At DAKS, our workers are our family. But the issue of treatment of factory workers has been prominent issue in our country. We aim to shed a light on the problem while showing how we are taking a step in the right direction to ensure our workers safety and happiness.
Historic scrutiny and criticism of labour practices in apparel factories, especially in developing countries such as India, has been an important topic for decades. But we have still not been able to completely solve the problem. The human rights commission has consistently talked about the issue and the dire need to solve the issue with no avail.
Big companies choose to have their productions in developing countries due to absence of robust laws and abundance of cheap labour. In a country like India, with a low standard of living and a large population, being able to find cheap labour is quite easy.
Companies often try to excuse their behavior by claiming that they are providing the workers with a job which would otherwise not be available to them. This might be factually correct but they are also blatantly exploiting these workers and taking advantage of their situation.
Even the European Parliament is using the term “slave labour” to describe the current working conditions of garment workers in Asia. Factory workers face innumerable problems, left in helps situations and are not protected by the government or the corporate world. Beyond the famously low wages, unsafe working conditions and restrictions and repression of labour unions plague the industry.
When we talk about low wages, it is extremely important to talk about two concepts – Minimum wage and Living wage. Fashion brands claim to be paying the minimum wage to their workers to give assurance to their customers. But what does that mean ? It means that most brands might be paying the minimum wage, but they are still not paying the living wage. A living wage represents the bare minimum that a family requires to fulfill its basic needs (food, rent, healthcare, education,etc.).
In Sri Lanka, for instance, the basic pay averages 13,500 rupees ($197) per month, yet workers interviewed by campaigners from Labour Behind the Label in 2016 said they would require at least 33,000 rupees ($481) to support their families.
The same group queried workers in India who were earning an average of 6,284 rupees ($92) per month. To make ends meet, those same workers said, they would need 13,000 rupees ($190), if not more.
It is important to know that in most manufacturing countries, the minimum wage represents between half to a fifth of the living wage. Most of the manufacturing units only provide their workers the minimum wage and many times not even that.
LONG WORKING HOURS
Due to absence of a legitimate contract, long working hours is a common problem faced by the workers. Garment workers are often forced to work 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. During peak season, they may work until 2 or 3 am to meet a deadline. Their basic wages are so low that they cannot refuse overtime – aside from the fact that many would be fired if they refused to work overtime. In some cases, overtime is not even paid at all.
Frequent accidents are part of the problems faced by these factory workers. They have no health insurance, meaning after such accidents they are not given any help. This puts them in a helpless situation, unable to get out it. Accidents, fires, injuries, and disease are very frequent occurrences on production sites. Many production houses have not been able to find a solution, leading to innocent lives being lost.
Verbal abuse is a common issue faced by factory workers. They are constantly berated, insulted and denied breaks. They lose morale and are made to feel like third class citizens. Breaks and intervals are often not even a concept in these factories. This is highly problematic and deeply upsetting.
BAD WORKING CONDITIONS
Employees usually work with no ventilation which leads to many health problems. any of these factories are unsafe and old. A big example is the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, killing 1134 garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It opened up a larger conversation of unsafe practices. Approximately 2,500 injured people were rescued from the building alive. It is considered the deadliest structural failure accident in modern human history, and therefore also the deadliest garment-factory accident in history. It is highly unrealistic to expect human to work in such conditions. Breathing in toxic substances and inhaling fiber dust or blasted sand are some other issues faced by the workers.
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
The world is just now starting to accept mental health as a real problem in workplaces. Factories, especially in underdeveloped countries are going to take years to adopt better practices and focus on their worker’s mental health. But due to the many unfair practices in such factories, mental health of workers are seriously affected and dealt with properly.
Child labour is not an unknown concept in developing countries. Fashion industry often breaks laws and employ children as they majorly require low-skilled labour. This has started a horrific practice of employing young children who work in dangerous conditions and earn a meagre living.
In South India, for example, 250,000 girls work under the Sumangali scheme, a practice which involves sending young girls from poor families to work in a textile factory for three or five years in exchange for a basic wage and an lump sum payment at the end to pay for their dowry. This practice can be easily compared to modern slavery as these girls are often overworked and left with no choice.
DAKS India was born foremost out of a strong need to create the type of organization that could empower, fulfill and bring happiness to each of its members. Over the years, this idea has only taken further hold as we have grown our programs of what we consider ”Good Business” practices both deeper and wider. We aim to keep provide safe working environment for our workers and build programs to increase their morale and keep their spirits high.
Below mentioned are some of the practices adopted by DAKS to help us achieve the same –
Daks has been at the forefront of solving this raging issue plaguing our nation and doing things right. We provide our workers with a fair living wage, more than the minimum wage required by the law. We make sure that the wages paid is enough for them to be able to take care of their needs and save from it as well.
Daks gives due importance to the amount of work being given to one worker in a day. We comply with the laws set in place and do our part to give the workers some more time to spend with their families. We also make sure to give our workers a lunch break and small breaks for their recreational activities.
Safety is a critical issue for Daks. Our buildings comply with the existing laws set in place. Every workers’ basic physical development is checked and reported in regular intervals by our in-house doctor. He also educates the local community about health care and its importance. We have a variety of doctors visiting our factories every month ranging from Gynecologists, Ophthalmologists and Dentists.
Our factories are designed to provide the workers with a good working environment. We keep in mind that factories have enough ventilation, no toxic substances and a safe environment. We also have a fully equipped kitchen for workers, staff and their children. During the pandemic, our objective was to keep our workers safe. We provided corona precaution kits and masks to all the workers as well as their families.
Mental health has become our priority in the recent times and we aim to provide our workers with extra activities and facilities.
At DAKS factories, we play music to help our workers, work better and feel happier. You can find music of all genres ranging from punjabi to marathi, catering to all our workers. Our aim is to keep their spirits high and provide them with an enjoyable atmosphere
- Recreational Area
Every factory and campus has a designated recreational area with a variety of features, including having a wide array of games, such as Pool, Carom Boards, Table Tennis, a number of board games like Chess and Ludo. At DAKS factories, we play music to help our workers, work better and feel happier. You can find music of all genres ranging from punjabi to marathi, catering to all our workers. Our aim is to keep their spirits high and provide them with an enjoyable atmosphere.
Our working mothers asked for a place in the factory for their young ones to spend the day. That led to the building of nursery- a definite favourite amongst our special projects!
- Regular Meditation
At 4pm everyday, all lights are turned off across all our factories and offices and workers spend 15 minutes relaxing to the sound of a guided mediation. The guilt doesn’t just lie with one company. Everyone from big companies to resale boutiques and labels that buy from factories who drive up the demand for prices and delivery that lead to bad working conditions. While there something to be said about the mass job creation that industry can bring to a country, it cannot keep coming at this cost.
A living wage benchmark remains to be a vital tool required to change the current ways. Perhaps the larger question is whether consumers even care about workers receiving a living wage. And until they do, most brands and retailers won’t. But we as manufacturers also have a duty to treat our workers humanely and do our part to eliminate this issue completely.