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Gap Finally Gets Serious at the Next Collections Sweatshop in Bangladesh: Worker Rights at Stake

February, 27 2014 Share

 

1. Gap is doing the right thing at Next Collections.

Women must have the legal right to maternity leave and benefits.

We know of at least five pregnant workers at Next Collections who were illegally denied their maternity leave and benefits, while being threatened with beatings, imprisonment and even death.  After the Institute exposed these serious violations, Gap dispatched auditors to investigate. Status to date:   

  • Ms. Taniya Begum:  Twenty-four year-old Taniya, months pregnant, was threatened by manager Elias Khan, who told her If I did not resign, someone would kill my husband and hide his body.”  (See the Institute’s report “Gap and Old Navy in Bangladesh,” October 2013, page 20.)

    Manager Elias Khan was recently fired and imprisoned.  Taniya received $2,382 in maternity benefits.
          

  • Mr. Mazharul Islam, Taniya’s husband was beaten with sticks and threatened with death all because his wife Taniya was asking for her paid maternity leave.

    Mazharul received $2,472 in compensation
    for his false imprisonment and torture.  (See page 24 of the report.)

  • Ms. Zesmin Khatun was six months pregnant when Next Collections management illegally terminated her, denying her maternity benefits, earned vacation leave and severance pay.  She had been routinely forced to work 100 hours a week.  (See page page 12 of the report.)

    Zesmin received $541 in benefits due her.

  • Ms. Morium Begum was forced to work 23-hour shifts!  The grueling hours, constant strain and pressure to reach excessive production goals all led to the death of my baby.  For me, that’s a loss I will never get over.”  (See page 15 of the report.)

    Morium received $412 in maternity benefits.

  • Ms. Rohima:  Ms. Rohima worked at Next Collections for the last 14 months as a senior sewing operator.  She became pregnant in November 2013. 

    “Mr. Mamun, the line chief, behaved harshly with me, grabbing my hand and trying to drag me out of the factory... Mamun then slapped me...  They pushed me out of the factory at 11:00 a.m. on January 2, 2014.”
      The production manager said to Ms. Rohima, I will f**k your mother and fourteen generations if you come anywhere near the factory gate again... I will call the police if you come to the factory again.”  (Rohima's full testimony)

    Ms. Rohima is waiting for her paid maternity leave and other benefits. Gap must intervene.
Rohima and her husband.


2. Abusive and corrupt managers have been fired

We acknowledge the positive steps initiated by Gap in removing the following corrupt managers and officers at Next Collections, who abused their power.

  • Mr. Debu, Executive Director   -Fired
  • Mr. Ayub, Security Officer       -Fired
  • Ms. Shamina, Welfare Officer  -Fired
  • Mr. Raju, Finishing Officer       -Fired
  • Mr. Elias Khan, Manager        -Fired and temporarily imprisoned
  • Mr. Liton, General Manager    - Sent on leave.

 

3. Illegally Terminated Workers Must Be Reinstated

Twenty-one workers were illegally terminated and cheated of $8,453 in back wages and benefits due them by management at Next Collections, That’s It Sportswear and Ha-Meem Group.  Gap must intervene to make these workers whole again.

The illegally fired workers must also have the option to immediately return to their workstations at Next Collections and the other Ha-Meem Group factories.  These workers did nothing wrong, except to obey the law. 

* The list and stories of the 21 workers (PDF)

 

4. Phony Pay Stubs Remain the Norm at Next Collections

Gap must intervene—all overtime must be voluntary and paid correctly.

At least as of the end of January 2014, Next Collections management is still issuing “phony pay stubs” to the workers, which show just two hours of overtime, six days a week.  However, in reality, workers are routinely required to work two to five hours of overtime each day, often including mandatory work on Fridays, which is supposed to be their weekly day off.  Such phony pay stubs must be done away with.

The Institute has received phony pay stubs that show workers toiling just 44 hours of overtime in the month of January 2014.  In fact—off the books—workers were still being forced to work 100, 110 or more hours of overtime each week.  The excessive and illegal overtime is paid in cash.

 

Gap has the power to improve factory conditions.

  • Gap Inc. is the third largest clothing retailer in the world—with $15.7 billion in sales.
  • Gap “owns” the Next Collections Limited factory, in that Gap’s Old Navy infant and children’s clothing accounts for approximately 75 percent of total production at Next Collection.

  • Bangladesh is the third largest garment exporter to the U.S. (by square meter equivalents) just behind China and Vietnam.  In 2013, Bangladesh shipped $4,947,540,000 in clothing to the U.S.—an increase of 10.68 percent over 2012.

 

5. A Modest Wage Increase for Bangladesh’s Workers

A new minimum wage was implemented in January 2014:

- Helpers:                            33 cents an hour

- Junior Operators:               37 cents an hour

- Sewing Operators:             40 cents an hour

- Senior Sewing Operators:   42 cents an hour

(Adjusted for inflation, real wages increased from 34.4 percent for senior sewing operators to 49.7 percent for helpers in comparison with the previous wage when it was instituted in 2010.  These wages are still well below subsistence levels.)

 

6. U.S. Government Suspends Bangladesh’s Trade Benefits under GSP, Workers Rights to Organize and Collectively Bargain Must Be Respected

In June 2013, the U.S. Government announced the suspension of Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). 

“Bangladesh has ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining, and is required to protect the rights contained in them.  Section 195 of the Bangladeshi Labour Act (2006, amended in 2013) outlaws numerous ‘unfair labour practices.’ For example, no employer shall ‘dismiss, discharge, remove from employment, or threaten to dismiss, discharge or remove from employment a worker, or injure or threaten to injure him in respect of his employment by reason that the worker is or proposes to become, or seeks to persuade any other person to become, a member or officer of a trade union.”

Source: “Bangladesh: Protect Garment Workers’ Right,” Human Rights Watch, February 6, 2014

It is critical that Gap, Verité and a Bangladeshi monitoring group called Sheva recognize the ILO Conventions  #87 and #98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining.

 

7. Next Collections executive manager organizes a “workers’ welfare committee” at Next Collections?

Mr. Masudur Rahman, the compliance officer for the giant Ha-Meem Group, which has 26 garment factories across Bangladesh, has been put in charge of organizing a “workers welfare committee” at the Next Collections factory.  Apparently Gap, Verité and Sheva will partner with Mr. Rahman to improve conditions.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) will certainly be watching to see if a “yellow union” is being formed.  The workers at Next Collections desperately need a real and independent voice so they can bargain collectively and improve factory conditions and wages.

 

8. Next Collections and Gap Must Adhere to Bangladeshi Law and Internationally Recognized Worker Rights Standards. 

By law, Bangladeshi workers are entitled to:

            - 10 days casual leave;

            - 14 days sick leave;

            - 18 days paid vacation;

            - 11 days festival leave.

Source: Bangladesh Labor Act of 2006, Sections 115-118, as published in “Dhar on Labor and industrial laws of Bangladesh,”  ReMisi Publishers, Dhaka, page 189

 

9. All Overtime Must Be Voluntary

Though there have been significant improvements at Next Collections, overtime remains mandatory and excessive.  By law, all overtime must be voluntary.

We asked workers at Next Collections about their preferences regarding working hours. They told us:

  • If both husband and wife work at Next Collections, their preference would be to work from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. with Fridays off.
  • Of single workers employed at Next Collections, 75 percent said they needed to toil from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., six days a week to survive.
  • Ninety-five percent of the workers want Fridays off.

In short, Next Collections workers are prepared to work long hours, but they have their limits.

 

Hours at Next Collections:  A Quick Snapshot

Wednesday, Jan 1, 2014: Seventy percent  of sewing operators worked from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., while 30 percent of sewers toiled until 10:00 p.m.  Twenty percent of finishing workers were let go at 7:00 p.m., while 80 percent were required to remain until 10:00 p.m.

Thursday, Jan 2, 2014: Eighty percent  of sewing operators worked from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., while 20 percent toiled to 10:00 p.m.  Thirty percent  of finishing workers were let go at 7:00 p.m., while 70 percent had to remain at work until 10:00 p.m.

Friday, Jan 3, 2014:  On their day off, 100 percent of sewing operators were required to work until 5:30 p.m., while finishing workers were kept from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan 4, 2014:  Seventy percent  of sewing operators were let go at 5:00 p.m., while 30 percent  had to remain working until 7:00 p.m.  The entire finishing section was kept from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Sunday, Jan 5, 2014General Election Day.  All factories were closed.

Monday, Jan 6, 2014:  Seventy percent  of sewers worked from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., while 30 percent were kept to 10:00 p.m.  Ten percent of finishing section workers were released at 7:00 p.m., while 90 percent were required to remain until 10:00 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan 7, 2014:  Eighty percent of sewing operators left at 7:00 p.m., while 20 percent were kept to 10:00 p.m.  Five percent of finishing section workers were released at 7:00 p.m., while 95 percent were required to remain working until 10:00 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan 8, 2014:  Eighty-five percent of sewers remained working until 7:00 p.m., while the other 15 percent were kept to 10:00 p.m.  All finishers remained until 10:00 p.m.

Thursday, Jan 9, 2014:  All departments were shut down at 7:00 p.m. since this was the monthly pay day.

Friday, Jan 10, 2014:  On the supposed weekly holiday, sewing and finishing section workers were required to toil from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

 

Monday, Jan 20, 2014:        Workers are kept until 1:00 a.m.!

Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014Workers are kept until 3:00 a.m.!

Thursday, Jan 23, 2014Workers are kept until 1:00 a.m.!

Saturday, Jan 25, 2014Workers are kept until 5:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. the following day, for a 27-hour shift!

* Along with the grueling, excessive overtime hours, workers report being abused and shouted at.

 

 

 

 

 

Call upon Gap to reinstate 21 illegally fired workers. Write Gap now!

 

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