Cashing In! Giant retailers, purchasing practices, and working conditions in the garment industry

February 2009

, by Clean Clothes Campaign

Major global retailers Carrefour, Tesco, Aldi,
Lidl, and Walmart are seeing massive profits and increasing market share in
the garment sector, as workers in their supply chains face increasing poverty,
appalling conditions, and serious workers rights violations, according to a new
report released today by the Clean Clothes Campaign.

“With a heavy heart we live like prisoners,” said one young woman working at
a Bangladesh factory producing for Carrefour, Tesco, and Walmart where
there is no union and workers are told to lie to auditors about working

As the economic crisis worsens around the globe, CCC research in India,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Thailand published today in “Cashing In: Giant
retailers, purchasing practices, and working conditions in the garment
industry” shows how the discounter model used by these retailers squeezes
suppliers and results in serious workers’ rights violations in their supply chains
– enabling them to cash in as consumers and workers are forced to tighten
their belts.

Workers at factories supplying these retailers told researchers about working
weeks as high as 90 hours, overtime that is unpaid, wages so low that
families are malnourished, and strong resistance to any attempts at worker
organising. At the same time suppliers revealed how the supermarkets are
cranking up the pressure to deliver faster and produce cheaper – a model that
makes a mockery of the social commitments made by these companies.

As one worker at an Indian supplier for Carrefour, Tesco, and Walmart said of
a corporate code of conduct: “We don’t read this, because reading it would
not benefit us. We don’t get the benefits mentioned in it.”

The report reveals that failure to pay a living wage, increased use of
temporary contracts, repression of union rights, excessive hours, and gender
discrimination are key problems in the garment supply chains of these five
global retailers. Retailers’ own purchasing practices – prices and schedules
they impose on suppliers – create some of the biggest obstacles to
implementing the very international labour standards they have committed to.

“The Giants size and price-breaking approach make them leaders in the
global race to the bottom on working conditions,” said Nina Ascoly, of the
CCC’s International Secretariat.

* Read the report "Cashing In!" (79 p., pdf)