Wednesday, April 14, 2010

NLC: Women's Clothing Lines for Nygard/Dillard's, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart Linked to Human Trafficking in Jordan Sweatshop

/PRNewswire/ -- Self-described as the "number one sportswear manufacturer in Canada," Peter Nygard's women's clothing is sewn at the International British Garments (IBG) factory, where 1,200 guest workers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India -- 75 per cent of them young women -- have been trafficked to Jordan, stripped of their passports and held under conditions of indentured servitude, according to a new report from the National Labor Committee.

Charles Kernaghan, director of the U.S.-based National Labor Committee, whose report on IBG "Dirty Clothes," is being released today, said that, while sewing Nygard International Ltd.'s Alia, Tan Jay, and Investments labels, the women are forced to work 16-hour shifts, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

"There are also mandatory, all-night 23-hour shifts, from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m. at least once a week," Kernaghan said. "The exhausted workers are at the factory over 110 hours a week, while being cheated of over half the legal wages due them. Instead of earning the 74.5-cents-an-hour minimum wage in Jordan, they are paid just 35 cents an hour." Nygard International's clothing is also sold at Dillard's in the U.S. J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart are beginning production at the IBG plants.

"When workers ask for the return of their passports and to be paid correctly, they are slapped and threatened with forcible deportation," said Kernaghan "There are also serious allegations of sexual harassment, even rape, and of workers being overworked to death."

Workers are housed in filthy primitive dormitories without heat and with only sporadic access to water for two hours, three or four days a week. The dorms are infested with bed bugs, and shown photographs of the insects, entomologist Dr. Susan C. Jones of Ohio State University confirmed the bed bugs were engorged with blood.

"All labour laws in Jordan, not to mention the International Labour Organization's (ILO) internationally recognized workers' rights standards, are being blatantly violated at the IBG factory," said Kernaghan. "In fact, the Jordanian Ministry of Labour has placed the abusive IBG plant on their 'Golden List' of best factories."

In a single week, from January 28 to February 17, 2010, Nygard imported more than 280,000 women's pants made at the IBG factory, worth $2.5 million. The customs value of the pants -- the total cost of production and transport -- was $9.49. Many of the pants retail for $38, which represents a 300-percent mark-up. The workers were paid nine cents for each pair of pants they sewed.

Kernaghan said workers do not want Nygard and the other companies to cut and run, pulling work from the factory, which would only further hurt the workers who have already suffered enough. All workers are asking is that their legal rights be respected.

The IBG sweatshop in Jordan is owned by G4S, the world's largest security service company, which also operates in the U.S.

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