Apparel factories ban toilet breaks to maximise production: HRW


The garment and apparel factories across the world have a common thread when it comes to human rights.

In the run to maximize production and get extra profit, the workers are denied the basis rights of going to bathroom or drink water, according to a report of the Human Rights Watch.

In the report, The Human Rights Watch quotes twenty four year old Fawzia Khan working in a factory in Pakistan garment factory, who says she felt like in a jail while working in the factory. She said that she hated the ban on going to toilets, ban on getting up for drinking water and ban on even getting up at all during work time. She also complains that the one hour off in between the work is reduced to half an hour.

The report “Paying for a Bus Ticket Expecting to Fly – How Apparel Brand Purchasing Practices Drive labour Abuses” also quotes another garment worker from Myanmar, Panh Ei Cho, who said that she was humiliated for going to the toilet. She said that her name was called out through the public announcement system for frequent breaks to go to toilet.
The Human Rights watch says that the methods used by the factory personnel to get the workers produce more is by restricting toilet breaks, curtailing lunch times and even squeezing training session during lunch times and not allowing other breaks.

It also reports of sexual harassment by male supervisors, managers and others. Apart from this, the women workers whom the Human Rights Watch interviewed said that they were showered with verbal abuses.

With respect to women workers, the report says that the factory owners seldom have consideration for the women having menstrual periods. These women are not given enough breaks during this period and are even not supplied with sanitary pads. With respect to pregnant women, their contracts are not renewed and are even fired as they are considered to be non productive workers.

The report also points out the poor conditions in which the workers have to work that could have an impact on their health. Most of the factories function from closed compartments with no ventilation or enough fans.

The report says that the suppliers are primarily responsible for abusive workplace conditions. Though some brands appear to be moving in the right way, the report notes that overall brand purchasing adversely impact the labour force with respect to their working hours, wages and even their contract.

It has also been reported that many of the factories are against unions. The report also shows that many of the factories do not show the actual working time of the workers and find ways to bypass overtime so as not to pay overtime wages. It is reported that the factories even steal time from workers so that benefits of overtime are not given. The report describes the experience of workers in India where the factory owners had asked them to use their paid leave during low production season. This was done so that overtime benefit is not given, the report said.

Another cost cutting mechanism used by factories is employing casual contracts by which they can save money on bonus, workers welfare and pension contributions.
The report mentions about Rana Plaza collapse of 2013 in Bangladesh in which about 1500 workers were killed and more than 2000 injured. The report says that the Rana Plaza incident had shed light on the death trap factories and the poor government interventions. It also revealed how apparel brands did their business and also how it treated its employees.

With respect to pushing for producing a brand, the Human Rights Watch has quoted a supplier who has said that they are being pushed to reduce the lead times and sometimes have to go for short lead times. The supplier also says that they would lose the order if this is not maintained.

The report also said that the pressure on factories increased if brand orders are placed by an agent. It also points out that the brands may suddenly change the volume of order, delivery time and specifications, which the factory owners would find it hard to plan the work and regulate the workforce.


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