The garment industry tends to invest where the rule of law is weakest, where there are sizable degrees of poverty and a degree of impunity, said the Solidarity Center’s David Welsh on the podcast, “On the Level with Jeff Hutton,” With the advent of the pandemic, millions of workers are left without wages and economic and job security–and the blame lies with the brands, he said. (Starts at minute 19:30)
[The Straits Times] Indonesia’s Labor Laws Discourage Investment and Leave Workers Worse Off: Experts
Even so, David Welsh, country director of Southeast Asia of the Solidarity Center, a nonprofit aligned with the U.S.-based labor federation AFL-CIO, said the reforms, in the garment sector at least, risk amounting to a “race to the bottom”–slashing benefits to appease big international brands that can afford to pay. During the three months ended August–the most recent data available–Sweden’s H&M, which has manufacturing facilities in Indonesia, reported a gross profit margin of 50 percent before tax.
David Welsh, country director in Southeast Asia for the Solidarity Center, a U.S.-based workers’ rights organization, says major clothing companies fail to prioritize their employees. “The brands control and seek out specific market dynamics, and it’s a deliberately exploitative system,” he noted.
According to AKM Nasim, senior legal counselor, Solidarity Center, cases under The Fatal Accidents Act of 1855 take a long time to be resolved, and the court fee is unaffordable for a Bangladeshi laborer. “In fact, a case was filed demanding compensation by the wife of a road accident victim named Mozammel Hossain under this Act and it took 20 years to get the final verdict,” he said.
Arrests of trade union organizers and workers, along with the suspension by garment manufacturers of as many as 1,500 workers from their jobs, has been a great success for the employers.