Investigation finds ‘cruel exploitation’ of Bangladeshi factory workers



A BBC Panorama investigation has revealed that garment factory workers in Bangladesh are being forced to work for 19 hours a day.

The programme, which aired at 8:30pm on Monday, found that workers at a factory that supplies clothing to Lidl started work at 7am, and were locked inside the factory until 2:30am the following day. Other factories, supplying to GAP and H&M among others, had similar issues.

A spokesperson from H&M told Blue & Green Tomorrow that their audit process works to minimise these risks, but campaigners say that this is not enough.

Kalpona Akter, from the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, said, “The factory owners, they keep two different books.  So one they show to the buyers, the other they show to the worker. These retailers’ so-called audits really don’t work.”

Meanwhile, John Hilary, executive director at the charity War on Want said, “Western brands and retailers know that the low cost of clothes is only made possible by disregarding standards on safety, pay and working hours.

 “What will it take for our high street retailers to accept their responsibility towards the people who ultimately make them their profits?”

According to the BBC, the investigation began after health and safety concerns were raised in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse back in April, which claimed the lives of more than 1,100 factory workers.

Membership organisation Sedex, which promotes collaboration in the supply chain to minimise risk, recently launched a film series addressing issues within a multi-tiered supply chain.

Mark Robertson, head of communication at Sedex said, “Many of the challenges highlighted here, such as worker overtime and health and safety issues, are also repeated at other sites in different sectors and countries around the world.”

He added, “We need joined-up, collaborative approaches which enable companies to focus resources and to tackle issues at scale across their multi-tiered supply chains. There are lots of examples of buyers and suppliers working together to tackle these issues. We urge others to follow their example.”

Further reading:

Compensate Bangladesh factory collapse victims, demand campaigners

Fashion giants criticised over Bangladesh factory ‘snub’

UK retail chains must lift sweatshop workers out of poverty, says union leader

Talks ‘ongoing’ with Topshop boss Sir Philip Green over Bangladesh safety pledge

UK to help improve working conditions in Bangladesh


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