More than 400,000 workers in Karnataka, India, have earned less than the state’s legal minimum wage since 2020. Karnataka is known for being one of the world’s largest hubs for clothing and supply brands such as Puma, Nike, Zara, C&A and GAP. According to the Workers’ Rights Confederation (WRC), an independent organization that oversees workers’ rights around the world, the total amount of unpaid wages so far exceeds 41 million pounds (about 308 million Brazilian reals).
The cost of living for those earning India’s minimum wage increased by INR 417 (£4.10 or BRL 31.15) in April 2020. However, this increase, which is equivalent to 16 cents a day, has not been passed on to workers over the past 20 years. Month. Each worker earns around £83 a month – the equivalent of R$347.85.
“It’s the biggest wage heist ever in the fashion industry,” says WRC. “The sons of workers are hungry for brands to make money,” said Entity CEO Scott Nova. Watchman.
A worker told the British newspaper she earns about half of what she needs to cover basic living costs such as food and rent. “All this year, I have been feeding my family rice and chutney,” he said. “I tried to talk to the factory management about it, but they said, ‘This is what we pay to work here. If you don’t like it, you can leave,'” she added.
Scott Nova said that despite persistent demands from the WRC over the past two years, Western brands have failed to act to ensure that workers who make their clothes are paid according to Indian law. “Brands have allowed this to continue when they know they are the only ones who have the power to stop this widespread theft. They are allowing widespread human rights abuse to continue with impunity,” he said.
Karnataka High Court requires payment of minimum wage
Suppliers argue that India’s Ministry of Labor issued a decree suspending the minimum wage increase shortly after it was implemented in April 2020, and that the procedure for claiming payment of the increase is still pending in the Karnataka Court.
However, in September last year, the state’s highest court ruled that the Labor Department’s declaration was illegal and that minimum wages, including all arrears, must be paid to workers regardless of any other court proceedings.
According to WRC, garment factories are the only industrial sector in Karnataka that refuses to comply with this order.
Brands are talking
Puma, Nike, Zara, C&A and GAP, which are among the brands that buy clothes from Karnataka, said they are committed to paying the legal minimum wage and expect their suppliers to comply with a higher court order.
cougar said Watchman
That their influence on their suppliers was “limited” in Karnataka, but added: “We are working with our peers, who supply larger quantities in Karnataka, to ensure wages are paid correctly.”
Meanwhile, Nike said in a statement that it “expects all suppliers to comply with local legal requirements and Nike’s code of conduct.”
GAP has already reported: “[Esperamos] That our suppliers comply with support and delays. We have set a timetable in which we expect full compliance.”
C&A said it had required its suppliers to comply with the court order and was “confident” they would. The Dutch multinational said it was waiting for written confirmation from the factories.
A spokesperson for Inditex, which owns Zara, said: “Inditex has a strict code of conduct that requires all factories in our supply chain to pay a minimum statutory wage. We are engaging suppliers in the region to encourage them to pay.”
The situation in Brazil
iG has contacted all the mentioned companies to understand the state of the production chain here in Brazil. So far, only Zara, C&A, and Puma have responded.
“Inditex has a strict code of conduct that requires all factories in our supply chain to pay the statutory minimum wage and, in any event, wages must be sufficient to meet the basic needs of workers and their families and any other needs. Reasonable additional needs may be taken into account.”
“We continue to engage suppliers in the region to encourage them to pay VDA – variable dearest allowance,
The local equivalent of the semi-annual salary adjustment granted by the government, to which it is committed progressively,” the retailer concluded.
C&A, in a note, reported that it denies any form of informal work and said it requires suppliers to comply with the recommended wage in all countries in which it operates. see below:
“C&A Brasil rejects any form of irregular work and, in this sense, believes that transparency is a very important component of social change. We also constantly take a series of initiatives and processes with the aim of ensuring that our employees respect the law in all our stores, distribution centers and other administrative areas. C&A requires and monitors Its suppliers comply with the recommended wage in all countries they operate in. If you want to know more, we are here or on our sustainability website www.cea.com.br/sustentabilidade
On the other hand, Puma reinforced to iG what it had already said to Watchman,
about their limited influence on Karnataka suppliers and that they work with peers to “ensure that wages are paid properly”.
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