Report on Death of Worker’s Child in Care of Factory-based Childcare Center (Gokaldas Exports, Bangalore, India)

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova and Ben Hensler
Date:June 22, 2015
Re:Report on Death of Worker’s Child in Care of Factory-based Childcare Center (Gokaldas Exports, Bangalore, India)

As we communicated in December 2014, the tragic death last year of the two-year-son of a woman garment worker, while in the care of an employer-run nursery in a garment factory in Bangalore, India, has raised concerns regarding safety conditions in onsite childcare facilities in the country’s export apparel manufacturing sector. The WRC’s investigation of the child’s death found violations of regulations regarding staff qualifications and equipment for onsite childcare and emergency medical facilities that major garment factories are required by state law to provide. A full report by the WRC on the findings of this inquiry and our recommendations for corrective action can be found here.

This tragedy is of particular concern not only on account of the worker’s loss and the failure of the factory to comply with applicable safety laws governing such facilities, but also because the facility in question is operated by India’s largest garment manufacturer, Gokaldas Exports, Ltd., which supplies such brands as adidas, Puma, Columbia, Nike, Gap, H&M, Levi’s, and Marks and Spencer. Gokaldas Exports is owned by the US private equity firm, Blackstone Group, L.P., which recorded more than $4.3 billion in profits in 2014.

While Gokaldas Exports is not a supplier of collegiate licensed apparel, the incident raises concerns that similar noncompliance may exist in other factories in Bangalore, and elsewhere in India that have been disclosed as manufacturing university goods. For this reason it is important that the violations that have been identified at Gokaldas India in relation to this tragedy be thoroughly remedied to set a standard of compliance for other factories providing onsite nursery and emergency facilities for employees and their children.

While the ultimate cause of the child’s death appears related to respiratory causes, there is strong reason to believe that, if Gokaldas Exports had complied with legal requirements, this tragedy might well have been avoided. The child fell unconscious in the factory’s nursery facility, which was under the supervision of a caregiver who – in violation of state laws – lacked any training in nursing or pediatric healthcare. The child was then taken to the factory’s first medical clinic which, rather than being staffed by a doctor, as the law required, had on duty a single nurse – who, to make matters worse, lacked legally required credentials.

Furthermore, although state laws required that the factory maintain an ambulance on the premises for use in emergencies, none had been provided, so the child was taken from the factory in a manager’s private car – in which he did not receive any care while being transported. Finally, despite the fact that a government hospital equipped to deal with pediatric emergencies was only 1.25 miles away, the child was first taken to two less-equipped private healthcare centers, and then, finally, to a hospital nearly 19 miles distant, where he was dead upon arrival.

After completing a preliminary investigation in September 2014, the WRC contacted Gokaldas Exports, as well as adidas and Puma, which are buyers from the factory where the tragedy occurred, and recommended that the deficiencies identified in the company’s facilities for onsite childcare and emergency medical care be corrected, and that the worker who is the mother of the child who died in the company’s care receive adequate compensation. The WRC also wrote to those university licensees that have disclosed factories in Bangalore as among their current or recent suppliers of collegiate goods. The WRC’s report details the responses of those licensees.

For their part, adidas and Puma indicated that the incident would be investigated by the Fair Labor Association under that organization’s third-party complaint procedure. The FLA’s investigation confirmed many of the WRC’s previous findings with respect to the factory’s failure to comply with relevant laws governing onsite childcare and emergency medical facilities. The FLA’s investigation also found, and the WRC’s own research confirmed, that, following the issuance of the WRC’s original findings, the factory corrected a number of the incidences of noncompliance with relevant legal standards.

As discussed in our report, one issue on which the positions taken by the WRC and FLA have differed, however, is the adequacy of the compensation Gokaldas has paid so far to the worker whose child died in its care. To date, the child’s mother has received from the company only $2,400 or roughly 2 years’ wages. By contrast, in the program set up to assist the families of the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster, the compensation being paid for the same type of loss – death of a family member – has been set, based upon international labor standards, local wage rates and current life expectancies, at roughly $30,000. The WRC continues to recommend that the mother receive additional compensation for her loss from Gokaldas and Blackstone Group – or from the brands whose codes of conduct were supposed to ensure that the factory complied with local labor laws.

The WRC also continues to recommend that both Gokaldas Exports and other garment manufacturers operating in the Bangalore area, as well as those brands, retailers and licensees with which they do business, ensure that factories that are legally required to provide onsite childcare and emergency medical care do so in accordance with the standards established under relevant laws. Such measures, if taken, should greatly reduce the likelihood of future tragedies of this kind. 

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