ITGLWF releases damning report on working conditions in sportswear supply chains

Published by rudy Date posted on May 23, 2011

The Global Union representing workers in the garment industry has today released a damning report on working conditions in Asian sportswear supply chains.

Says Patrick Itschert, General Secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF): “This report highlights how factories supplying multinational sports and garment brands, many of whom will be kitting out teams for the London 2012 Olympics, are routinely breaking every rule in the book when it comes to labour rights”.

The report focuses on conditions in 83 factories in Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia which together employ over 100,000 workers.

Through worker interviews and surveys researchers uncovered a litany of workers’ rights abuses, including the widespread suppression of the human right to join or form a trade union by means of harassment, bribes, the failure to renew short-term contracts and even factory closure. In Indonesia the majority of trade union officials reported that they were denied the basic facilities to enable them to adequately perform their duties. In Sri Lanka the Board of Investment promotes the use of Employee Councils as a form of worker representation, but the workers interviewed had no way of raising concerns at these Councils and unions expressed frustration that they are used to undermine true freedom of association.

Not one of the 83 factories surveyed was reported to pay a living wage, and workers in the Philippines explained that they were so destitute by the months’ end they had no choice but to pawn their ATM cards in exchange for loans. Some factories denied workers the legal minimum wage, while others linked the payment of basic wages to unachievable production targets which workers struggled desperately to meet.

Although international labour standards restrict overtime to twelve hours a week on a voluntary basis, workers told researchers they regularly work up to 100 hours of overtime per month. In many cases workers could not refuse overtime. In Sri Lanka workers who tried to leave at the end of their shift were denied permission to go and harassed by their supervisors.

Contract, agency and other precarious workers, who comprised 25% of the workforces covered, were found to be particularly likely to suffer exploitation. Although these workers were paid even less than their permanent counterparts they told researchers they feared they would lose their job if they complained.

Concludes Mr. Itschert: “The multinational companies sourcing from these factories need to live up to their rhetoric and ensure that every single workplace in their supply chains complies with national law and international labour standards”.

Key findings of the report (based on research carried out in the final quarter of 2010):

FOA

Freedom of Association is widely suppressed by means of harassment, bribes, the failure to renew short-term contracts and even factory closure.

Employees Councils are used by employers to undermining freedom of association in Sri Lanka.

Trade Union officials in Indonesia are targeted with huge workloads that are designed to prevent them from conducting union activities at lunch or after work. They face abuse if they fail to meet those targets.

In one factory in the Philippines the majority of the CAL workers unionised and notified the employer. The employer immediately began a sustained harassment of union members and subsequently decided to close the factory without any prior notice or payment of wages, severance payments and benefits due.

Contract and Agency Labour (CAL)

Up to 85% of employees in the factories in Indonesia and the Philippines are employed on short term contracts or on a temporary basis.

Systematic circumvention of the law through the use of 5 month contracts in the Philippines.

CAL workers are paid less, rarely receive legally mandated benefits, and have lower levels of unionisation for fear or non renewal of contracts.

Forced Overtime

Workers in all three countries are frequently forced to work in excess of 100 hours overtime per month.

In Sri Lanka workers at one factory workers are forced to work 130 hours overtime per month – the equivalent of 3 full weeks additional work each month.

At one factory in Indonesia researchers recorded that management had locked 40 workers that failed to meet production targets in a small room, without water or ventilation for 3 hours at time. This is reportedly a regular occurence at the factory.

At the same factory workers are forced to work up to 160 hours overtime per month.

Wages

Not one of the 83 factories surveyed pays a living wage.

30% of surveyed workers in the Philippines are paid below the minimum wage.

CAL workers earn as little as 33% of the wage of a permanent employee.

The wages of some workers in Sri Lanka are linked to productivity targets rather than the legally stipulated daily rates.

At two factories in Indonesia workers would have to work 15-20 years to secure a loyalty bonus to make up for non payment of minimum wage. This bonus has never been paid to a worker.

Gender

– On average 76% of the workforce is female
– In the Philippines women are more likely to be employed on short term and temporary contracts
– 4 factories in Sri Lanka forced prospective employees to take pregnancy tests before an offer of employment is made. –http://www.itglwf.org/lang/en/reportonworkingconditionsinsportswearsupplychains.html

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