WASHINGTON — A global union federation representing garment industry workers released a report Wednesday night highlighting alleged widespread workers’ rights violations in factories that make sportswear and activewear for 59 major brands and retailers and collectively employ 100,000 workers in three countries.
This story first appeared in the April 22, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation, a global union federation based in Belgium, said it turned up the rampant violations through surveys conducted by its affiliate organizations in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines in the fourth quarter of 2010.
The report did not name the factories or level specific allegations at any of the 59 retailers and brands that were listed in an annex.
Researchers in the three countries collectively interviewed 100,000 workers at 83 factories and said they found a “litany” of workers’ rights abuses with the most systematic violation they said being “widespread suppression of the human right to join or form a trade union by means of harassment, bribes, the failure to renew short-term contracts and even factory closure.”
The report also noted that none of the 83 factories provide a “living wage” to workers and many were forced to work up to 100 hours of overtime a month, and were not paid the basic minimum wage.
Workers in some of the 49 garment factories surveyed in the Philippines said they were “destitute” at the end of every month and some were forced to pawn their ATM cards for loans, the report said.
In the most extreme cases, workers at one factory in Sri Lanka said they were forced to work 130 hours overtime, or three weeks’ worth of additional work, each month. In a factory in Indonesia, workers said management locked 40 people in an unventilated room for three hours at a time because they failed to meet production targets.
Temporary contract workers, comprising about 25 percent of the workforce covered, were the most likely to be exploited and were paid even less than full-time workers, according to the report.
“The multinational companies sourcing from these factories need to live up to their rhetoric and ensure that every single workplace in their supply chains complies with the national law and international labor standards,” said Patrick Itschert, general secretary at the ITGLWF.
Ashling Seely, policy assistant to Itschert, said the ITGLWF held a stakeholders’ meeting in Sri Lanka at the end of March with a handful of the companies named in the report to discuss the findings and find ways to resolve the problems. She said the involved parties agreed to meet again in three months for further discussions.
Seely said the ITGLWF did not name the factories or link them to specific companies because in the past, companies have pulled out of factories that were cited in reports.