Another weekend away, a retreat this time. I went up to Northumberland and have to confess that there was a point when I was wishing that I could wear more layers!
At least the cold weather is a good reminder of why I am taking part in this 6 items challenge.
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.
Sakamma, a 42-year-old mother-of-two working for Gap supplier Texport in Bengaluru, told a 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.
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.”
The Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), which organised the tribunal, wants companies to pay a minimum living wage of 12,096 rupees (£138) a month, equivalent to 58p an hour. But the tribunal heard that a factory supplying Gap and Next paid as little as 26p an hour.
Workers who failed to meet targets were verbally and physically abused, he said. “They ….. push us around and some people get slapped by supervisors and managers,” he said. “I feel the companies look at the workers like enemies.”
Anannya Bhattacharjee, international co-ordinator for the AFWA, told the tribunal that despite the recession the garment industry continued to bring in profits. She said workers continued to suffer “shocking, inhuman conditions” and were being paid poverty wages. “Nothing can be more important than a decent living wage for workers working day and night to clothe the world.”
This exploitation is unacceptable and Labour behind the Label are campaigning with their partners for the garment worker’s rights. Could you give a small donation to support their work? If you can help, please go to my fundraising page http://www.everydayhero.co.uk/julie_morton. Thank you to everyone who has already donated and a big thank you for reading this.