India’s clothing workers: ‘They slap us and call us dogs and donkeys’

Human rights tribunal hears allegations of abuse and low pay against clothing companies that supply high street stores

Guardian, By Gethin Chamberlain

Workers making clothes that end up in the stores of the biggest names on the British high street have testified to a shocking regime of abuse, threats and poverty pay. Many workers in Indian factories earn so little that an entire month’s wages would not buy a single item they produce.

Physical and verbal abuse is rife, while female workers who fail to meet impossible targets say they are berated, called “dogs and donkeys”, and told to “go and die”. Many workers who toil long hours in an attempt to support their families on poverty wages claim they are cheated out of their dues by their employers.

The allegations, which will be of concern to household names including Gap, H&M, Next and Walmart, were made at a human rights tribunal in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. The “national people’s tribunal for living wages and decent working conditions for garment workers” was convened to investigate widespread human rights abuses in the garment industry.

Sakamma, a 42-year-old mother-of-two working for Gap supplier Texport in Bengaluru, told the tribunal she earned just 22p an hour and that when she finished at the factory she had to work as a domestic help to top up her wages.

“It hurts us to be paid so little. I have to do this and they sell one piece of clothing for more than I get paid in a month,” she said. “We cannot eat nutritious food. We don’t have a good life, we live in pain for the rest of our life and die in pain.

“Low wages is the main reason. How much burden can a woman take? Husband, children, house and factory work – can we manage all these with such a meagre salary? So we are caught up in the debt trap. Is there no solution for our problem?”

Like many of the women giving evidence, she said workers faced abuse if they failed to meet quotas. “The targets are too high. They want 150 pieces an hour. When we can’t meet the targets, the abuse starts. There is too much pressure; it is like torture. We can’t take breaks or drink water or go to the toilet. The supervisors are on our backs all the time,” she said. “They call us donkey, owl [a creature associated with evil], dog and insult us … make us stand in front of everyone, tell us to go and die.”

According to Indian government figures, the national textile industry is worth £35bn a year and employs 35 million people. Garment exports are worth £21bn. But human rights campaigners accuse international brands of subcontracting to firms paying poverty wages to the people who make their clothes.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • This is pure craziness. Western women are controlled by the industrial fashion complex and are literally buried under the weight of their own wardrobe. Women are criticized, ridiculed, and insulted by the fashion police for not wearing the kind of outfit forced on them by major fashion houses.

    And who says women MUST wear a different outfit every day?

    THE EXCESS … THE PRESSURE is killing everyone.

    Globe and Mail writer, Courtney Shea, decided to wear the same outfit for one week. Here she describes her experience.

    • Fashion, Fashion, Fashion

      1 Wardrobe anxiety for western women
      2 Abuse of women in underdeveloped countries
      3 Abuse and possible extinction of animals.

      Europe’s snakeskin fashions threaten pythons

      AFP, November 27

      Europe’s love of snakeskin fashion items could threaten the very survival of pythons, according to a report published Tuesday.

      Nearly a half million python skins are exported each year — almost exclusively for use in European fashion — in a massive market with a legal value of more than $1.0 billion (771 million euros), according to the study “Trade in South-East Asian Python Skins.”

      Many of the skins end up as designer handbags, belts, wallets and other accessories. Italy, Germany and France are the biggest importers, while most of the skins come from Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

      More at the link

  • Bangladesh factory where 110 died in fire was repeatedly cited by safety auditors

    Globe and Mail, by Stephanie Nolan and Pinaki Roy

    After independence in 1971, Bangladesh initially followed a planned-economy socialist model, but quickly experienced crippling shortages. Over the next decade, the government moved to a more capitalist-oriented model, and the garment industry emerged alongside jute processing as a cornerstone of manufacturing. From the 1980s, factory owners pursued a “feminization” policy – employing a mostly female workforce (as much as 90 per cent women), ostensibly because the women had “nimble fingers” and skill in sewing. In fact, labour analysts say, factories preferred women because they were perceived to be more docile and less likely to agitate around working conditions.

    More at the link

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