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Shahi Exports’ factory in Bengaluru in ethical trouble

"As per Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) they had urged many large international brands that source from Shahi to pressure the company into taking appropriate action. But the brands continued to work with the company, even though they haven’t taken steps to redress the situation at the Unit 8. These brands include the four that the specific factory was producing for directly, and more than a dozen others that Shahi supplies through other facilities: American Eagle, C&A, Children’s Place, Decathlon, Gap, Inditex (owner of Zara), Marks & Spencer, Primark, Puma, PVH Corp. (owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger), Tesco, Uniqlo, VF Corp. (owner of Vans and others), and Walmart."

 

Shahi Exports factory in Bengaluru in ethical trouble 002Fast fashion retailers like H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Columbia Sportswear, and Benetton, are reportedly ignoring incidence of violence and other abuses happening at their sourcing factories. One incident that has spurred speculation is of a Bengaluru factory owned by Shahi Exports. Here the mangers brutally repressed attempts by workers to unionise and stifled an increase in workers’ wages.

As per Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) they had urged many large international brands that source from Shahi to pressure the company into taking appropriate action. But the brands continued to work with the company, even though they haven’t taken steps to redress the situation at the Unit 8. These brands include the four that the specific factory was producing for directly, and more than a dozen others that Shahi supplies through other facilities: American Eagle, C&A, Children’s Place, Decathlon, Gap, Inditex (owner of Zara), Marks & Spencer, Primark, Puma, PVH Corp. (owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger), Tesco, Uniqlo, VF Corp. (owner of Vans and others), and Walmart.

Scott Nova, Executive Director, WRC, points out Shahi’s customers are leading brands. All have policies supposedly prohibiting physical and verbal abuse of workers and protecting the right to unionise. This case reflects that such companies do not take their own human rights commitments seriously. As a result, neither do their suppliers.

Companies’ reactions

Columbia Sportswear spokesperson reacted to and said Shahi management should take immediate action to address the situation, including: reinstatingShahi Exports factory in Bengaluru in ethical trouble 001 suspended workers, paying medical expenses of workers, returning any personal property of workers, engage in constructive and meaningful engagement with the union, and discipline any employees found to have engaged in violence or acts of discrimination. Similarly, H&M spokesperson asserted it has an ongoing dialogue with factory management and the worker representatives, who are supported by the global trade union IndustriALL. It is doing its best to facilitate a dialogue between the parties involved to get to a solution, as well as to give the supplier the right stimulus to set up a different approach to industrial relations and strengthen their policies.

As per American Eagle’s statement it took the concerns raised by WRC seriously and has been in communication with the factory to discuss their response. Its goal is to create strong, supportive relationships with its factory partners and work collaboratively to improve working conditions in its supply chain. Gap Inc.’s Code of Vendor Conduct (COVC) expressly prohibits any efforts to undermine workers right to freedom of association, and any harassment or abuse. While Gap Inc. has never had any production in Shahi’s Unit 8, it does work with Shahi in other facilities, and as such expect their company to fully abide by their ethical sourcing standards and to respect the rights of workers.

To push the development forward when it comes to workplace dialogue and industrial relations, H&M group signed a Global Framework Agreement, GFA, with the global trade union IndustriALL and the Swedish Trade Union IF Metall in 2015. Apart from acting as a framework for local capacity building, this has also proved to be a good platform to engage around dispute resolutions.

 
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