INDIA: Tribunal to probe garment pay and conditions
A panel of international and local judges is holding a trial-like event this week in Bangalore - one of India's main garment production centres - in a bid to draw attention to pay and working conditions in the country's clothing sector.
The 'National People's Tribunal on the Right to a Living Wage' will run along the same lines as a similar hearing held in Cambodia earlier this year and in Sri Lanka in 2011.
International clothing brands and retailers including H&M, along with supplier factory owners, workers, government and industry representatives are taking part in the four-day hearing, which begins on Thursday (22 November).
But US-based fashion retailer Gap Inc has been criticised for refusing to attend the tribunal or present evidence - despite the fact that a number of human rights abuse cases are due to be brought to the tribunal by workers from its factories.
Organisers say wages below poverty levels are an ongoing problem in the Indian garment industry, which exports EUR7.28bn (US$9.3m) worth 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.
A series of regional hearings has already gathered evidence from thousands of garment workers from across India on issues such as illegal compulsory overtime, inhuman productivity measures, wage theft, systematic denial of social security payments, sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and active suppression of the right to freedom of association.
The panel of judges from three continents has been organised by the International Asia Floor Wage Alliance in collaboration with Indian garment workers' trade unions and workers' rights groups.
"This is a multi-stakeholder problem that requires everyone to work towards the solutions," said Anannya Bhattacharjee, president of the Allied Workers Union in North India.
While Ashim Roy, general secretary of India's New Trade Union Initiative, added: "The evidence brought to the tribunal will demonstrate once and for all that a collective effort is needed now to work towards paying the Asia Floor wage to workers in India."
International workers' rights group the Clean Clothes Campaign will also participate in the tribunal and will urge governments and global buyers sourcing from India to take the findings very seriously.
"With this tribunal we hope to see some real commitment from big brands buying from India to start addressing the real needs of their workers - a living wage should be at the root of these policies," said Jeroen Merk, Clean Clothes Campaign international secretariat.
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