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Major retailers named in new report exposing exploitation of garment workers in Pakistan

By Rachel Douglass


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Workers protest in Pakistan calling for health and safety measures to be put in place. Credits: Labour Behind the Label.

A new report by garment worker solidarity group Labour Behind the Label has accused a slew of major retailers of violating human rights in their Pakistan-based supply chains, largely driven by what the firm called “informalisation” of the workforce.

Developed alongside human rights law firm Global Rights Compliance, the report details evidence of retailers “routinely violating minimum wage requirements, enforcing excessive hours, ignoring health and safety concerns and avoiding compensation for injured and killed workers”.

Factories linked to Gap, Adidas, Asda, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Puma, Levi’s, Primark, Boohoo and Zara owner Inditex were all found to be sourcing from suppliers featured in the report, in spite of the companies each claiming to be carrying out social auditing.

Findings have shown factories to be exploiting workers by “employing them in less formal ways to reduce risks and cut costs”, resulting in over a third of those surveyed to be earning less than the minimum wage.

Concerns were also raised around health and safety, with one worker in a factory supplying UK and European brands quoted in the report stating: “Our workplace is not a very safe place. Due to cotton dust and fumes, workers find it difficult to breathe. Overlock machines are particularly bad in this regard.

“A worker died but the doctor was asked that working conditions should not be mentioned as the cause of death. His family was not paid any compensation.”

Adidas, Inditex and Boohoo among brands called out in report

Labour Behind the Label noted that the announcement comes at a time when Pakistan is experiencing mass inflation, impacting workers at the bottom of supply chains who the organisation said were being “hit the hardest with an erosion of purchasing power”.

The organisation went on to provide recommendations for fashion brands to uphold the rights of garment workers, including installing worker driven complaints mechanisms, signing the Pakistan Accord and establishing anti-harassment committees.

In a statement alongside the report, Lara Strangways, head of business and human rights at Global Rights Compliance, said: “The findings of this report should be an urgent wake-up call to brands, showing gross failings in their due diligence processes to identify human rights and labour rights violations in the making their products.

“Social auditing is failing to pick up violations and is clearly not fit for purpose. Brands must act with urgency to reassess their approach to sourcing and engage in discussion on appropriate remedy with the labour movement.

“If they fail to do so, it is only a matter of time before we see another disaster, in which they would have played a part.”

Labour Behind the Label
Supply Chain
Workers Rights