(Repeating additional customers)
By Naimul Karim
DHAKA, June 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A British shopping app raises money to help garment workers who are struggling in Bangladesh by selling clothes thrown away by global fashion brands when the coronavirus crisis destroys their sales.
Under the Lost Stock Mallzee initiative, a clothing box – with the brand label removed – sells for 35 pounds ($ 44), with 37% of the retail price donated to charities that supply food and other items for clothing workers affected by layoffs and wages which is not paid.
“We have industry contacts to be in a perfect position to connect consumers with canceled stocks that support garment workers and help avoid clothing that ends up in landfill,” said Melanie Gray, a spokesman for Edinburgh-based Mallzee.
Labor advocates in Bangladesh welcomed Mallzee’s efforts but expressed concern that such an initiative could leave big brands free of canceled mass orders that put the livelihoods of thousands of workers at risk.
“I appreciate this. But why should our workers live with charity?” Kalpona Akter, founder of the Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Center, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“It will be very appreciated if they (Mallzee) can press the brand and ensure that they pay.”
Millions of Bangladeshi households depend on the garment sector, which has been hit by a pandemic. Exports fell 84% in the first half of April because orders worth $ 3 billion were canceled or suspended, according to factory owners.
As the industry staggered in the blows, Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh garment producers and exporters association, said a scheme like Lost Stock was “a must.”
Last week, Bangladeshi manufacturers said they would blacklist Western fashion brands that “exploit” them by failing to pay their bills due to the coronavirus crisis, days after threatening to sue major British retailers for their debts.
Several producers have struggled to wipe out employee contributions in the past two months due to cancellations, and hundreds of unpaid garment workers protested on the streets last month.
Since launching the program two weeks ago, Mallzee has sold 80,000 boxes of clothing, far exceeding its goal of selling 10,000, Gray said.
He said the company had raised enough funds to supply food packages and sanitation products to help 80,000 garment workers and their families.
Mallzee works in partnership with Sajida Foundation, a Bangladeshi NGO, which plans to start distributing aid packages next month.
“We are in the process of making a list of garment workers who need help. This can support them for two months, “said Muhymin Chowdhury, a spokesman for the Sajida Foundation.
The researchers said charity efforts would not be enough to support workers in the long run, urging the government to work with factory owners to create a social safety net for garment industry employees. (Reporting by Naimul Karim @ Naimonthefield; Editing by Helen Popper. Please give credit to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Thomson Reuters charity, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights and LGBT +, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http: //news.trust.org)