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March, 08 2012 |  Download PDF |  Share

Chinese Sweatshop in Bangladesh

 

Executive Summary

 

The Chinese-owned Rosita Knitwears and Megha Textile (Megatex) factories in Bangladesh produce sweatshop sweaters for:

- Peek&Cloppenburg, Van Graaf - Germany
- British Home Stores /Arcadia Group - United Kingdom
- Coles / Wesfarmers - Australia
- Dressmann/Varner Group - Norway
- Celio - France
- de Bijenkorf - Netherlands
- Fynch-Hatton - Germany
- Smart Set / Reitmans - Canada (produced in 2010 and part of 2011)

  • Five thousand workers toil under harsh and illegal sweatshop conditions.
  • Workers paid a starvation wage of 16 to 22 cents an hour.
  • All overtime is forced-routine, seven-day, 84-hour work weeks.
  • Workers are beaten, threatened, stripped of their rights and imprisoned on false charges.  Hundreds of workers have been fired.
  • Chinese managers may be cheating the poor Bangladeshi workers of over $1 million a year-through underpayment of overtime hours alone.  (Not one single worker is paid the legal overtime premium.)
  • Corporal punishment is the norm:  Workers arriving late are forced to stand at attention, with their arms at their sides, for at least four hours.  They cannot talk, turn their head or go to the bathroom.
  • Management also cheats the workers of their legal vacation pay, which may total some $535,000 over the last three years.
  • Every labor law in Bangladesh is routinely, systematically and grossly violated.
  • All International Labour Organization internationally recognized worker rights standards-freedom of association, the right to form a union and bargain collectively, and freedom from forced labor-are also blatantly violated on a daily basis.
  • The international labels must immediately intervene to end the gross violations and restore the rule of law.
 

 

What Must Be Done

Peek&Cloppenburg /Van Graaf (Germany), British Home Stores /Arcadia Group (United Kingdom), Coles /Wesfarmers (Australia), Dressmann/Varner Group (Norway), Celio (France), de Bijenkorf (Netherlands)/Selfridges Group, Ltd. (Canada and UK), Fynch-Hatton (Germany) and Smart Set /Reitmans (Canada) must:

Move immediately to stop the beatings, imprisonment and firing of hundreds of workers at your supplier plants, Rosita Knitwears and Megha Textile (Megatex), in Bangladesh.

Five thousand workers are systematically and grossly cheated of their legal overtime pay, earned leave and other benefits.  Every labor law in Bangladesh, as well as the core International Labour Organization internationally recognized worker rights standards are routinely violated.

  • Do not cut and run from your suppliers, Rosita and Megatex, which would only further punish the workers, who have already suffered enough.
  • Rather, keep your production in the factories while you work with management to bring them into compliance with Bangladeshi labor law and core ILO worker rights standards.
  • The workers imprisoned under false charges must be released.
  • Immediately reinstate the hundreds of workers recently fired, with back wages.
  • Immediately pay the workers all their back wages and benefits, which may amount to well over a million dollars.
  • Stop the threats and violence against the outspoken labor leaders.
  • An agreed upon independent ombudsman acceptable to both the workers and the labels must be installed at the Rosita and Megatex plants to transition from the current illegal and violent conditions to one of respect for the law.
  • The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights proposes a joint meeting at the Rosita and Megatex factories to bring together all the stakeholders-the international labels, the workers, the local Ministry of Labor and the Chinese owners.

It is absolutely imperative that Rosita and Megatex management finally understand that they will be held accountable under the law.

 

 

Introduction

by Charles Kernaghan

 

How Is It....that there are so many corporate codes of conduct across Europe, Australia and Canada, that fail so miserably?

In the abstract, corporate codes of conduct read well and appear to guarantee so many worker rights-no forced labor; the right to organize and form a union; the right to bargain collectively; to be free of physical punishment and more.  Yet two Chinese-owned sweatshops in the North Bengal region of Bangladesh-Rosita and Megatex-make sweaters which are exported to Germany, Norway, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Latvia, Iceland, Australia, Canada and other countries.  And the Bangladeshi workers at these factories are routinely cheated of their wages, beaten, forced to work seven days a week, fired and imprisoned on false charges.

Nor are the sweaters cheap.  A "Marie Lund" sweater made in Bangladesh and purchased at a Peek&Cloppenburg store in Bremen, Germany sells for $66, while many Rosita and Megatex workers are paid just 16 cents an hour.

What workers across the developing world need are enforceable laws-to guarantee that all local labor laws and the core International Labour Organization (ILO) internationally recognized worker rights standards be guaranteed.  Corporate codes of conduct are far too often just words with no bite.

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones could help.  The Dressmann/Varner Apparel Group, with headquarters in Norway, has signed a deal with Mick Jagger and other members of the band to help design a new Rolling Stones clothing line for Dressmann.

The Bangladeshi workers would immediately appreciate the Rolling Stones lyrics to "Satisfaction"

"I can't get no, I can't get no, I can't get no satisfaction.
No satisfaction, no satisfaction, no satisfaction."

Two other points:

  • In 2011, "Bangladesh exports to Germany increased by 57 percent to $3.4 billion," the vast majority of which was garments. The Bangladeshi export garment factories know full well that, "branding Bangladesh positively in Germany and Europe is critical" to continued their export growth. Germany and the European Union countries are in a strong position to demand and secure an end to slave labor conditions in Bangladesh. (Daily Star, February 29, 2012)
  • The office of the World Bank in Bangladesh estimates that over half the companies and factories in Bangladesh pay bribes. (Daily Star, February 29, 2012)

The Chinese-owned Rosita and Megatex plants routinely and systematically violate every labor law in Bangladesh as well as the International Labor Organization's core internationally recognized worker rights standards.  Under Chinese management, the factories are operated like minimum security prisons.  Under such circumstances, the workers are trapped.

Nor have Peek&Cloppenburg and Van Graaf in Germany, British Home Stores owned by Acadia Group in the United Kingdom, Coles owned by Wesfarmers in Australia, Dressmann owned by Varner Group in Norway, Celio Club owned by Celio in France, de Bijenkorf (Netherlands) owned by Selfridges Group, Ltd. in Canada and UK, Fynch-Hatton in Germany or Smart Set owned by Reitmans in Canada attempted to conduct any serious investigation into the illegal and harsh sweatshop conditions at their supplier factories.

It would seem impossible for Chinese management, Bangladeshi labor authorities and the labels to have all been unaware that 5,000 workers have been systematically cheated of their legal overtime wages for the last three years!  And this is just the tip of the corrupt iceberg.

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