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Romania: Report finds poor wages, forced labour, unpaid overtime & other abuses in garment sector; Incl. co. responses

Clean Clothes Campaign has released a factsheet on Romania's garment industry, based on interviews with 78 female garment workers, between September 2017 and June 2018. All seven factories were producing apparel for Western European markets. The research revealed several labour and human rights abuses within Romania's garment industry, including payments below the minimum wage; unpaid overtime; forced labour; poor working conditions within factories; and maltreatment, pressure and bullying. A case study included in the factsheet highlights abuses, including poor wages and unpaid overtime, at a supplier producing for Benetton Group, Sisley (part of Benetton Group) Naf Naf and Max Mara. 

In May 2019, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Benetton Group, Naf Naf and Max Mara to respond to allegations of poor wages and unpaid overtime. Benetton Group said suppliers within the European Union are not subject to its audit program as no significant risks have been identified, however as a preventive measure it is supporting its suppliers in formalizing procedures and sharing best practice. Max Mara said it needed information on the supplier(s) to investigate the allegations. Their responses are included below. We received Naf Naf's response after publication of our 3 July Weekly Update. It said it was investigating and its response is included below. 

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Company non-response
10 June 2019

Naf Naf did not respond

Author: Naf Naf

NGO rejoinder
26 June 2019

Clean Clothes Campaign rejoinder to Max Mara & Benetton re. poor garment worker wages in Romania

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

The core issue uncovered by CCC’s new Romania briefing is workers’ wages...

Benetton argues... ‘We have an audit program in place to check compliance with our supplier code of conduct.’ It is clear and broadly accepted in the fashion sector that audits are not an effective instrument to uncover working conditions and wages of workers as well as for monitoring implementation of laws and codes of conduct...

According to Benetton’s published supplier list 2018 there are 22 suppliers all over Romania – and many more subcontractors. It is disappointing that a brand with this heavy presence in Romania still rates conditions there as non-risky...

Max Mara tries to evade responsibility by pointing to suppliers and the Romanian government to fix law and human rights violations. According to our investigations in Europe-East/South, Max Mara’s production can be found in many countries – with similar irregularities. In all places, workers are afraid of speaking out and agreeing to publishing their factory names. This alone indicates to repressive conditions under which they work.

Download the full document here

Company response
6 June 2019

Benetton Group's response

Author: Benetton Group

... We select our suppliers not only based on product quality, competitive prices and transparency, but also on their compliance with social, ethical and environmental principles. A list of our active suppliers located all over the world is available on our web site. http://www.benettongroup.com/sustainability/supply-chain       

... Benetton has implemented an audit program to monitor adherence with the Code of Conduct for Manufacturers, which applies to all finished garment producers, with particular attention to those located in regions where respect for human rights and workers is considered more at risk...

No significant risks have been identified in the European Union, because the legislation adequately protects workers’ rights and the compliance controls of the various bodies in charge are considered effective; as a preventive measure, Benetton Group is supporting its suppliers in formalizing procedures and sharing some best practices...

 

Download the full document here

Company response
5 June 2019

Max Mara's response

Author: Max Mara

We received your dossier and we can say, first of all, that we appreciate very much your activity in favour of the respect of the human rights in general.

Regarding the allegations related to "Max Mara's suppliers in Romania", we can not find specific reference to such suppliers, because there is no indication of specific locations and/or names of specific enterprise; therefore, we would need you provide us with more detailed information about the foregoing suppliers, we can explore better the situation and the ground of your allegations. Anyway we can confirm that our policies provide specific contractual undertakings by our suppliers to respect all national and international labour laws. 

Moreover, we acknowledge that your dossier does point out mainly the inadequacy of the national Romanian minimum wage levels and/or labour law system in general in order to safeguard the quality of life of the domestic workers, and this is not obviously attributable to any single economic operator.

Report
14 May 2019

Romania: Report identifies poor wages, forced labour, unpaid overtime & other abuses in garment sector

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

"Country profile: Romania", May 2019

... Romania has about 300,000 oficial garment workers, who usually earn a minimum wage of about 230 EUR after tax...

SUMMARY: LABOUR AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

1. PAYMENTS BELOW THE MINIMUM WAGE.

Romanian garment workers usually receive the minimum wage or other amounts just above the minimum wage, which often includes overtime too – in average 10 – 15 hours overtime per week. That means, that often workers are not paid the legal minimum wage for their regular working hours...

2. UNPAID OVERTIME

Every other factory surveyed does not pay overtime to their employees. Usually, wage is paid on piece rate basis; regular working hours and overtime hours are paid according to the same piece rate...

3. WORKERS' WAGES COVERS 14% OF A LIVING WAGE: WORKING IN THE GARMENT INDUSTRY GENERATES POVERTY INSTEAD OF ELIMINATING IT...

4. FORCED LABOUR

According to the ILO, workers who need to work overtime to complete the workload assigned to them and earn the minimum wage are forced labourers. In 50% of the researched factories, workers told the interviewers that they had worked overtime to complete their production quota without additional compensation in the previous months...

5. BAD AIR AND INADEQUATE INDOOR TEMPERATURES, LACK OF ACCESS TO WATER

50% of the factories would operate in buildings without proper ventilation and air conditioning... Fainting is quite common among workers. Appropriate amounts of drinking water are not provided in summertime.

6. MALTREATMENT, PRESSURE AND BULLYING

Workers report being bullied, harassed, and constantly threatened with dismissal. They are yelled at and harassed. In order to meet production goals, workers are not allowed to talk to each other or take breaks, and often need to find a replacement worker in order to take toilet breaks...

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