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21 Jan 2022

Chris Remington, EcoTextile

India: Despite wage policies, investigation finds many brands have yet to outline steps taken to address wage theft in garment industry

"Brands urged to address India wage theft", 21 January 2022

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has spoken with global fashion brands to gauge how they’re planning to support Indian garment workers who were last year found victims of wage theft.

Factory staff in Karnataka making clothes for the likes of Puma, Nike, Gap and H&M had lost out on an estimated US$55 million, with manufacturing bosses in the region failing to encompass a ‘variable dearness allowance’ – introduced to reflect the rising cost of living – into pay packets...

...garment suppliers argued that the Ministry of Labour and Employment issued a proclamation suspending the minimum wage increase.

Five months after, the Karnataka high court sided with workers who’d issued a legal complaint against the ministry’s tactics, meaning factory staff are to be paid for the US$5.50 they each missed out on every month for nearly two years.

The BHRRC invited 22 brands and retailers sourcing from Karnataka to respond to the situation and outline the measures they’re taking to support those in India. 

20 of those brands have since responded: Abercrombie & Fitch, adidas, American Eagle, ASOS, C&A, Columbia Sportswear, Gap, H&M, Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Next, Nike, Primark, Puma, PVH, Target, Tesco, UNIQLO, VF Corporation and Walmart. 

The BHRRC says the two brands that have not responded as of yet are Benetton Group and Levi’s. 

Whilst all 22 of the companies have policies in place ensuring that supply chain workers should be paid in full, the workers’ rights organisation claims that only 15 respondents have since outlined steps they’re taking to ensure the affected workers are paid back wages.

Meanwhile, only five brands – Abercrombie & Fitch, ASOS, Inditex, Marks & Spencer and Next – have indicated that this work is already underway, with workers now receiving sums of money.