INDIA: Human rights trial hears garment worker woes
Around 250 Indian garment workers from Bangalore, Gurgaon and Tirupur have attended a tribunal event being held this week to talk about poverty pay, harassment and abuse in factories that make clothes for Western brands and retailers.
The trial-like 'National People's Tribunal on the Right to a Living Wage' will see evidence presented by workers surveyed by a panel of international judges.
International brands including H&M and Adidas, as well as government representatives, are also giving evidence at the tribunal which started yesterday (22 November).
Workers have spoken about sexual harassment, verbal abuse, low wages and the endemic problems around overtime and the right to join a union.
"We agree that wages should be enough to live on," said Tobias Fischer, relations sustainability manager for H&M. "We are working with our suppliers to ensure compliance on this."
The retailer is also reported to have acknowledged that overtime is a problem in its supply chain with a significant proportion of suppliers involved in non-payment of overtime wages.
Campaigners say wages below poverty levels are an on-going problem in the Indian garment industry, which exports EUR7284m of clothing for European consumers each year.
The monthly minimum wage for garment workers in Bangalore is INR4472 (US$81), which is said to be only 43% of a living wage enough to support a family.
Experts from law and academic backgrounds are today set to give evidence about economic and industry barriers to change - with the judges due to present a verdict on Sunday with recommendations for industry stakeholders to address the issues raised.
The People's Tribunal in India is the third of its kind to be held on issues in the garment industry. The first took place in Sri Lanka in 2011 and the second in Cambodia earlier this year.
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