Thursday, September 6, 2007: The human cost of high street fashion has been exposed yet again. Two of UK's biggest clothing retailers, Primark and Mothercare, face accusations of breaching international labour standards in India.
Guardian, a London-based newspaper, investigated into the pay and condition of workers who make their clothes in Bangalore and found that in one of the factories, workers were being paid as little as Rs 11 an hour for a 48-hour week.
One of the big defaulters on the list was Gokaldas Exports.
The company supplies to labels like Marks & Spencer, Mothercare and H&M. According to the newspaper, they have not only violated labour norms but are also guilty of harassing women employees.
Gokaldas, India's largest apparel exporter denies the allegations and says that wages need to be considered in terms of the cost of living in each country.
''A part of the Mothercare team stationed in India visited the factories. They have not found anything serious as yet, but the final report is yet to come,'' said Dinesh Hinduja, Executive Director, Gokaldas Exports.
Gokaldas is just one of the many factories under fire. Big brands have proved to be a bigger shame over the years.
Experts say companies from Europe and the US exploiting the workforce in third world countries like India is a sad reality. It's believed over 10,000 children in Punjab alone stitch footballs.
Many of them suffer from loss of eyesight, chronic back and neck pains.
''The supply chain has resulted in gross violation of Indian and international laws, norms and treaties. You can find hundreds and thousands of poor workers working in inhuman conditions. They are not paid well and are forced to work long hours. No medical facility and care is given to them and women are treated badly,'' said Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson, Global March Against Child Labour.
Inquiries have been launched and companies questioned. But will this be another open and shut case?
''There is a jungle raj in the name of industry, business and globalisation. Labour inspection is being dismantled in the unorganised and organised sector. There is rampant exploitation of law,'' said Dipankar Mukherjee, Leader, CITU.
The ethical implications of fast fashion have been imprinted on the products and for now it seems customers are too blind to see the labour behind the labels.