Report calls for greater transparency from garment brands on tackling bonded labour in South India suppliers

Small Steps Big Challenegs, Photo Credit FNV Mondiaal & ICN

A report published by FNV Mondiaal (international department of Dutch trade union confederation) and the India Committee of the Netherlands says that most of the Dutch and international companies importing garments from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu refuse to be transparent about if and how they tackle bonded labour at their suppliers. An estimated 100,000 young children and teenage girls are victims of 'bonded labour' or 'modern slavery'. These girls - mostly Dalit ('outcaste') - live in hostels, with little freedom of movement, underpaid for long working-days and working under unhealthy conditions. The report discusses the current situation in Tamil Nadu, the limited improvements after previous reports and the responses of 21 Dutch and international garment brands on the question of what they do to combat the abuses. It also discusses the activities of various joint initiatives by companies and other organizations. Of the 21 garment companies approached by the authors, only 8 responded. These were HEMA (Dutch), Impala Loft (Germany), O'Neill Europe, Migros (Switzerland) PVH/Tommy Hilfiger Europe, Scotch and Soda (Dutch), Van den Broek (Dutch) and Zeeman (Dutch). Companies that were contacted but did not respond to authors are Abercombie & Fitch (USA), Carodel (Belgium), Crew Clothing (UK), IKEA NL, LPP (Poland), Kiddo Fashion (Dutch), Teidem (Dutch), Sorbo Fashion (Dutch), TDP Textiles (UK), Tumble ‘N Dry (Dutch)and Walmart (USA).

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Abercombie & Fitch (USA), Carodel (Belgium), Crew Clothing (UK), IKEA NL, LPP (Poland), Kiddo Fashion (Dutch), Teidem (Dutch), Sorbo Fashion (Dutch), TDP Textiles (UK), Tumble ‘N Dry (Dutch)and Walmart (USA) to respond. Ikea, LPP & Sorbo Fashion responded (included here).  We will update this page with any further company responses. 

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All components of this story

Company response
29 July 2014

IKEA response

IKEA does not accept forced and bounded labor and...work actively to prevent it...work closely with suppliers to ensure that all..products are produced under good working and environmental conditions. All...suppliers must meet our IWAY code of conduct, which states that there should be No child labour...No forced or bonded labour...No discrimination...Freedom of association...At least minimum wages and overtime compensation...A safe and healthy work environment, preventing pollution to air, ground and water and work to reduce energy consumption 

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Company response
29 July 2014

LPP Response

Author: LPP

…[C]ompany does not own any production facilities…clothes are sewn in factories throughout Europe and Asia, which are also used by other global apparel brands. Some of our products are manufactured in Poland.Only 5.5 percent of LPP products are manufactured in India. For the most part, these are so-called licensed products (such as our Disney-branded merchandise)…LPP buyers are required to have each factory sign our Code of Conduct. We are currently working on updating and expanding this document, which establishes a set of production and workplace safety standards our sub-contractors must follow at the manufacturing facilities.

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Item
29 July 2014

Press Release: ‘Small Steps - Big Challenges’ in Tamil Nadu’s textile industry: Garment brands not transparent on tackling bonded labour in India

Author: FNV Mondiaal & Indian Committee of the Netherlands

…[R]eport…says that most of the Dutch and international companies importing garments from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu refuse to be transparent about if and how they tackle bonded labour at their suppliers….Of the 21 garment companies approached only 8 have responded…Abuses in spinning mills and garment factories
Indian newspapers regularly report on abuses in Indian spinning mills and garment factories…forced overtime, deprivation of proper food and bad treatment by the mill management were common working conditions in the mills…Some improvements
…both in India and internationally…have been put in place at most of the previously investigated major suppliers. These suppliers are Eastman Exports Global Clothing, K.P.R. Mill and SSM India. 

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Company response
29 July 2014

Sorbo Fashion Response

Author: Sorbo Fashion

Sorbo Fashion works with BSCI approved sources and takes its responsibility in social compliancy.  Besides that the sourcing in India is limited and Sorbo Fashion does not recognizes itself as one of the top 20 textile companies sourcing in India

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Report
29 July 2014

"Small Steps - Big Challenges" - Update on (tackling) exploitation of girls and young women in the garment industry of South India

Author: FNV Mondiaal & Indian Committee of the Netherlands

This publication…pays particular attention to employment schemes referred to under the name…Sumangali…a practice whereby young, unmarried, predominantly Dalit women are employed in textile and garment factories for years to enable their families to pay for their daughter’s dowry. In reality this scheme entails a system of bonded labour, in which labourers are tied to their employers through postponed payments of withheld wages….ICN and FNV Mondiaal asked twenty-one major Netherlands-based and international buyers about their position, procedures and measures to ban bonded labour and related labour violations in their supply chains.

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Company non-response
29 July 2014

Crew Clothing did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Crew Clothing to respond to allegations contained in the report.  Crew Clothing did not respond.