India: Seven workers killed in fire at denim factory supplying to major intl. brands; Includes company comments

At least seven workers have been killed in a factory fire at Nandan Denim - India's largest denim supplier - which began on 8 February 2020. Police investigators said the factory had violated multiple regulations and the owner, a manager and a fire safety officer have been arrested.

Local safety and health authorities have asked the company to close until further notice. Its licenses have been suspended, and Nandan Denim has agreed to pay the families of those killed a reported $14,000 each.

Nandan Denim has ties to major international retailers, according to its website. Company comments can be found in the articles linked below. 

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Article
11 February 2020

India: Seven killed in denim factory fire; Company officials arrested after no fire safety equipment found working

Author: Hindustan Times

“Gujarat factory fire death toll rises to 7”, 10 February 2020

The death toll in…Saturday’s cloth factory fire…in Gujarat [rose] to seven…with the recovery of two more charred bodies, police said. Police [have]…booked six [factory] officials under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and other sections of the Indian Penal Code,…arrest[ing] them on Sunday.

A huge fire gutted the [Nandan Denim Limited] …factory located in Noral locality of the city on [late] Saturday evening. [A]ssistant Commissioner of Police, R. B Rana…said a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was registered against the general manager of the factory, a whole-time director, a fire safety officer, and three others.

[A] fire department official said the fabricated shed structure of the factory [warehouse] had just one staircase with a narrow path without…air ventilation, result[ing] in more…deaths.  “Besides no fire safety equipment was found working”.  The cause of the fire is still under investigation...

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Article
12 February 2020

India: Denim factory has license suspended after deadly factory fire; Includes comments from intl. brands linked to factory

Author: New York Times

"Lone Door Led Out as Fire Burned Indian Factory of US Denim", 12 February 2020

... [W]orkers in an Indian denim factory struggled to claw their way up a ladder to a door, their only exit as a fire blazed... officials say. Seven people died...

Nandan Denim, has ties to major U.S. retailers, according to its website... [I]t supplies... to more than 20 global brands including... Target, Ann Taylor, Mango and Wrangler, and its sister company supplies Walmart and H&M.

Some of the... companies listed on the website said they were not actually customers, and many issued statements that strongly condemned dangerous work sites. Nandan Denim is one of the largest denim suppliers in the world...

Police investigators said the factory had violated multiple regulations and the owner, a manager and a fire safety officer have been arrested... [A]uthorities have asked the company to close until further notice. Its licenses have been suspended, and Nandan Denim has agreed to pay the families of those killed a reported $14,000 each...

Surviving workers, who are paid about 35 cents per hour, said conditions had been dangerous.... [They] work almost 14 hours a day... stitching more than 400 pieces... forc[ing] many of them, mostly women, to work at a frantic pace...

Some... brands contacted, including Ann Taylor, Target, Zara and Pull&Bear, said they... don’t have a relationship with Nandan Denim. Target said it is working to get its name off their website and out of their annual reports... Inditex said Nandan Denim has produced 10,000 pairs of jeans for another of its brands...

Walmart and H&M... said they would also look into the situation. Kontoor Brands, maker of Wrangler jeans, said they last worked with the factory in 2014...

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Item
17 February 2020

Commentary: Deadly Indian factory fire again shows need for preventive safety measures and justice for workers

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

17 February 2020

... [O]n its website [Nandan Denim factory] claims to be one of the world’s largest integrated denim fabric makers and, on a now removed page, named major international apparel companies including Wrangler, Zara, Joe Fresh, Target, VF Corp., Ralph Lauren and Primark as its buyers. Most of these companies have denied a recent sourcing relationship with the factory and the factory itself has indicated that this unit primarily produced for the local market. Despite these denials, the US import database Import Genius shows several recent shipments coming from the factory...

...The fact that even such a large, internationally producing factory can turn out to maintain units that are obvious death traps is a bad sign for the safety of the many subcontracting and local producers in the country... Without a credible, transparent, legally binding safety programme that allows for inspection, remediation, training and a complaint mechanism, tragedies... are likely to recur...

[F]amilies of the killed workers as well as those injured... [must be] compensated for at least loss of income and medical costs... as laid down in ILO Convention 121 on employment injury benefits. The compensation... promised by the factory... [and] commitment to employ deceased workers’ family members is a promising start, but supply chain responsibility for workplace death and injury should... include buyer accountability...

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Item
17 February 2020

India: AFWA demands global brands compensate for death, injury & loss of employment resulting from Nandan Denim factory fire

Author: Asia Floor Wage Alliance

"Public Statement on Deaths of Garment Workers in Nandan Denim factory, Gujarat, India", 14 February 2020

... [T]he Nandan Denim factory... [which] killed at least seven workers... is located in... a hub of denim production for the global fashion market... which is totally unregulated...

[R]eported figures of 50-60 workers... only include[s] permanent workers on payroll. Other workers... report... this particular department... employed at least 100- 150 workers... [as] most of the workers are contract labour... [without] factory identification...

[W]orkers... continued to work, even after the fire had started and were burnt because there was no adequate alarm system to trigger evacuation...

[A]udit[s]... have failed to detect large scale violation of fire, safety, building codes and labour rights in this denim hub... [which] is dominated by migrant labour living in inhuman housing conditions...

[We] supports the local trade unions and labour rights organisations’ holding global brands responsible for the egregious violations and the deaths of the workers... We demand...

• Brands take responsibility and work with trade unions and labour rights organisations to create transparent regulatory mechanisms and systems...

• Brands compensate for the death, injury and loss of employment resulting from this fire on basis of international standards on living wage and on workers’ pain and suffering.

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