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BANGALORE – A new report by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) claims a garment factory in Bangalore, India, which supplies to Columbia Sportswear, Abercrombie & Fitch, Benetton, and H&M threatened and beat union-seeking workers. The report claims supervisors at the factory were engaged in vicious retaliation against workers’ exercise of labour rights, including physical beatings, death threats, threats of mass termination and the expulsion from the factory of 15 worker activists.

The factory, which employs nearly 3,000 workers, is owned by Shahi Export Pvt and is known as Unit 8. The violence is claimed to have occurred in the course of an effort by Shahi to repress the organisation of a union at Unit 8 and, relatedly, prevent an increase in wages.

Shahi is India’s largest garment manufacturer with more than US US$850 million in annual revenue. Through its other production facilities in India, Shahi supplies many other major brands and retailers, including American Eagle, C&A, Children’s Place, Gap, Inditex (Zara), Marks & Spencer, Primark, Puma, PVH (Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger), Tesco, Uniqlo, VF (Vans and other brands), and Walmart.

The WRC claims that earlier this year, Shahi aggressively lobbied the government of the state where the Unit 8 factory is located to cancel a planned increase in the minimum wage for garment workers.

Shahi has agreed, in response to the WRC’s findings, to reinstate the workers who were the direct victims of the violence.

The incidents referred to by the WRC took place in April 2018 and were reported on by Apparel Insider at that time. In response, a spokesperson from Unit told us: “…a false and fabricated complaint has been filed by representative of an outside union trying to get a foothold in our factory (which is rejected and resisted by almost all the workers themselves)..

“A very minor undesirable elements in the workforce, (aided by some outside influence) were trying to instigate the workforce to stop work/create employment related issues in the factory, in the pretext of creating nuisance with some false claims and demands.

“The majority of the employees (around 2500) who understand Shahi as a responsible employer were not willing to accept their plea or abide by their demands to create employment related issues in the factory. This resulted in heated arguments between the employees and the miscreants and eventually resulted in violence, all of which happened outside the factory premises..

“The management of the factory intervened and called the local Police to handle the law and order situation prevailing outside the factory.

“The miscreants left the scene and took the help of a union leader and an advocate and filed a false compliant with the Police and informed media with a fabricated story.”

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