Workers are facing appalling labour conditions that amount to forced labour in the export-oriented Southern Indian textile industry, a study has found.
The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) discovered women and girls who work in the spinning mills of Tamil Nadu, some as young as 15, are forced to work long hours for low wages. They live in very basic company-run hostels and are hardly ever allowed to leave the company compound.
The spinning mills investigated have Western companies including C&A, Mothercare, HanesBrands, Sainsbury’s and Primark and customers, as well as firms in Bangladesh.
Flawed Fabrics, a new report from SOMO and ICN, presents the findings of research at five spinning mills in Tamil Nadu. Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 150 workers, combined with an analysis of corporate information and export data regarding the companies involved.
The teenage girls and young women told researchers how they had been lured from their home villages with promises of decent jobs and good pay. Instead they found themselves working in appalling conditions that the report says amount to modern day slavery and the worst forms of child labour.
SOMO researcher Martje Theuws said: “Business efforts are failing to address labour rights violations effectively. Corporate auditing is not geared towards detecting forced labour and other major labour rights infringements. Moreover, there is a near complete lack of supply chain transparency. Local trade unions and labour groups are consistently ignored.”
SOMO and ICN are calling on “all corporate actors along the global garment supply chain – from spinning mills to fashion brands – to be more transparent about their supplier base. They have to be more ambitious in detecting and addressing human rights violations by allowing trade unions and civil society organisations to play their specific roles.”