H&M is launching an independent third-party investigation regarding the alleged incidents of harassment and death of a female worker who was working in an apparel factory Natchi Apparel, Kaithian Kottai, Tamil Nadu.
Apparel Resources had reported about this case on 9 January (Garment worker raped and murdered by supervisor) and now The Guardian has also raised the issue.
It is pertinent to mention here that Natchi Apparel is owned by Tirupur-based well respected export house Eastman Exports who is known for its many CSR and sustainable initiatives.
The company is working with H&M and many global brands.
As per The Guardian, an H&M spokesperson sent condolences to the family and said, “The trade unions involved have explicitly asked us not to terminate the business relationship with the supplier in question, and instead actively work to strengthen the workplace safety. We are therefore in close contact with the supplier and have set some immediate and urgent actions that we expect them to complete in order to demonstrate how they can guarantee a workplace free from harassment.”
It said any future relationship with Eastman Exports would depend on the outcome of an independent third-party investigation.
H&M has zero tolerance for gender-based violence in its supply chains and it is continuously working to improve worker safety in its suppliers’ factories in Tamil Nadu. However, various NGOs have disagreed on this.
In its response to Apparel Resources, Eastman Exports says that since the investigation is still in the judiciary process, we do not want to comment on the said incident.
“We are committed to discuss the terms of settlement or relief with the family of the deceased or anyone representing the family of the deceased, which could include NGOs, Unions, civil society organisations,” said a top official of the company on the request of anonymity.
Recently the company set up a Hotline managed by an independent third party for employees to call for registering their complaints.
It is also pertinent to mention here that SAVE, a reputed local NGO, is part of this factory’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for addressing the sexual harassment complaints. As per factory sources, in this particular case ICC did not receive any complaints from the deceased.
The incident took place almost 70 kilometres away from the factory, and both (deceased worker and accused) were working in different shifts and units.
SAVE has investigated the matter and submitted its report and says that functionality needs to be strengthened by increasing the number of ICC, covering each block and each shift separately, considering the total number of workforce.