A recent report by the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) bore testimony to the appalling condition of garment workers in Bengaluru, leading to several global apparel brands being compelled to working on improving the living and working conditions of these workers.
Some of the major brands that have committed to ensuring decent wages and freedom of movement are H&M, Inditex, C&A and PVH. Gap Inc that also sources apparel from Bengaluru, , however, did not respond to the report, titled, Unfree and Unfair by ICN, which was sent to all the companies last November, said a statement released by the Dutch non-governmental group recently.
The ICN report stated that the hostels run by the Bengaluru factories lacked basic amenities like beds and clean water, and that workers earned between 95 euros ($104) and 115 euros per month, which is just above the official minimum wage of 93 euros to 103 euros.
An estimated 1,200 garment factories operate in and around the city, attracting people from different parts of the country seeking better employment opportunities.
According to the report which was based on interviews with 110 migrant workers at four garment factories in the city, many of the workers are women from poor backgrounds who do not know the local language and are unaware of their rights; making them more vulnerable to exploitation.
Raphel Jose, vice-president of supply-chain sustainability at the Centre for Responsible Business in Bengaluru said, “Global companies have a responsibility to ensure better conditions for the workers, as they are directly benefiting from their labour,” This is an area in which brands can come together and collaborate with a local agency and pressurise the industry to improve conditions.”
In recent times, the working conditions of garment workers in South Asia have come under the scanner owing to reports of low wages and terrible living conditions of the workers. To add to that, the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh that killed 1,135 workers employed by suppliers to Western retailers has also brought the issue into the limelight.
ICN said that Dutch clothing retailer C&A, Swedish retailer H&M and Spain’s Inditex, which owns the Zara and Massimo Dutti brands, will work together and liaise with local trade unions to provide training and address workers’ grievances. Inditex will evaluate the state of workers at its suppliers and factories across India, while PVH Corp, which owns brands including Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, is developing new guidelines for its suppliers.