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Discuss: Sweatshops
8 years ago
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What's a sweatshop?

Most of us have heard the term, and are familiar with it. Most of us have an idea, even a vague idea, about it.

Wikipedia defines it like:

"...a working environment considered to be unacceptably difficult or dangerous — particularly by industrialized nations with high standards of living. However sweatshops may exist in any country. Sweatshop workers often work long hours for unusually low pay, regardless of laws mandating overtime pay or a minimum wage. Child labour laws may be violated. Sweatshops may have hazardous materials and situations. Employees may be subject to employer abuse without an easy way to protect themselves. Since wages are unusually low, and working conditions poor, the incentive for owners to invest in modern, possibly economically nonviable technology is less."

We know that Human Trafficking and Sweatshops are different issues. But sometimes, the line that divides them appart turns a little blurry, and these two overlap.

Let's learn about sweatshops in here, and discuss how is it affected by human trafficking and viceversa.



8 years ago

        1        1




       We'll find women, children and men being exploited at sweatshops.

8 years ago

 It makes me  very angry Damaris That this happens

 I am so careful when it comes to clothes as the thought some one has been a "slave" to make what I wear would make me sick.


That's why  I buy my clothes from second hand shops plus the money goes to charity

8 years ago

Rose, thanks for the vid, and the link, very interesting information to learn from Australia.

Buying second hand is a wise option, you do good.

Members, you can add your country's situation so we all learn and keep ourselves informed.

8 years ago

 Welcome Damaris

8 years ago

I'm frustrated.... ! I can't find any decent information regarding sewatshops in Mexico. I think there's aren't even official data about it....

Well, I'm sure sweatshops exist in Mexico, but apparently nobody has numbers and locations to place the cases....  .

8 years ago

Well, I said in the first post that we were going to discuss "sweatshops" and "human trafficking" and how those two relate to each other.

Definitely, not all workers in sweatshops are victims of human trafficking. Most of them, around the world, are only (awfully) exploited people. There even are countries where working for a sweatshop means a good job and a opportunity to receive a salary, -as low as this salary can be, but a salary at the end: food on the table, roof over the head, clothes on your body, you know, covering the very basic needs. (There are some valid points for both positions to the controversy of are sweatshops bad or good? in the wikipedia entry for sweatshop).

But sometimes human trafficking victims do end up working in sweatshops. When this happens one or more of these situations are present:

1. They were sold by a trafficker to the sweatshop owner, to work.

2. They are not paid at all.

3. They are not permitted to leave.

4. They suffer physical/sexual abuse.

5. Their documents are confiscated by the owners/runners of the sweatshop.

6. They have a debt that they have to pay to the "owner".

7. They are threatened that they or their relatives back home, will suffer abuses.

These are at the top of my head right now, and maybe there are some more specific situations that can establish a case in a sweatshop as a human trafficking case.

What do you think? Can you think of any other situations?

And also, would you agree that sometimes sweatshops are a benefit for society?




8 years ago

Sweatshops are workplaces where basic worker rights are not respected. In the US, sweatshops at the turn of the 20th century were plentiful and trade unions worked to organize workers and enact important legislation including minimum wages, child labor laws, and health and safety regulations. Fast forward to the 1990s when the focus was on factories labeled as sweatshops in the developing world where conditions, mirroring the US turn-of-the-century conditions of exploitation continued to flourish. ILRF was one of the first organizations in the US to take on the issue of sweatshops in the developing world, and has continued this work for over 20 years. In addition to general anti-sweatshop activism, ILRF has promoted a Rights for Working Women program to highlight the unique problems of women sweatshop workers.  Recently, ILRF has joined forces with SweatFree Communities in order to continue efforts to advocate for sweatfree government procurement.

In the early 1990s, in response to a series of media exposes of sweatshop conditions in the garment and footwear industries, major corporations began to adopt codes of conduct to assure consumers their factories were protecting workers' rights. Codes of conduct and independent monitoring initiatives can play an important role in shifting the terms of debate on labor rights, and thus paving the way for much-needed legal change. In particular, codes have played a useful role in mobilizing large numbers of consumers and workers to fight for better implementation of international labor standards. By the late 1990s, activists were raising concerns that these codes were not effectively being implemented at the factory level. In response to the need for verification, a number of new initiatives were developed. Corporations have, with varying degrees of commitment, engaged and put resources into the development of codes and voluntary monitoring systems.

The movement around corporate-initiated codes has been complemented by activity in the public domain, to pressure local governments to adopt selective purchasing laws. Some entities that serve the public interest, particularly universities, have been under pressure to adopt their own codes of conduct. ILRF continues to work on individual factory cases but has recognized a deeply flawed system is in place requiring a broader approach where corporations must change the process of design and procurement of goods. The most recent shock to factory workers around the world came in the form of the economic crisis where workers have suffered deeply.

A corporation's purchasing practices should take into account its direct and indirect impact on excessive overtime, illegal wage payments, and blatant freedom of association violations. US corporations have a responsibility to protect the rights of workers and eliminate any purchasing policies such as unrealistic delivery schedules, payment that doesn't provide enough to compensate workers with a living wage.

Furthermore it is imperative that US corporations develop a multi-stakeholder engagement process as well as deep relationships with local grassroots organizations in producing areas that are able to communicate more effectively with workers to identify deep seated problems that are not obvious from the surface. Companies like Wal-Mart must dramatically change their sourcing policies. ILRF will continue to pressure all corporations with global supply chains to identify systemic impediments to compliance with labor laws and codes of conduct.

A balanced strategy to combat sweatshops should engage brand-name companies where possible, both through single, stand-alone experiments and to a limited extent through the monitoring programs. We propose a number of immediate steps to improve current voluntary initiatives. Retailers must be responsible for monitoring their own operations and those of their suppliers overseas. Activists must be empowered to bring real sanctions to bear when companies are found to be in violation of basic labor standards. To do this, we need to push for binding legislation, and US activists’ efforts should be complemented by continued worldwide efforts to create a multilateral mechanism to hold labor rights violators accountable.

Finally ILRF helps to promote producing facilities that have decided to take a different approach where freedom of association is respected and living wages are guaranteed. ILRF remains committed to ethical consumerism where US consumers have a choice to support the companies that follow labor laws and then go above and beyond.


This post was modified from its original form on 05 Oct, 15:19
SLAVE labour in sweatshops in BRITAIN
8 years ago

Millions: Sweatshop boss Sarwar


12 hours a day, 7 days a week for just £3 an hour HIGH street clothes giant Primark is employing firms that use SLAVE labour in sweatshops here in BRITAIN, the News of the World can reveal.

Our five-month joint undercover investigation with the BBC found exhausted illegal immigrants forced to graft 12 hours a day, seven days a week sewing clothes for the cut-price chain in dingy factories.

An undercover reporter received £133 for working 43 hours at one of Primark's garment suppliers in MANCHESTER, just a mile-and-a-half from the city's flagship store.

That is just £3 an hour, well below the adult minimum wage of £5.73.

And on Friday, a News of the World reporter bought a £10 taupe ladies' cardigan from a Primark store identical to a garment the investigator saw being made.

The revelations make a mockery of Primark's boasts of ethical trading and its claims it regularly checks its key suppliers treat workers fairly.

And they show the grim reality behind the store's hugely profitable strategy of selling bargain versions of high-fashion items.


An industry source said: "These are very grim findings. It's a scandal of slave labour that we thought had been left behind for ever, even in some Third World countries.

"But here it is, under our noses in Britain with workers abused and exploited in the most appalling conditions.

"At the other end we have a company bucking the trend on the High Street, raking in money hand over fist. It's an absolute outrage."

Last night Primark, already under fire for using unethical firms in the Far East, was ordered to REMOVE all references to the Ethical Trading Initiative from its 140 UK stores pending an investigation.

A senior source at the ETI, the industry body set up to promote good practice, told the News of the World: "First Primark was exposed for using firms employing child refugees in the south of India, then ones not paying living wages in Bangladeshi sweatshops and now it's the employment of illegal immigrants in the UK on slightly more than half the minimum wage.

"Some here think Primark's position in the ETI is now untenable."

Today we can reveal Primark, which reported operating profits of £233million last year, uses contract UK firms that:

  • CRAM in illegal Pakistani, Afghan and Indian workers to toil for up to 84 hours a week.
  • DODGE tax laws, paying the shattered migrant workers cash in hand, giving them no official status.
  • SHAMELESSLY disregard a host of UK employment and business laws.

In our investigation, together with a BBC 10 O'Clock News team, an undercover reporter went behind Primark's glitzy High Street image.


BOUGHT: Sweatshop cardigan
BOUGHT: Sweatshop cardigan

She infiltrated the murky world of backstreet clothing factories in Manchester including TNS Knitwear- Primark's biggest British supplier of knitwear run by Pakistan-born Zahid Sarwar -and its off-shoot Fashion Waves.

Sarwar, 39, has made millions over the last five years from "fast fashion"-keeping stores stocked with cut-price versions of designer gear.

In one factory, the investigator joined dozens of exhausted immigrants crouched over heavy knitting machines in the cramped sweatshop. The buzz of machines all around them was ear-splitting enough.

Adding to the thundering din was the factory owner, angrily shrieking in Urdu, urging his staff to work harder, quicker and better.

The illegal workers-shattered and scared-kept toiling on knitwear ready for Primark's New Year sales.

An insider said: "It's almost unbelievable to think this is happening in Manchester. It could be a stifling hovel in South Asia. But this is how the garments are made that have kept Primark's tills ringing."

Footage shot secretly shows the illegal workers fear they have little choice but to keep working. Many admit to being benefit cheats-on the dole and claiming support while making the Primark clothes.

8 years ago


They told how they were paid as little as £3 an hour, for 12-hour days and a relentless seven-day week. From October 1 last year the minimum wage for workers aged 22 and over was set at £5.73 an hour.

Our source said: "Traditionally it has been too expensive for major UK retailers to source in the UK so companies like Primark have sourced from the Far East.

Out of the blue comes a company, TNS Knitwear, based in the UK who cannot only compete with, but better, the deals being offered by China and India."

Around 60 per cent of TNS Knitwear's business revolves around supplying Primark, and orders have increased in the last five years from 20,000 a YEAR to 20,000 a WEEK.

Our source added: "TNS Knitwear has made a fortune from Primark.


SLAVE NEIGHBOUR: Map shows how close TNS knitwear sweatshop is to Primark's Manchester store
SLAVE NEIGHBOUR: Map shows how close TNS knitwear sweatshop is to Primark's Manchester store

"The lead time in terms of delivering garments from India is up to three or four months.

"TNS Knitwear offers a return time of as little as two weeks.

"The latest trends at the lowest prices in the shortest time possible.

"Burberry or Armani can have a jacket in the shops and within three weeks a strikingly similar version is on the shelves at Primark.

"While the eyes of the world have been on business practices in the Far East, TNS Knitwear have been mopping up business and allegedly breaking the law unchecked.

"This is a system that breeds criminality and exploitation. You don't pay six pounds for a knitted garment without someone suffering or paying the price along the chain."

Primark is headed by Dublin- based Arthur Ryan, who was named the most influential fashion retailer of last year in the Drapers magazine Top 100 Power List.

Famously private, he lives in a handsome £2million house on Dublin's posh Lansdowne Road. His firm claims to adhere strictly to the Ethical Trading Initiative.

But our investigation could mean it is permanently stripped of its ethical credentials and shunned by the rest of the retail industry.


SHAM: Shop signs Primark must remove
SHAM: Shop signs Primark must remove

The store, which boasts of regularly auditing key suppliers, could also face a probe into abuses of the UK's Immigration, Asylum and Nationality laws.

But the biggest blow will be to its reputation in the eyes of the shoppers who fill the stores.

Meanwhile, TNS Knitwear and Fashion Waves, may find themselves under criminal investigation.

TNS Knitwear, also a contractor for Primark's rivals Peacocks, will now be investigated for breaching the National Minimum Wage Act.

If it is found to have employed illegal workers it could face fines of up to £10,000 for each one, as well as prosecutions for tax evasion and employment law abuses.

Primark was put under pressure by the Ethical Trade Initiative after the News of the World and Panorama found the firm using contractors exploiting child refugees in southern India last year.

Referring to the latest expose of the High Street giant, ETI Chairman Alan Roberts told us: "We are horrified at the allegations of workers' rights abuses exposed by this investigation.

"We will exclude companies from membership where we can be satisfied that there has been a systematic and persistent failure to meet membership obligations, namely to implement a credible and effective ethical trade strategy.

We expect member companies to be open and transparent, acknowledging issues and working to resolve them."


Mr Roberts added: "We have met with Primark and demanded that they provide us with a prompt, full and frank response to the allegations."

Primark's code of conduct for suppliers includes: "Employment is freely chosen; Working conditions are safe and hygienic; Child labour shall not be used; Living wages are paid; Working hours are not excessive; No discrimination is practised; Regular employment is provided; No inhumane treatment is allowed."

A Primark spokesman said: "Primark was informed this week that one of the UK factories from which it buys some knitwear has allegedly broken a number of UK employment, tax and immigration laws.

"Primark is conducting its own investigation into this. Once that is complete it will decide how to proceed. Meanwhile, Primark has handed all relevant information passed to the company to the relevant enforcement agencies so they may take action."

A TNS Knitwear spokesman said: "Our client has no knowledge of any illegal immigrants working with his company."

Additional reporting: JANE ATKINSON

8 years ago

Thanks Vivien. This is great information. A lot to digest and learn.


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