European garment workers producing for German brands continue to face abuse amid COVID-19, report finds; incl. company responses
On the seventh anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, Clean Clothes Campaign and Bread for the World published new research on the working conditions in European factories producing for German brands Esprit, Gerry Weber and Hugo Boss. The report "Exploitation Made in Europe" found that garment workers continue to be paid less than a living wage and are being forced to work without adequate protective measures despite the risk of COVID-19, or pressured into taking unpaid leave due to the cancellation of orders, driving them even further into poverty. It also names other German brands sourcing from Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and Ukraine but were not linked to any specific factories.
Other allegations include gender discrimination, reports of threats, insults, humiliation and intimidation, as well as irregularities concerning annual leave, sick leave, dismissal, overtime, short-term labour contracts and maternity leave, and repression of trade union rights. The organisations are urging the brands to engage with their suppliers, and governments of states where brands are based to introduce mandatory due diligence legislation to ensure human rights are protected along supply chains.
Several of the companies mentioned in the report are BSCI (amfori Business Social Compliance Initiative) members. On 12 May, amfori published a statement in response to the report, also available below.
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited all the companies named to respond to the report. Aldi, Deichmann, dm, Esprit, Gerry Weber, Hugo Boss, KiK, NKD, OTTO, s.Oliver, Tom Tailor and Ulla Popken responded, their responses are available below. Peter Luft told us via phone that the report doesn't relate to them. Adler, Basler, Escada, Olymp, Walbusch did not respond. Kaufland said it is preparing a statement. Kirsten and René Lezard are insolvent, so we did not approach them.
Since our outreach, Hugo Boss provided us with an update, available below.