Clothing factories churning out cheap Ready-To-Wear shipped for America have a track record of employing cheap labor slaving away under the worst of conditions and unsafe environment.
Aside from their work place failing to meet minimal safety requirements and being paid pennies compared to the millions made by their employers, these are not the only struggles the women who work in Asian factories must endure.
Several rights group recently reported that women who work in Asian factories making clothes for retail giant Walmart are at “daily risk” of slapping, sexual abuse and other harassment.
“This is a very urgent and serious issue,” Anannya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a group which represents garment workers, told Reuters.
Bhattacharjee said Walmart was investigated because of its global footprint and the charities hoped it could become a “trend setter” and put in place a system to stop such abuses.
Interviews with about 250 workers in 60 Walmart supplier factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia, revealed women were “systematically exposed to violence” and faced retaliation if they reported the attacks.
For more than six years a coalition of charities investigated the factories as increasing pressure for Western brands to boost working conditions and improve safety along their supply chain.
In a 43-page report, the charities said the incidents represented the tip of the iceberg and the risk of retaliation means many women are forced into silence.
“The difficulty is women don’t feel comfortable to report. How can they seek intervention from the unions when the union leaders are mostly men?” said Khun Tharo from the Phnom Penh-based charity Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights.
“There is no legal mechanism for them to file complaints.”
According to a Walmart spokeswoman, the findings of the report are being reviewed and taken seriously.
“We have a robust supply chain monitoring programme. Walmart’s Standards for Suppliers lists our social and environmental expectations for our suppliers, specifically addressing the cultivation of a safe and healthy work environment,” she added.
US-based Walmart has at least 11,000 stores in nearly 30 nations.
Asia accounts for more than half of the US$443 billion generated from global apparel exports in 2016, with Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Cambodia being the main players, according to the World Trade Organisation.