New research from Anti-Slavery International has uncovered the routine use of forced labour of girls and young women in the spinning mills and garment factories of five Indian clothing manufacturers that supply major western clothing retail brands.
The Indian companies recruit unmarried girls and women from poor ‘lower’ caste families to be spinners in their mills or workers in their factories.
The workers stay on-site in dormitories. In the majority of mills there is no weekend break and even those given a rest day are not allowed to leave the factory or mill compound.
“I would get shouted at if I refused to work an extra four hours. I was only allowed go outside once every six months as security wouldn’t let us out.” Pavani, aged 18.
Many workers suffer appalling ill health, brought on by poor diet, poor hygiene in the hostels and the hazards associated with working with cotton. Many contract TB or get ill from cotton in their lungs and some die from lack of health care.
Workers are routinely not paid for their forced overtime, which pushes their pay well below the minimum wage. In some factories workers were forced to work 12 hours a day Monday to Friday and 16 hours on Saturday in order to have Sunday as a holiday.