uighurs to keep factories open in COVID-19 affected areas which reflects China’s complete disregard for worker’s rights.
- Migrant workers have particularly been impacted by COVID-19. In India, an estimated 139 million internal migrant workers have been impacted. And cross-border migrants, numbering more than 160 million worldwide, have suffered as host countries have not provided adequate protections or deported them. This has been an acute problem in Middle Eastern countries.
Why is it important?
- Low wage workers around the world in many sectors have been severely impacted by the sudden impact of COVID-19. Government and company responses have been varied depending on the country, but the most vulnerable of workers in the developing world fear not only for their jobs, but for food security and health.
- During a public health crisis, maintaining workers’ rights is just as much the task of the government as it is the companies themselves. When demand unexpectedly drops, both parties should work together to find solutions which value their employees’ rights and compensates them fairly for work already completed.
- Consumers should have an awareness of where and how their goods and services come from and adapt purchasing practices to fully respect understand workers’ rights.
- Authoritarian regimes are using coronavirus as a means to limit basic rights – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press. In places like Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia, the governments and local industries are taking advantage of the crisis to suppress unions and workers.
What can you do?
- Check out some of the companies with the best business practices and some companies with the worst.
- Learn more on workers’ rights from Solidarity Center and the United Nations Global Compact
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