COVID-19

COVID-19 brings challenges for business and human rights. In general, migrant workers are vulnerable. They are trapped abroad and reception is often not well organised. Examples are known in The Netherlands in which shelter is part of temporary contracts. If these contracts are dissolved, labour migrants are homeless. In Qatar, thousands of labour migrants are trapped in densely populated and closed camps. 

What can companies do? Business & Human Rights has developed a due diligence framework for companies focused on the proper treatment of employees in this crisis. 

Below you will find an overview per sector which CSR risks (among others) occur in international trade chains. Read more about CSR risks in supply chains on this Business & Human Rights page

AGRICULTURE 

The COVID-19 crisis affects agriculture. The main problems are transport to and from the fields, accommodation for the agricultural workers who do not have the right space and a shortage of protective equipment on the fields. 

  • May 13 - According to experts, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of child labour in the cocoa sector in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. This is because schools are closed and there is more economic pressure on families due to the closure of certain sectors. 
  • Read more here on how COVID-19 affects agriculture.
INDUSTRY 

Within factories, it is often difficult to create distance between workers and too few protective equipment is present, so the risk of contamination remains. In the manufacture of protective equipment, more violations of working conditions are reported. When factories are closed, there is often no continued payment of workers.  

  • May 6 - During the COVID-19 crisis, cargo ship crews are not allowed off board. Contracts are renewed. This leads to increased work pressure and uncertainty about when they will disembark tomorrow. This causes more psychological problems among the crew of the ships.
  • Read more here about how COVID-19 affects the industry.  
TEXTILE 

COVID-19 causes many problems in the textile sector. Due to cancelled orders, employees are sent home without payment. Those who still have to work do so in a poorly protected environment.   

  • May 04 - The decline in retail sales has led to a sharp drop in demand and price for cotton. While most Fairtrade cotton has been harvested, all ginning units and spinning mills are closed, which means that there is a financial risk for farmers if the market is opened at a lower price. It is expected that the preparation of the land and the sowing of cotton for the next season will be affected by delays in seed distribution.
  • Read more here about how COVID-19 affects the textile sector.
OIL/MINING

In the oil/mining sector, COVID-19 leads to difficulties. In order to prevent contamination, workers are expected to stay longer around the mines/platforms, while the conditions and facilities for this are often not optimal. 

  • May 3 - Continuation of mining activities in Peru during the outbreak of COVID-19 leads to unrest among local residents. They fear that contamination among miners will eventually reach them. This has led to a collision between local residents and mine workers.  
  • Read more here on how COVID-19 affects the oil/mining industry.
SERVICE SECTOR 

Several employee groups have low social security: they often do not have paid sick leave and are paid per shift. These people also come into contact with others more quickly, which increases the risk of infection.  

  • March 31 - Delivery couriers affected by COVID-19 in the UK receive little or no statutory sick pay, which could encourage workers to continue working in order to survive financially. This endangers the safety and health of workers.
  • Read more here on how COVID-19 affects the service sector.