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A Bangladeshi garment worker is seen wearing a face mask while producing clothing to be sold on major overseas markets. Photo: Marcel Crozet / ILO

Garment workers

The global garment industry employs up to 60 million people worldwide and makes billions in profits each year. Yet most garment workers, mainly young women, have never benefited from this wealth.

Instead, garment workers face poverty wages, long hours, unsafe working conditions, abuse and harassment. Despite years of international attention on sweatshops, clothing brands continue to squeeze enormous wealth out of their workers through exploitation. Minimum wage is well below a living wage in many countries where garment factories are concentrated. Union busting is rife. Factory managers deny workers their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining – and powerful brands are not doing enough to stop this.

Garment workers are resisting this exploitation. They have joined together in trade unions and workers’ associations to demand a living wage and to fight for their rights, often in the face of harsh repression.  

We support our partner garment-worker organisations around the world who are educating, organising and campaigning for change. We campaign to uplift their demands for accountability from UK clothing brands, and for globally binding agreements to protect workers throughout the supply chain.

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Garment workers protesting following Rana Plaza

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Partners

Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity (BCWS), Bangladesh

Founded by garment workers in 2001, Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity (BCWA) is a grassroots workers’ rights organisation advocating for improving working conditions and workers’ rights in Bangladesh.

BCWS runs labour and gender rights education programmes, and leadership and skills development training. It also offers legal aid and advisory services for workers and operates childcare and adult literacy centres. It has strong advocacy and campaign work, including Achieving Living Wage, Ending Gender-Based Violence and Lifting Worker Voice, and is an active member of a number of international campaign groups. BCWS played a key role in the campaign with international brands after the Rana Plaza disaster resulting on the Bangladesh Accord on Fire & Building Safety.

Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZ & GSEU), Sri Lanka

Free Trade Zones and their like have eroded rights for workers around the globe. In Sri Lanka, FTZ&GSEU is one of the largest trade unions representing workers in global supply chains (including garment workers) and for over 30 years has been at the forefront of battling for workers’ rights. We are privileged to have stood alongside FTZ&GSEU for over a decade as they have won increases in wages, signed collective bargaining agreements and in many other ways fought for the rights of workers at the bottom of the garment supply chain.

“This is a lesson for the employer to learn, that in the global economy it is not only profit and investments that travel across geographical boundaries, but also worker solidarity and organisational unity.” – Anton Marcus, Joint General Secretary

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