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2015-02_dc

24 D+C Vol.42.2015:2 unions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and people directly affected to learn about the state of premises. Accordingly, I read the report concern- ing the Chittagong factory where Hugo Boss gar- ments are made. The inspectors noted that a num- ber of concrete pillars supporting the factory were not strong enough and they recommended that parts of the factory should be closed. H&M for instance Although fashion discounter H&M boasts about sustainable production and fair employment, the working conditions in the factories visited in Bang- ladesh are as poor as everywhere else: RISE inter- viewed a total of 115 employees at 12 locations, and five of them made garments for H&M. Some workers had no written employment contract, and none of the factories had an elected works council. Mater- nity leave was not granted properly, compulsory overtime was considered normal and women were verbally abused. In comparison to Hugo Boss, however, H&M does practice transparency by publishing its list of suppliers. The fashion giant claims that it requires garment-makers to pay a “fair wage”, but does not state how high that should be. Trade unions apparently play no role in H&M production and marketing. In Germany, H&M resists works councils, and employees who demand their rights can face long lawsuits. Three-quarters of H&M’s female workforce are employed on part-time contracts. The reason is that it is much cheaper to hire students with ten-hour contracts than to em- ploy experienced staff. Given that H&M treats its employees like this in Germany, does anybody ex- pect the situation to be better at suppliers’ factories in Bangladesh? Audit business Many companies today acknowledge social respon- sibility and require suppliers to meet certain stand- ards, which are then verified in “audits”. However, what was supposed to be a quality seal for the com- panies is largely a multi-million business deal for the auditors. One factory in Rana Plaza was inspected by TÜV Süd and TÜV Rheinland prior to the building’s col- lapse. I have a copy of the TÜV Rheinland audit. Aside from the issue of building safety, which TÜV insists was outside its remit, the audit seems absurd. The overall verdict on the factory was “improvements re- quired”. But the few shortcomings they noted did not Böthling/Photography The working con­ ditions of many seamstresses must improve – not only in Bangladesh.

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