India: Report highlights modern slavery & child labour in granite quarries

Modern slavery is widespread in Indian quarries. Child labour also occurs frequently. Most Dutch importers of Indian granite give no information from which quarries they are sourcing their granite or say they do not know from which quarries the stone comes from. This is the main outcome of the report on working conditions in South Indian granite quarries. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited BMB, Brachot-Hermant, Eurostone, Granit Deutschland, Granite UK, Gräf Granit, Granito Natuursteen Design, Kluijtmans Natuursteen, KNKE Emsland (Happe Gruppe), Maris Natuursteen, Marshalls, Natursteinwerke, Stone, and Veenstra Natuursteen to respond. Marshalls responded. We are continuing to follow up with other companies and will indicate next week if they respond.

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6 September 2017

UK: John Lewis & Habitat withdraw granite worktops over slavery concerns in India

Author: Kate Hodal & Peter Bengtsen, Guardian (UK)

"John Lewis and Habitat withdraw granite worktops over slavery concerns," 3 September 2017

John Lewis and Habitat have pulled a range of granite worktops from sale over concerns their supply chains may be tainted with slavery and child labour. Many other high-street businesses selling granite products such as kitchen worktops, tiles and tombstones are also likely to scrutinise their supply chains after investigators discovered that debt bondage, underage workers and unsafe, unhealthy working conditions are part and parcel of daily working life in Indian quarries. 

India is the largest global producer of granite, accounting for 49% of the world’s raw stone export in 2015... An investigation...recently published by the Dutch organisations India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) and Stop Child Labour, revealed major human rights and labour rights violations... The quarries’ performance was graded on six criteria: child labour, bonded labour, wages and social benefits, health, safety, and freedom of association.

More than 30 natural stone companies from the UK, EU, US, Australia and Canada are named in the report as sourcing products from...22 quarries. None of the quarries has a prevention system for child labour...

Given the complexity of global supply chains, and the scale of abuses outlined in the report, it would be “almost impossible” to ensure that any star galaxy granite is free of labour or human rights irregularities, [ICN’s corporate social responsibility officer said]...

None of the six UK companies named in the report [mistermarble, Grantech, Nile Trading, Blyth Marble, KSG UK and Beltrami] responded to requests for comment on their supply chains. The Observer also contacted a number of businesses around the UK selling granite worktops, tombstones and tiles, none of whom responded to requests for comment... [also refers to Cosentino Group and Nobilia]

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Company response
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Author: Gräf Granit / Verband Deutscher Naturstein Verarbeiter e.V.

...Seit Jahren hat es sich die deutsche Grabmalproduktion zur Aufgabe gesetzt, konsequent gegen Kinderarbeit in Naturstein exportierenden Ländern vorzugehen, allen voran in Indien. Hier arbeiten die deutschen Gedenkstein-Hersteller nur noch mit zertifizierten Unternehmen zusammen. Diese verpflichten sich, keine Kinder zu beschäftigen und dies auch mehrfach im Jahr unangemeldet kontrollieren zu lassen. Über 1.200 solcher Kontrollen hat allein der unter deutscher Leitung stehende Zertifizierer IGEP in den letzten fünf Jahren in Indien durchgeführt - und dabei keinen einzigen Verstoß gegen Kinderarbeit protokollieren müssen.Diese erfreuliche Entwicklung bestätigt jetzt auch eine von der EU finanzierte, holländische Studie. Durchgeführt hat sie das Indische Komitee der Niederlande (ICN) zusammen mit der unabhängigen Anti-Kinderarbeit-Institution SCL – Stop Child Labour. In einer für die deutschen Natursteinimporte wichtigen indischen Region - größer als die Bundesrepublik - hat man bei vie- len Kontrollen nur ein einziges Kind unter 14 Jahren angetroffen. Dabei blieb offen, ob das Kind gearbeitet hat oder nur in einem Steinbruch anwesend war...

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Company response
9 June 2015

Marshalls' response to Rock Bottom Report

Author: Marshalls

Marshalls is disappointed to be referenced in this Report as the company does not source granite paving from this region. Marshalls is also incorrectly reported as ‘non responding’, however a response was issued. Following the publication of the report Marshalls again confirmed this fact with the authors.

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13 May 2015

India: One of every ten workers in Raichur’s granite mines is a child

Author: Nayantara Narayanan ,

...[M]inors accounted for almost 10% of the total workforce in six quarries in state’s Raichur district...While the heavy lifting of stone cutting and machine operation are left to the men, the industry employs women and children to process waste stones..Children break and crush the stones...with no protection against silica dust and other hazards from the mines...The children received lower wages than the women, who themselves were not paid according to the state’s minimum wage requirements, the report said...

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10 May 2015

Press Release: Modern slavery and child labour in Indian quarries : stop child labour urges companies and government to take action

Author: India Committee of the Netherlands & Stop Child Labour

Modern slavery is widespread in Indian quarries. Child labour also occurs frequently. This is the main outcome of the report Rock Bottom - Modern Slavery and Child Labour in South Indian Granite Quarries on working conditions in South Indian granite quarries which is published by the India Committee of the Netherlands in collaboration with the coalition Stop Child Labour. Gerard Oonk, director of the India Committee of the Netherlands, is not surprised by the results: "Companies doing business in this industry can no longer close their eyes to these problems. Also Dutch companies have the responsibility to prevent or address these human rights violations." 26 European natural stone companies have been requested to review a draft version of the report. Of the 26 companies only 12 responded. And although only 2 of these companies claim to have insight in the origin of granite products at quarry level, 8 companies indicate that they do not obtain granite from the quarries investigated. Only 3 of the 12 companies have joined an initiative that aims at improving working conditions in the natural stone industry.

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9 May 2015

Report: Rock Bottom -Modern Slavery and Child Labour in South Indian Granite Quarries

Author: Stop Child Labour & India Committee of the Netherlands

This report examines working conditions in 18 granite quarries in 2 South Indian states, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, producing both for domestic and export markets...In the surveyed quarries...most workers are kept bonded to the quarry through debt. About 54 percent of the local workers and 66 percent of the migrant workers inter- viewed, reported that they owe large sums of money to quarry owners or contractors...presence of children at quarry sites, lack of safety measures and poor facilities for migrant workers were observed...More than ninety percent of the workers in sample quarries are hired on an informal basis without any written contracts...Another research finding is the prevalence of gender based wage discrimination...Workplace safety measures are almost always inadequate. Workers are exposed to occupational hazards like silica dust, explosions and moving of heavy stones.  

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