India: Study reports appalling living conditions of migrant garment workers, brands respond

The paper Unfree and Unfair gives evidence of appalling living conditions and restricted freedom of movement of young migrant garment workers in the Indian city of Bangalore. An increasing number of young migrant women workers are staying in factory-owned hostels with poor living conditions while their movement is severely restricted. The wages of the workers do not add up to a decent living wage. The hostels are run by garment factories in Bangalore that produce for leading multinational brands like C&A, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, Inditex and GAP.

(The press release & the paper have been updated considering statement issued by Gap Inc folllowing miscommunication between Gap & authors of the report.) 

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Report
7 February 2016

Unfree & Unfair - Poor Living Conditions and Restricted Freedom of Movement of Young Migrant Garment Workers in Bangalore

Author: India Committee of the Netherlands

...[T]he conditions under which...young migrant women work are appalling, sometimes even amounting to modern day slavery. Wages in the industry largely meet the official minimum wage standard, but are too low to add up to a decent living wage. Migrant women are often housed in hostels run by their companies and guarded by male security personnel at night. Their movement is severely restricted and they are herded to the factory and back to the hostel as a daily routine....Young workers hint at abuse but refuse to speak directly about it for fear of repercussions.

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Company response
2 February 2016

Gap Inc response to Unfree & Unfair report

Author: Gap Inc

We wanted to clarify that prior to the release of the report we did not receive any communication from the ICN regarding the report draft. Hence, it seems that there has been some miscommunication that Gap Inc. was mentioned in the report as not having responded or having taken any serious action on the issues highlighted. We have taken the report findings seriously and making all efforts to address the issues highlighted. Apart from our efforts with individual vendors, we are working closely with ETI and other brands to contribute to an industry-wide multi-stakeholder approach to effectively address these issues to be able to find long-term sustainable solutions.  

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Article
28 January 2016

Report raise concerns about living conditions in factories' hostels

Author: Marc Bain, Quartz

According to a new report by labor rights NGO India Committee of the Netherlands, conditions inside factory “hostels” can be terrible, involving forced confinement and constant surveillance...Among the worst of the findings in the report was that some Bengaluru factories kept women (the majority of garment workers) in hostels monitored by male security guards and severely restricted their movements. Most were allowed to leave for only two hours a week, usually on Sunday to buy groceries and other items, and only after registering with a guard. The rest of the time, women were expected to travel only to and from work, and guards recorded when they arrived at and left the hostels.

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Article
27 January 2016

Press Release

Author: India Committee of the Netherlands

‘Unfree and Unfair’ - young migrant garment workers in Bangalore, India - C&A, H&M, Inditex ('Zara'), GAP and PVH ('Tommy Hilfiger') declare to take serious action

Unfree and Unfair explains the conditions for migrant workers in four garment factories – K Mohan, Texport Industries, Arvind and Shahi Exports – located in Bangalore, the major hub for the garment industry in South India. Arvind Ltd. Exports produces garments for H&M and Shahi Exports is a long term supplier for C&A. The research is based on a mix of desk research and interviews with 110 workers, additional discussions with workers from other factories and interviews with members of the Garment Labour Union (GLU) in Bangalore...C&AH&M and Inditex announced to work together...[&individually]...toward a coordinated and collaborative approach to improve the living conditions of the migrant garment workers. PVH...explained that they asked the named suppliers to report back to them on their individual circumstances and that they were developing guidelines that are intended to address the issues raised in the paper...Due to miscommunication, the response of GAP was received after publication of the...paper. GAP extensively replied and stated that apart from efforts with individual vendors, they also closely work with ETI and other brands to contribute to an industry-wide multi-stakeholder forum comprising of industry, brands, local unions and other civil society organisations to effectively address the issue in Bengaluru and to find long-term sustainable solutions.

 

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