Some garment workshops in Paris disregard labour laws and flout rules regarding wages and safe working conditions, according to inspection company SGS.

The company said workshops in the city’s Le Sentier manufacturing district and in its suburbs – especially Aubervilliers – were operating “with little knowledge of local laws and low engagement with provision of satisfactory working conditions”.

Its assessment of the workshops, which do not directly supply major brands but are contracted by local agents, found instances of non-compliance such as undeclared work, excessive working hours, unpaid overtime, underground sub-contracting, unpaid annual leave, lack of social insurance and an unsafe working environment – including issues related to fire safety, workers’ safety and hygiene conditions.

A typical standard working week could reach 60 hours for an average wage of EUR1,050 (US$1,445), even though France’s minimum wage is EUR1,430.22 gross, and no account was taken of overtime.

In addition, it was common practice not to declare workers in order to avoid paying related taxes and social charges.

The workers, mostly from China and south-east Asia, were typically hired by owners unaware of the social requirements, and were “satisfied” with one week’s annual leave – unpaid – even though they were entitled to five.

Conditions in the workshops, SGS said, were “similar to those that brands and retailers fight against in emerging countries”.

There had been several fires in the Le Sentier/Aubervilliers workshops over the past decade, fuelled by the storage of inflammable raw materials and finished goods with insufficient fire equipment, and the cramped nature of the workshops.

And the report claimed that workshop owners would avoid labour inspection visits by closing their businesses and declaring new ones under different names at the same locations every two years or so.

Noting that similar breaches had also been recently observed in Italy’s Tuscany and Veneto regions, SGS said: “To compete with low-cost production countries, European workshops in the textile industry tend to disregard labour laws, resulting in poor conditions for migrant workers and a major brand image risk for companies.”