H&M seek solutions to improve workers’ conditions in India factories

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2016-05-23 14:00:00 – New Delhi

Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) Swedish fashion retailer has partnered with the International Labour Organization, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency as well as global and local trade unions, government as well as the UN to seek out solutions to improve workers’ conditions, after the study by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) found workers stitching clothes for H&M in factories in Delhi and Phnom Penh faced problems such as low wages, fixed-term contracts, forced overtime and loss of job if pregnant.

The AFWA, a coalition of trade unions and labour rights groups, accused the Western high street retailer of failing on its commitments to clean up its supply chain.

An official from H&M said on Saturday that the fashion firm has been working actively to improve the lives of textile workers for many years.

Thérèse Sundberg from H&M’s press and communications department said that the report raises important issues and they are dedicated to contribute to positive long-term development for the people working in the textile industry in their sourcing markets.

The issues addressed in the report are industry wide problems. They are often difficult to address as an individual company and they firmly believe that collaboration is key.

The study surveyed 50 Indian workers from five factories and 201 Cambodians workers from 12 factories from August to October 2015 found that overtime in all the factories was expected by employers. Cambodian workers reported they had to do two hours of overtime daily, while Indian workers reported working at least 9 hours to 17 hours a day.

Workers are routinely required to work until 2 a.m. in order to meet production targets — and then to report to work at 9 a.m., it said, referring to workers in Indian factories.

The financial imperative of working overtime due to the persistence of minimum wage standards below living wage standards can be viewed as a form of economic coercion that leads to involuntary or forced overtime, it added.

The study also found that fixed-term contracts were being used in 9 of the 12 Cambodian and all Indian factories surveyed. These contracts facilitate arbitrary termination and deprive workers of job security, pension, healthcare, seniority benefits and gratuity, say activists.

Workers also reported discrimination in maternity benefits in both the Indian and Cambodian factories, said the study.

H&M’s Sundberg said that responsible buyers is vital to the future development of countries such as Cambodia and India, and they want to continue to contribute to increased improvements in these markets. However, solving all issues was a long-term process which continues step-by-step and that the Swedish retailer was committed to improving labour rights in its supplying factories.

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