Paying for a Bus Ticket and Expecting to Fly

  •  Bangladesh
  •  May 01, 2019
  •  By WFB Bureau
Paying for a Bus Ticket and Expecting to Fly

Low prices offered by fashion brands and compelling manufacturers for shorter lead times have further worsening the situation of garment workers’ abuse in Bangladesh and other supplier countries.

A 66-page report by Human Rights Watch, a New York-based rights group titled ‘Paying for a Bus Ticket and Expecting to Fly’: How Apparel Brand Purchasing Practices Drive Labour Abuses’ have highlighted how the cost cutting measures taken up by brands abuse workers. “Low purchase prices and shorter times for manufacturing products, coupled with poor forecasting, unfair penalties, and poor payment terms, exacerbate risks for labour abuses in factories,” reads the report.

Several garment suppliers, social compliance auditors, garment industry experts with at least a decade’s experience, and workers based in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, and Pakistan participated in the survey.

In the wake of workers’ rights and well-being, brands have engaged themselves in various worker welfare practices but weaken the foundation by putting relentless pressure on suppliers to drive down prices or produce faster. Their faulty sourcing and purchasing approaches not only hit manufacturers’ financial profit but also encourage them to adopt abusive practices such as overtime violations.

The HRW found that factories hide the number of hours workers actually work to pass compliance audits and find innovative ways of bypassing overtime wage regulations. Ways in which workers are forces to produce more include restricting workers’ toilet breaks; trimming their meal breaks; squeezing “trainings” into lunch or other rest breaks so the “production time” is not lost; disallowing drinking water breaks and other rest breaks, highlighted the report.

The fear of losing an order has sometimes led manufacturers to offer lead times without any buffer in sight or any tolerance by the brand.

An official from a supplier group said that the brands seek to drive prices down. “Even with the same orders, repeat orders, even with smaller quantities, the prices go down – 5 per cent sometimes; maybe 2-5 per cent,” he said.

“Apparel brands that drive their suppliers to cut costs in ways that harm workers are always a whisker away from human rights disaster. Clothing brands need to monitor and rectify their business practices so they don’t encourage the very factory-level abuses they say they are trying to stamp out,” said Aruna Kashyap, Senior Counsel – Women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch. 

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