We were still in full lockdown when I had talked, here in the blog, about the drastic consequences from Covid on the poorest economies of the planet, those where most western brands relocate production. I had mentioned Simone Cipriani, a UN official who, on behalf of the International Trade Center, has created and is responsible for the Ethical Fashion Initiative, a program that employs micro-artisans from the most disadvantaged areas of the world in high fashion production, whose words now sound like a sad omen:

“While brands and retailers in the western world scramble to cope with the business implications of the coronavirus pandemic and impending recession, the social and human fabric of whole communities in less fortunate settings is set to be literally wiped out. Order cancellations could see supply chains grinding to a halt in developing countries. The alarming consequences could be increases in migration, terrorism, human and drug trafficking as the delicate social structure of those communities tears apart.”

Because what is happening is precisely this: many western brands have canceled orders without paying them and now many entrepreneurs not only find the warehouses full of goods but have nothing to pay their workers. Like Mostafiz Uddin, owner of Denim Expert Ltd, a global denim company in Chittagong, Bangladesh; in a recent interview with The Guardian Mostafiz told of hundreds of boxes of jeans crammed against walls and packed to the ceiling, boxes containing 38,000 pairs of Burton jeans, worth more than 200,000 pounds that were ready for shipment in early March.

Mostafiz Uddin – courtesy of Denim Expert LTD

The Burton brand is, together with Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, owned by Arcadia, the company managed by the billionaire Sir Philip Green and in fact, together with the order of Burton jeans, Mostafiz Uddin claims to have spent another 275,000 pounds on material to make another 60,300 pairs of jeans for Burton and Dorothy Perkins. But between finished product and material, he has not seen a pound. Everything canceled. In one day, with an email.

Mostafiz is desperate; for the months of March, April and May he has already paid wages to his employees, as well as an additional bonus through bank loans, but to date there is no longer any possibility of obtaining other aid and the factory risks bankruptcy.

It is estimated that in Bangladesh alone, fashion brands have canceled around £ 2.5 billion of orders in over 1,150 factories and the consequences can only be imagined.

The ‘Campagna Abiti Puliti’, the Italian coalition of the Clean Clothes Campaign, intervened on the issue by siding and supporting the appeals launched by workers’ rights organizations and unions, which urge clothing companies to ensure that all workers in their chains supply receive the best remuneration between their contractual salary and that guaranteed by law, including benefits. So, no to the cancellation of orders, to delay the planning of new ones, to force discounts on goods already produced, because in doing so companies lead suppliers to not be able to pay workers, as is happening to poor Mostafiz.

Hence the #payup campaign was born, which asks brands such as Topshop, Uniqlo, Urban Outfitters, just to name a few, to assume their responsibilities and pay suppliers and workers; at this link it is possible to sign the petition to ask fashion brands and distributors in Italy and all over the world to assume responsible conduct in the management of their supply chains. I have signed and I invite you, my dear readers, to do the same (on the Clean Clothes Campaign site there is also this petition to sign (#GoTransparent).

It is important to remember that the Covid crisis has affected especially the weakest people and if it has done it here, let alone in the poorest areas of the planet, where living conditions are already precarious. Therefore, that the pandemic does not become a pretext to violate the rights of already highly discriminated people for being born in the poorest areas of the world.

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