Products for western consumers are made in low-wage countries such as Bangladesh and China; they have been under criticism for a long time. A new study raises allegations against large reputable companies. According to the study, despite the introduction of ethics programs, there are serious violations of labor conditions in their factories.
For example, in southern Italy, seasonal workers, who came mostly from Africa, were brought to detention centers, where up to 700 workers sleep on the bare floor – with no water, no electricity, and no toilets. It is impossible to rent a flat with an income of around 200 € per month for those kind of workers.
According to media reports, in northern Sweden 200 berry pickers from China protested against working conditions and low wages. They have been lured with fictitious wage promises and went to work in Sweden but their wages cover hardly the travel expenses. Also a year before, regarding to reports of harvest workers from Vietnam and Thailand, they have earned almost nothing because of poor harvest and went home with debts. In Sweden, the immigration authorities adopted a minimum wage equivalent to 1745 € per month, but this is often avoided by double contracts.
The upcoming apple harvest in Germany and Austria will be in need of seasonal workers for the harvest as well. In reference to the German Farmers’ Association, there are about 340,000 seasonal workers on German fields and gardens. 80 percent of them are not from Germany, the majority is coming from Poland. Their wages are low, in a 60-hour week they earn 192.6 € (gross), just 3.21€ per hour!
The Action Alliance “Play Fair” interviewed more than 320 factory workers in China, India, Indonesia and Thailand about their wages, experience and working conditions, a worker complained: “We work without break and are always afraid of not working fast enough […]. The supervisors put us under pressure and insult us constantly. We are tired and dirty.”
Another problem is the minimum living wage. For example, workers in the clothing industry in Cambodia earn between 70 and 80 dollars per month, including overtime and bonus payments. This is not enough to offer a decent standard of living to a family. In Shenzhen (China), the minimum wage is 700 RMB per month (70 €). Even if both partners are working it’s impossible to support a family.