An Indian factory responsible for making clothes for some of the biggest names in fashion like H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Columbia Sportswear and Benetton, stands accused of committing serious abuses against its workers. What’s worse is that an international watchdog group has alleged that these big brands have largely ignored these reports of violence.
Quartz quotes the report as saying that the managers at a Bangalore factory owned by Shahi Exports shut down attempts by the workers to unionise and also stifled an increase in their wages, all through late-March to mid-April. Shahi Exports claims to be India’s largest clothing manufacturer.
The report says that this repression included “physical beatings; death threats; gender, caste, and religion-based abuse; threats of mass termination; and the expulsion from the factory of 15 worker activists.” The non-profit behind the report, Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) claims that it asked the large international brands to disengage from working with Shahi Exports following the documentation of abuses but that the fashion houses have continued to work with the company despite all their alleged codes of conduct.
“It is a partial account of what we have done in the matter, as WRC decided to release the report while our internal investigations and actions were underway,” Shahi Exports said in a statement, according to Quartz. “They have also outrightly refused to accept local government and judicial authorities and are propagating allegations based on solely their own investigation.”
Quartz also reports that when approached for comment, a spokesperson for H&M said that the brand is “extensively using its leverage” and acknowledged that the allegations against Shahi Exports seem “well-grounded”. “We take these matters seriously, and will continue to remain in direct contact with the executive leadership of Shahi and with the Worker Rights Consortium to seek a prompt resolution of this incident,” said Gap, in a statement.
“We took the concerns raised by WRC very seriously and have been in communication with the factory to discuss their response . . . While we recognize that the supplier has taken positive actions to address the concerns raised, we also are working with them to continue to take additional steps.” – statement from American Eagle.
(Header image: H&M website)