Global apparel brands pledge to improve conditions for workers

Updated 29 January 2016
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Global apparel brands pledge to improve conditions for workers

MUMBAI: Clothing companies H&M, Inditex, C&A and PVH have committed to improving the lives of workers in India’s southern city of Bengaluru, after a report said employees lived in appalling conditions and were denied decent wages and freedom of movement.
Gap Inc., which also sources apparel from Bengaluru, did not respond to the report by the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN), according to a statement by the Dutch non-governmental group. A draft of the report, Unfree and Unfair, was presented to the companies last November.
The conditions of garment workers in South Asia have come under sharp scrutiny following the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, in which 1,135 workers were killed, many of them employed by suppliers to Western retailers.
The ICN report said hostels run by the Bengaluru factories lacked basic amenities such as beds and clean water, and that workers earned between 95 euros ($104) and 115 euros per month, just above the official minimum wage of 93 euros to 103 euros.
Bengaluru, a hub for apparel exporters, is also known as India’s Silicon Valley for its numerous information technology companies, and draws migrants seeking better economic prospects from its home Karnataka state, as well as from neighboring Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and the country’s north and east.
There are an estimated 1,200 garment factories in and around Bengaluru, making apparel for large global brands.
Many of the workers are women from poor backgrounds who do not know the local language and are unaware of their rights, making them more vulnerable to exploitation, according to the report based on interviews with 110 migrant workers at four garment factories in the city.
“Global companies have a responsibility to ensure better conditions for the workers, as they are directly benefiting from their labor,” Raphel Jose, vice president of supply-chain sustainability at the Center for Responsible Business in Bengaluru, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“This is an area where the brands can come together and collaborate with a local agency and pressurise the industry to improve conditions.”
Dutch clothing retailer C&A, Swedish retailer H&M and Spain’s Inditex, which owns the Zara and Massimo Dutti brands, will work together and liaise with local trade unions to provide training and address workers’ grievances, ICN said.
Inditex will evaluate the state of workers at its suppliers and factories across India, while PVH Corp., which owns brands including Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, is developing new guidelines for its suppliers, ICN said.
“If the brands commit to these issues and their plan of action, we expect that considerable progress can be made in addressing the working and living conditions of young migrant garment workers in Bangalore,” ICN said in the statement.


UAE regulators ask corporates to declare exposure to Abraaj

Updated 21 June 2018
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UAE regulators ask corporates to declare exposure to Abraaj

  • Air Arabia admits $336 million exposure to Abraaj funds.
  • Abraaj sells its Latam, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Turkey Funds to Colony Capital.

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates’ top securities regulator has asked UAE-listed companies to declare their exposure to Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj, which filed for provisional liquidation last week.
The Securities & Commodities Authority sent a letter earlier this week and companies had until Thursday to submit their responses, Obaid Al-Zaabi, chief executive of the regulator, told Reuters.
Air Arabia, a Dubai-listed low-cost carrier, said this week that it had a $336 million exposure to Abraaj, which is the Middle East’s biggest private equity firm. Shares in the airline plunged because of these links.
Al-Zaabi said some companies in the UAE had exposure to Abraaj, without naming them.
A court in the Cayman Islands, where Abraaj Holdings is registered, ordered this week that PwC be appointed as provisional liquidators of the company and Deloitte as liquidators of Abraaj Investment Management Ltd.
Abraaj said that the latest restructuring agreement has received in-principle regulatory approval and is expected to close upon approval from the Cayman Islands court and other customary consents.
On Thursday, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), which is the regulator of the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), said it would discuss “various matters” with the liquidators and “will continue to work toward safeguarding the interests of investors.”
The DFSA is involved because Abraaj has an entity regulated in DIFC.
Abraaj Group agreed to sell its Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Turkey Funds management business to US investment management firm Colony Capital Inc, the companies said on Thursday.
The sale agreement comes after months of turmoil at Abraaj in the wake of its dispute with four of its investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and International Finance Corp. (IFC), over the use of their money in a $1 billion health care fund. The group has denied it misused the funds.
The sale is part of a provisional liquidation and restructuring as set out in a court order. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Colony Capital has also agreed to oversee, on an interim basis, other Abraaj group funds that are not being acquired so that the group and all its stakeholders have a “comprehensive global solution in place,” the companies said.
The other group funds include the $1 billion health care fund, and some legacy funds of the private equity group.
Sources told Reuters earlier that US buyout firm TPG was in talks with investors in Abraaj’s health care fund to take over management of the assets of the $1 billion fund.
The K-Electric asset, which is being sold in Pakistan and is owned by Abraaj Holdings, is also not part of the transaction.
Colony’s deal comes after other investors such as Cerberus Capital Management had also made offers for the Abraaj business before it filed for provisional liquidation in the Cayman Islands.
A unit of Abu Dhabi Financial Group earlier this week made a conditional offer to buy Abraaj’s management interest in all of its limited partnerships for $50 million, according to a document seen by Reuters.
Since Abraaj’s row with some investors became public early this year, it split its investment management business and holding company, while its founder Arif Naqvi stepped aside from the day-to-day running of its private equity fund unit and the firm halted its investment activities.
Tom Barrack, executive chairman of Colony Capital, said that he hoped that the transaction would enable the process of rebuilding on all sides and also bring an end to the speculation that has swirled around Abraaj over the past months.