Compensation Secured for Worker whose Child Died in Care of Factory Nursery (India)

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova and Ben Hensler
Date:September 17, 2015
Re:Compensation Secured for Worker whose Child Died in Care of Factory Nursery (India)

In June, the WRC reported to you on our efforts to secure adequate compensation for a woman garment worker whose two-year-old son died while in the care of an employer-run nursery in a garment factory in Bangalore, India, as well to raise broader concerns regarding safety conditions in onsite childcare facilities in the country’s export apparel manufacturing sector. As you may recall, in our report the WRC expressed concern that, although the factory where the tragedy occurred is owned by India’s largest garment manufacturer, Gokaldas Exports, and has supplied major apparel brands such as Puma and adidas (which has since informed the WRC that it has ceased doing business with Gokaldas Exports), the mother of the deceased child had received from the company only $2,400 (roughly 2 years’ wages) in compensation for this tragic loss.

Our report found that, at the time of this tragedy, the factory was in violation of numerous state regulations regarding staff qualifications and equipment for onsite childcare and emergency medical assistance, and that, if the factory had complied with these requirements, the child’s death might well have been avoided. In light of these findings, as well as both the enormity of the loss borne by the child’s mother and the factory’s ample financial resources (Gokaldas Exports is majority-owned by the multi-billion dollar private equity investment firm, Blackstone Group), the WRC strongly urged that Gokaldas Exports provide the worker and her family with substantial additional compensation.

We are heartened, therefore, to inform you that following discussions on September 9, 2015 between Gokaldas Exports and the Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU), a Bangalore-based labor organization, the company agreed to provide the deceased child’s mother with an additional $10,500 (or almost nine years’ wages) in consideration of her loss. The worker accepted and received this additional compensation on September 14.

The WRC considers this compensation, although modest by US terms, to represent a more meaningful measure of assistance and recognition of the worker’s loss than the factory’s initial payment to her, which clearly was grossly inadequate by nearly any standard. Moreover, the compensation Gokaldas has now paid to the child’s mother is higher than that which typically has been received in India by the families of victims in cases involving the deaths of non-employees due to negligence. This positive outcome is due in significant part to engagement with Gokaldas Exports on the part of its buyers, including both adidas and Gap, which at the urging of the US garment workers union, Workers United, SEIU, strongly encouraged the factory’s management to meet with GATWU to resolve this situation in a responsible manner.

The WRC has previously asked university licensees that source collegiate apparel from factories in Bangalore to ensure that the same violations that led to this tragedy are not present at these facilities as well. We continue to engage with these licensees so that future tragedies of this kind can be avoided. We will keep you updated on the progress of those communications.

Scott Nova 
Worker Rights Consortium 
5 Thomas Circle NW, 5th Floor 
Washington DC 20005 
ph  202 387 4884 
fax 202 387 3292 
[email protected]