Dutch fashion retailers accused of paying 'starvation' wages
It is no secret that garment workers in apparel factories overseas work in what most Western citizens would deem appalling conditions. Extreme working hours, none-liveable wages, unsafe working conditions, intimidation from superiors are just a few of the poor working practices found in factories in southern India producing clothes for Dutch retailers C&A, Scotch & Soda, the Sting and Coolcat, according to 'Undressed/Dressed', the latest study from the Clean Clothes Campaign Dutch branch, Schone Kleren Campagne.
The study found that none of the 150 workers interviewed earned a liveable wage, with 53 workers earning less than the national minimum wage. 70 percent of the interviewees were living in debt. Garment workers were found to take home approximately 90 euros each month - a third of the living wage (256,33 euros) set by the Asia Floor Wage, which means most workers are unable to fully support their families.
The Clean Clothes Campaign partnered up with human rights organisation, the India Committee of the Netherlands, Asia Floor Wage Alliance and Cividep India, for the study, which gathered data from 10 garment factories in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The study, which occurred last year, includes interviews with 150 workers, as well as discussions with local NGOs and trade unions. The exact names of the factories mentioned in the study was not revealed, in order to protect the workers.
In addition, the study found that forced overtime was usually not paid out, with women, who make 80 percent of the garment work force in India, being more pressured to work extra for no pay and found to earn less than their male counterparts. A number of the factories surveyed also failed to offer insurance or sick leave, charged workers a fine if they were late and pressured new mothers to quit, as they work too slow.
"These women are working every day very hard for a pittance salary," said Tara Scully, marketing campaign coordinator at the Schone Kleren Campagne in a statement. All of the factories surveyed manufactured clothing for Dutch labels, including C&A, Coolcat, WE, G-Star, McGregor, Mexx, Scotch & Soda, Suitsupply and The Sting. However, the study notes the list of retailers is a coincidence, as they choose not to be transparent with their supply chain, and the results of the study are representative of the working conditions in general in India.
"We expect clothing companies to make a concrete plan to pay all workers a living wage and to ensure that their procurement prices makes it possible for suppliers to pay a living wage," commented Gerard Oonk, director of the India Committee. "The government must make firm agreements with all the clothing companies were this occurs and ensure that production facilities are made public." In order to help raise awareness and encourage both consumers to question were there clothes come from and retailers to increase worker wages, the Schone Kleren Campagne has launched an online petition.
The study comes not long after 60 apparel companies came together in the Hague to sign a covenant, pledging to work together to ensure the global fashion industry becomes an ethical, sustainable and fair industry. Brands who signed the covenant in July include C&A and G-Star.
Photos: Schone Kleren Campagne, Facebook