One month after the #PayUp campaign kicked off, organizers claimed Monday that 13 companies have yet to pay factory workers in Bangladesh, who lost wages due to canceled orders. But some of the companies — like C&A, Walmart, Mothercare and Bestseller — denied Remake’s allegations and insisted that they are honoring their commitments.
Last month the nonprofit Remake claimed that more than 50 million international garment workers are being negatively impacted by the fallout from the pandemic. As of Monday afternoon, more than 12,000 people had signed the online petition that calls on major fashion brands to pay their garment factories for canceled and suspended orders. In the past few months, thousands of workers have been laid off and furloughed. Models and activists like Amber Valletta and Cameron Russell helped to draw attention to the #PayUp campaign by lending their support to it.
Organizers claimed Monday that 13 brands still need to pay up — Gap, Primark, C&A, Mothercare, Bestseller, Kohl’s, Walmart/Asda, JC Penney, URBN (Urban Outfitters, Free People, Anthropologie), Arcadia (Burton, Topshop and other brands), Asos, American Eagle Outfitters and Under Armour.
Bangladesh has about 5,000 factories that employ 4.1 million garment workers.
To determine whether factory workers are being paid, Remake spoke with representatives from the Awaj Foundation, the Bangladesh Garment Manufactures and Exporters Association, and Microfinance Opportunities. Awaj’s founder Nazma Akter estimated that 71 percent of garment factory workers — many of whom are single mothers — in Bangladesh are being paid. Akter said, “Without the workers, they cannot make the dresses. Human fingers are paralyzed without food.”
While C&A agreed to take orders that were already in transit last month, the company is standing firm on its 60-day post-shipment terms, according to Remake. But a C&A spokesman referred to a statement that the company issued last month and reiterated that point Monday, “Our statement clearly states that we are going to pay our suppliers.”
All of the aforementioned brands were contacted for comment and those that responded Monday took issue with Remake’s claims. A Walmart spokeswoman said Monday, “We have been in close touch with our private brand apparel suppliers with factories in Bangladesh and are working through the challenges arising from the fallout of COVID-19. We intend to honor our commitments to products that are finished or in production process, and we are working with suppliers on a case-by-case basis to address any exceptions and develop solutions to minimize impact.”
Walmart estimates that exceptions will amount to less than two percent of its annual private brand apparel orders in Bangladesh. The spokeswoman noted the longstanding relationships Walmart has with suppliers in Bangladesh and the retailer’s commitment to helping them “weather this crisis.”
A Mothercare spokeswoman said, “We have been working very closely with our manufacturing and franchise partners, since the beginning of the crisis to mitigate the impact on their businesses, during these unprecedented times and will continue to do so.”
A spokesman for Bestseller also disputed its ranking, explaining, “Bestseller is committed to accept the delivery of orders that have already been made and those that are in production through individual dialogue with all suppliers.” Like C&A he referenced a statement issued April 22 that highlighted that pledge.
A Gap spokeswoman indicated she is looking into the latest information regarding the matter.
On the flip side, 13 other brands have vowed to pay up, Remake said. Those that are said to be in good favor include H&M, Zara/Inditex, Kiabi, the VF Corp. (Timberland, The North Face, Vans, Dickies and other brands), PVH Corp. (Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and other labels), Target, Marks & Spencer, LPP (Reserved, Cropp, House and others), Adidas, Nike, Uniqlo, Tesco and Next.
Bangladesh’s garment industry accounts for 80 percent of the country’s exports, with many workers’ livelihoods reliant on apparel orders from the U.S. and Europe. As is the case around the world, many apparel factories in Bangladesh have ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 crisis. An estimated $3 billion worth of orders has been canceled or paused there.