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17 May 2019

Ethiopia: Major apparel brands accused of 'race to the bottom' after investigation reveals wages as low as $0.12 per hour & 'numerous' labour abuses in garment factories; Incl. co. responses

An investigation by Workers Rights Consortium into Ethiopia's growing textile and apparel export sector has found the lowest wages it has ever documented in any garment exporting country - as little as $0.12 an hour - and numerous labour rights abuses in factories supplying to major apparel brands. The investigation included in-depth interviews with garment workers at four export factories producing for leading brands, including H&M, PVH, Walmart, Children's Place and Gerber Childrenwear. 

The investigation uncovered several labour rights abuses including: draconian wage deductions, exacted as punishment for minor disciplinary infractions; degrading verbal abuse of workers by their supervisors; discrimination against pregnant workers; a high incidence of workers collapsing unconscious at their workstations, due to overwork and other factors; and forced overtime; among other violations of law and buyer codes. According to the Workers Rights Consortium, all of the abuses identified constitute violations of the brands' and retailers' own labour standards.

In May 2019, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited H&M, PVH, Walmart, Children's Place and Gerber Childrenwear to respond. PVH said it had commenced an investigation and would take appropriate actions if any violations were found. Walmart said it was reviewing the allegations and will engage its suppliers as needed. H&M said it would continue to follow up with suppliers and implement its programs addressing working conditions and workers' rights. Their responses are included below.

We invited Children's Pace and Gerber Childrenswear to respond; they did not. 

Company Responses

PVH (Phillips-Van Heusen) View Response
Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) View Response
Walmart View Response
Gerber Childrenswear

No Response

Children's Place

No Response