Retailers Zeeman, WE Fashion linked to Indian factories abusing workers: Report
Dutch clothing retail chains Zeeman and WE Fashion have done business with Indian spinning mills where the rights of workers were heavily violated. Workers there were largely lured with false wage promises, isolated from the outside world and forced to work overtime under threats, Volkskrant reported.
This has emerged from the research of two organizations that spoke to more than 700 employees at 29 weaving mills in Tamil Nadu, a state in South India. In addition to serious human and workers rights violations, cases of child labor were also recorded.
Zeeman stopped its collaboration in Tamil Nadu, according to CSR manager Arnoud van Vliet. Following the report, WE Fashion informed the researchers that it would further investigate its ties to the mills.
Production supply chains of at least eight other Western brands were tied to the businesses, buthe actual number of brands and textile companies that purchase fabrics and yarns from the region is likely higher, the newspaper suggested.
Volkskrant noted that most of the clothing companies mentioned in the investigation are also under fire for not renewing the Bangladesh Accord. That agreement, which officially expires on Monday, was concluded in 2013 after more than eleven hundred workers died in the collapse of the sewing workshop Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Two hundred European brands signed the groundbreaking deal calling for factory inspections, improving unsafe workplaces and training garment workers on safety and health procedures. Since then, 38,000 safety inspections have been carried out in more than 1,600 factories. Two Western companies also faced major fines as a result.
Trade unions and aid organizations want the agreement extended in duration and to cover Pakistan and India. However, far fewer brands are willing to approve its extension prior to the May 31 deadline, Volkskrant stated.
Zeeman is one of the few European companies that has explicitly expressed support of an extension to the original agreement. 'We have been a member of the Bangladesh Accord since day one and have therefore seen fantastic results over the past eight years,' said Van Vliet.
Other Dutch companies, including WE Fashion, have not indicated such intentions for the time being.