Bangladeshi garment manufacturers have issued a strong warning to Western fashion brands that they will be blacklisted if they fail to pay their outstanding bills due to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. In a letter to the Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) group, owned by British billionaire Philip Day, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) demanded that payments be settled by Friday. This move follows the BGMEA’s threat to sue the major British retailer over unpaid debts. The BGMEA, the largest trade group for garment factory owners in Bangladesh, stated that they will blacklist buyers who exploit them by failing to meet their financial obligations. While severing business ties is not their preferred approach, they are prepared to take action against buyers who deliberately exploit suppliers.

Bangladesh heavily relies on its garment industry, which accounts for over 80% of its exports. With more than 4,000 factories employing around 4 million people, mostly women, this sector plays a crucial role in the country’s economic stability. However, the global closure of stores due to the coronavirus pandemic has led many Western retailers to suspend or cancel clothing orders, leaving workers in Asia unemployed and uncertain about the future of the industry. In fact, Bangladesh’s garment exports plummeted by 84% in the first half of April, with canceled or suspended orders totaling $3 billion.

The BGMEA singled out Edinburgh Woollen Mill for requesting significant discounts, which violate local laws, international standards, and the principles of ethical sourcing. These demands for discounts, despite pre-existing contracts and ongoing business activities, have been deemed financially disastrous for the manufacturers. The Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, a union representing garment workers, commended the BGMEA’s firm stance against non-payment of wages. They believe that if brands fulfill their financial obligations, it will greatly benefit the workers who have been struggling with unpaid wages.

This incident sheds light on the challenges faced by Bangladesh’s garment industry during the global crisis. While Western fashion brands grapple with difficult decisions, it is imperative for them to adhere to ethical practices and honor their financial commitments to suppliers. Failing to do so not only harms workers but also undermines the reputation and long-term survival of the industry as a whole. As the BGMEA takes a strong stand against exploitation, it presents an opportunity for a more equitable relationship between brands and suppliers, ultimately benefiting the livelihoods of workers who depend on this industry.

Useful links:
– For more information on the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), visit their official website here.
– To learn about ethical fashion practices and the importance of responsible sourcing, check out this informative article from Good On You here.