The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, on Wednesday released a series of reports, which said that workers from India, Indonesia and Cambodia, and Bangladesh in supplier factories for global retail giants Walmart, Gap and H&M face “intensive labour exploitation and abuse” including non-payment of wages, sexual harassment and unsafe work environments.
The Asia Floor Wage Alliance includes over 70 organisations representing garment industry trade unions, NGOs, consumer groups and research institutes.
The report ‘Precarious Work in the Walmart Global Value Chain’ said that across the 24 Walmart producing factories surveyed in India, workers reported violations of international labour standards including a “range of wage practices, including payment of wages below their skill level, denial of legally stipulated over time rates, illegal deductions, late payments and non-payment of wages”.
Some workers in India were also make to work on Sundays and national holidays “in sweltering heat, without adequate supply of clean drinking water or any breaks”.
Information for the report was collected through interviews and focus group discussions with 344 workers engaged in Walmart supply chains in Bangladesh, Cambodia and India; and a case study, spanning 8 months, of working conditions in an Indonesian Walmart supplier employing 3,800 Indonesian contract workers.
In India, field research included interviews with 105 workers producing garments in Walmart supplier factories across three garment manufacturing regions in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
The report said that workers in Walmart supplier factories face a “range of coercive practices that make them particularly vulnerable to forced labour”, including “threats of termination levied against temporary and contract workers for refusing to work overtime hours or for exercising their right to freedom of association”.
In all four countries, contingent workers are required to work excessive hours with the threat of losing their jobs if they refuse.
The report said use of contract labour is most pervasive in Delhi-NCR with an estimated 60-80 per cent of the garment workforce employed as contract workers.
Casual and contract workers lack job security, social security benefits and freedom of association, it said.
“This facilitates the sidestepping of statutory obligations by employers and creates a constant state of insecurity for workers,” it said.