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.


Egypt stock market plunges as retail investors take flight

Updated 19 September 2018
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Egypt stock market plunges as retail investors take flight

  • Biggest index drop in Egypt since mid-2016
  • Saudi Arabia outperforms in Gulf

LONDON: Egyptian stocks tumbled to their lowest level this year on Wednesday as retail investors took flight.
A sharp rise in Suez Canal revenues, a major foreign exchange earner for the country, was not enough to quell investors concerns about the strength of the currency.
The main Egyptian stock index lost 3.8 percent which some fund managers blamed on generally negative sentiment toward emerging markets worldwide as well as more local speculation about possible currency devaluation.
“Our channel checks suggest the sell-off in the Egyptian market is local retail and institutions driven, on currency fears and speculation over a further round of devaluation,” said Vrajesh Bhandari, portfolio manager at Al Mal in Dubai, Reuters reported.
“Selling is further intensified as margin calls are triggered and technical support levels break down. The country canceled three consecutive Treasury auctions, citing investors’ unrealistic yield demands.”
Egypt’s Suez Canal revenues rose to $502.2 million in August up 6.7 percent from a year earlier according to official data released on Wednesday.
Elsewhere regional stock markets closed mostly lower with the exceptions of Abu Dhabi which edged 0.2 percent higher and Saudi Arabia, the best regional performer, which rose by 1.1 percent.
Saudi stocks are benefiting from the strong oil price which eased slightly yesterday but still hovered just under $79.
OPEC and some other oil producers including Russia will meet in Algeria on Sept. 23 to discuss how to allocate supply increases within their quota framework to offset the loss of oil exports from Iran following the introduction of sanctions by the US.
Those measures will come into force on Nov. 4 and data suggests that buyers are already retreating from Iranian crude purchases.
A key question for the oil price as well as regional stock markets in the weeks ahead will be the extent to which other Gulf oil exporters can compenaste for the loss of Iranian supplies by pumping more.