WRC Advises Licensees on Rules to Protect Workers’ Children in Factory Care

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova and Ben Hensler
Date:December 10, 2014
Re:WRC Advises Licensees on Rules to Protect Workers’ Children in Factory Care

The WRC’s investigation of the recent tragic death of a young child of a garment worker while in the care of an employer-run nursery in a garment factory in Bangalore, India, has led us to request due diligence by university licensees sourcing collegiate apparel from factories in that area concerning compliance with legal standards for onsite childcare and emergency medical attention. The WRC raised these concerns with licensees after our investigation of the death in late July of the two-year-old son of a garment worker in the care of the Gokaldas India factory in Bangalore found failure to comply with local state laws concerning statutorily-required staffing and equipment of onsite nurseries and emergency medical facilities. The child reportedly fell unconscious, for as yet unknown causes, while in the factory nursery and by the time he was examined by a doctor at a local hospital was already deceased.

While the factory where this tragedy occurred, which produces non-licensed goods for adidas and Puma, is not a supplier of collegiate licensed apparel, its parent company, Gokaldas Exports, is India’s largest garment manufacturing group, which raises concerns that similar noncompliance may exist in factories in Bangalore owned by smaller firms that have been disclosed as manufacturing university goods. And while it is not clear to what extent, if at all, these non-compliances were, in fact, a contributory factor in the outcome, the failure to meet minimum standards in areas with clear implications for the health and safety of employees and their young children, and the terrible nature of the tragedy that has occurred, clearly warrant attention to this issue by licensees in their own supply chains.

The specific legal standards with which the WRC found that the Gokaldas India factory failed to comply are state laws requiring that factories with sizeable workforces maintain (1) an emergency medical clinic staffed fulltime by a licensed physician, (2) a medical ambulance for use in cases of serious accident or illness, and (3) an onsite nursery for employee children that is under the direction of a caregiver with prior pediatric healthcare training. These requirements may appear unnecessary in the North American context, where childcare providers routinely undergo state licensing and where emergency medical care is available from public safety authorities, but in India, public oversight and emergency services are very limited. This is why, in India and many other major garment-exporting countries, local laws often require factories to provide such care and services themselves.

The WRC recommended to Gokaldas Exports, as well as to adidas and Puma, that these deficiencies be corrected, and that the worker who is the mother of the child who died in the company’s care receive adequate compensation (so far she has been given roughly US$2,400). Gokaldas, for its part, responded to the WRC with a letter denying the deficiencies and claiming it has dealt fairly with the worker following her loss. In this respect, it should be noted that, in addition to being India’s largest garment manufacturer, Gokaldas Exports is a subsidiary of the NYC-based private equity firm, Blackstone Group, which posted net profits last year of $3.5 billion. The WRC has replied to Gokaldas Exports, adidas and Puma reiterating the basis for our findings and our recommendations. Adidas has indicated that the matter is under investigation.

With respect to factories in the Bangalore area producing collegiate apparel, the WRC wrote to those university licensees that have disclosed such facilities as among their current or recent suppliers of collegiate goods – Bruzer, Columbia, Cutter and Buck, Glory Haus, and Outdoor Custom – requesting that they confirm that their supplier factories comply with the relevant legal requirements with regard to employer-run onsite nurseries and emergency medical facilities. We are hopeful that by bringing this issue to their attention and urging due diligence we may reduce the likelihood of another such tragedy of this kind.

We will keep you informed of future developments in respect to these issues and welcome any questions or concerns you may have.

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