navy adidas trainers Kmart linked to Bangladesh factory worker abuse
Impoverished Bangladeshi workers claim they have been physically abused and threatened while working in sweatshops used by some of Australia’s best known retailers.
In one case, they were beaten and their representatives were told they would be killed if they protested against working conditions.
The ABC’s Four Corners program has travelled to the country’s capital Dhaka, where a number of workers revealed big Australian brands including Rivers, Coles, Target and Kmart ordered clothes from factories in Bangladesh that did not meet international standards.
The revelations come just months after international outcry over the tragic building collapse in Rana Plaza, which killed more than 1,000 people and highlighted the plight of the nation’s garment workers.
Key points:Retailers Rivers, Coles, Target and Kmart accused of ordering clothes from Bangladeshi factories that flout international standardsAustralian companies refuse to talk to Four CornersGarment workers say they were physically and verbally abusedColes workers allegedly told they would be killed if they did not ‘shut their mouths’Bangladesh set to overtake China as world’s largest garment producerKmart, Target, Forever New, Cotton On only four Australian companies to sign up to safety accord
As the death toll from the Rana collapse mounted, international retailers distanced themselves from the industry.
The collapse was the latest in a number of fatal factory incidents, but local operators say they are squeezed so hard by retailers they cannot afford to ensure their factories are safe.
While none of the Australian companies would talk to Four Corners, workers in Dhaka described unacceptable conditions that see them work long hours for little pay,sometimes under the threat of abuse if deadlines are not met.
Four Corners reporter Sarah Ferguson shares her impressions of the garment factories in Bangladesh
Workers describe abusive sweatshop conditionsShahanas and Salma met the Four Corners crew a safe distance from their homes.
They are paid $3 a day working for Australian brand Rivers, and say they are put under intolerable pressure.
“The system is how many pieces I have delivered in an hour? If I can’t meet it, the abusive language starts,” Shahanas said.
“They slap us on the face,
on the head and on the back.
“Some workers cry at that time. They cry while they’re working,” Salma said.
They slap us on the face, on the head and on the back. Some workers cry at that time. They cry while they’re working.
Shahanas says her wage is so small she can only go home to her village to see her son once a year.
Four Corners travelled to the outskirts of Dhaka to speak to the manager of Shahanas and Salma’s factory, Eve Dress Shirts.
But the manager denied making clothes for Rivers.
According to Shahanas, when foreign buyers visit the factory the workers are forbidden to speak to them.
Four Corners asked Rivers, which has more than 150 stores and an online business in Australia, about their relationship with Eve Dress Shirts, but they did not respond.
Workers told to shut up or be killedWorkers at the Rosita factory, which made clothes for Coles, paid its workers 22 cents per hour.
The US based Institute of Global labour and Human Rights says it learnt about the widespread abuse of workers at the Rosita factory in 2012.
The organisation’s spokesman, Charles Kernaghan, says when workers asked about their rights, the company turned on them beating workers and firing 300.
He says the workers’ representatives were told they would be killed if they did not “shut their mouths”.
The ABC has not verified the allegations.
“We found out that the Rosita and Megatex was owned by South Ocean, which is the largest Chinese manufacturer of sweaters in the world and they were cheating the workers in every single way imaginable,” Mr Kernaghan said.
Workers are being arrested, beaten, tortured, threatened with sexual harassment, just on and on and on. This was a miserable sweatshop.