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1 Apr 2024

Türkiye: Violations at textile & garment factories across earthquake-affected regions reported one year on

On 6th February 2023, earthquakes reaching a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale hit southern Turkey and Syria.

The devastation caused by the earthquake impacted workers in key textile producing regions of Southern Turkey, where factories produced for international brands and retailers. Subsequent reports after the earthquake found that apparel buyers had changed their purchasing practices following the earthquake in these regions, such as requesting suppliers to lower prices or changing suppliers, further impacting workers' livelihoods.

In June 2023, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited eleven brands (Benetton, Boohoo, C&A, Esprit, Inditex, Mango, Marks & Spencer, Next, Primark, PVH and Tchibo) to complete a questionnaire, regarding their purchasing practices and assistance they provided to their suppliers in the affected regions. Full brand responses can be found here.

One year on, garment and textile workers in these regions have reportedly been facing multiple labour rights violations, particularly Syrian refugees and migrants working in the factories. In the aftermath of the earthquake, some employers allegedly called workers back to work immediately, classifying those who could not return – in many cases because they’d been forced to move far from their workplaces after their homes were destroyed – as ‘voluntary’ resignations, and therefore not eligible for severance pay. Further reported rights violations faced by workers include:

  • Unfair dismissal and non-payment of severance – including on the basis of false classification of ‘voluntary’ resignation  
  • No provision of compassionate leave in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes 
  • Unpaid wages and food stipends 
  • Pay discrimination, with factories hiring Syrian migrants and refugees and paying them less than their Turkish colleagues 
  • Child labour 
  • Unsafe working conditions 
  • Threats of deportation in response to protests against rights violations such as wage theft 
  • Forced overtime 
  • Violations of the right to freedom of association – including violent repression of strikes  

In February 2024, Business Business & Human Rights Resource Centre once again reached out to the same eleven brands contacted in 2023, as well as other brands mentioned in the article as sourcing from factories in the region (Armani, IKEA and H&M), to respond to the allegations. In particular, they were asked to respond to the following questions:

  • What are you doing to address the labour rights abuses reported at factories in earthquake-affected regions and the financial hardships facing workers in the aftermath of the earthquake? 
  • Have you tracked instances of workers having severance pay denied in the aftermath of the earthquake?  
  • What steps have you been taking to ensure that vulnerable workers, such as refugees, are not facing discrimination in terms of wage reduction or layoffs.

The full responses can be found below.