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Improvement of Labor Conditions in its Suppliers’ Factories in India, Cambodia being worked out by H&H

Improvement of Labor Conditions in its Suppliers’ Factories in India, Cambodia being worked out by H&H
Following revelations of violations in supplying garment factories in India and Cambodia in a study that was recently released, Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) said it was collaborating with trade unions, government as well as the U.N. to improve workers' conditions.
Problems such as low wages, fixed-term contracts, forced overtime and loss of job if pregnant were faced by workers stitching clothes for H&M in factories in Delhi and Phnom Penh, the study by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) found.

The Western high street retailer has been accused of failing on its commitments to clean up its supply chain by the AFWA, a coalition of trade unions and labor rights groups.
The fashion firm has been working actively to improve the lives of textile workers for many years, an official from H&M told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Saturday.
"The report raises important issues and we are dedicated to contribute to positive long-term development for the people working in the textile industry in our sourcing markets," said Thérèse Sundberg from H&M's press and communications department.

"The issues addressed in the report are industry wide problems. They are often difficult to address as an individual company and we firmly believe that collaboration is key," Sundberg added.
She said in an emailed statement to Reuters that solutions for the problems were being sought out by H&M in partnership with the International Labour Organization, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency as well as global and local trade unions.
Ever since the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh three years ago, when 1,136 garment workers were killed, the fashion industry has come under increasing pressure to improve factory conditions and workers' rights.
The study was based on surveys of 201 Cambodians workers from 12 factories and 50 Indian workers from five factories from August to October 2015.
The employers expected overtime in all the factories, the study found. While Indian workers reported working at least 9 hours to 17 hours a day, Cambodian workers reported they had to do two hours of overtime daily.
"Workers are routinely required to work until 2 a.m. in order to meet production targets — and then to report to work at 9 a.m.," it said, referring to workers in Indian factories.
"The financial imperative of working overtime due to the persistence of minimum wage standards below living wage standards can be viewed as a form of economic coercion that leads to involuntary or forced overtime," it added.
In 9 of the 12 Cambodian and all Indian factories surveyed, fixed-term contracts were being used, the study also found.
Deprivation of job security, pension, healthcare, seniority benefits and gratuity and arbitrary termination of workers is facilitated by these contracts. The study also found that in both the Indian and Cambodian factories, there was discrimination in maternity benefits.
The study noted that while Indians from all five factories said women were fired during their pregnancies, Cambodian workers from 11 of the 12 factories reported either witnessing or experiencing termination of employment during pregnancy.
"Permanent workers report being forced to take leave without pay for the period of their pregnancy. Contract, piece rate and casual workers reported that although most of the time they are reinstated in their jobs after pregnancy, they receive completely new contracts that cause them to lose seniority," it said.
H&M's Sundberg said that the company was committed to improving labor rights in its supplying factories and the solving all these issues was a long-term process which continues "step-by-step".

Christopher J. Mitchell

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