Panorama has made a documentary which focused on the horrific working conditions that Bangladeshi factory workers put up with. The investigation was shown on BBC showing how the employers in these factories are forced to work 19 hour shifts, and actually being locked in the building.
After a fire broke out in one of these factories, causing 1,129 people’s deaths and leaving 2,500 people injured, Panorama wanted to explore the matter further. The documentary showed secret footage taken of workers making clothes for the supermarket Lidl, where they would start work at 7 am but not finish until 2:30 am. That’s a grueling 19-hour shift and only £2 would be earned from it.
The shocking thing was, a security guard would lock the gates at 1.15am before being re-opened at 2:30am. Due to the exits being locked (so workers couldn’t leave) it meant when the fires broke out in the factory, they couldn’t escape. When the reporter for Panorama visited the factory as a buyer, the time sheets for the employees stated they had finished their shifts nine hours before.
It doesn’t seem to be an uncommon situation to hide long working hours too, as factories which supply clothing for high street retailers H&M and Gap have done the same thing. The working days would normally start at 7am and not finish until 10:30pm. When the reporter visited the factory, acting as a buyer, he was quite obviously lied to and told daily shifts are only 10 hours.
As a result of the investigation Gap has said the clothes make up only five per cent of the factory’s output and will not be placing orders from there again stating “Gap Inc is committed to safeguarding the rights of the people who work in the factories where our products are made. Our suppliers are required to comply with our Code of Vendor Conduct, which includes a requirement that the factory complies with all applicable laws, regulations and industry standards on working hours, and that workers may refuse overtime without threat of penalty, punishment or dismissal. We regularly audit factories supplying Gap, and this factory was last audited in March 2013.”
H&M had also signed a pledge to protect the safety of Bangladesh garment workers back in May and stated overtime “remains a major challenge.” A spokesperson from H&M also said “In order to follow up on how our business partners comply with the requirement of our Code of Conduct and to support their progress, we monitor them regularly through our Full Audit Programme. Together with our suppliers we have started several projects in regards to overtime, for example aiming to decrease overtime by increasing efficiency.”