New Report Reveals Extreme Labour Violations at Shahi Factory in India’s Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh

India (June 16, 2022): First-hand testimony from women workers informs new fact-finding report on workers’ rights violations at Shahi Factory in Andhra Pradesh’s Kuppam

“I joined Shahi with the sole intention of earning enough money to secure a decent education and future for my two children. But I could not stand the management’s constant and unbearable harassment and was forced to quit last year. Due to my family’s current financial condition, I might have no option but to rejoin Shahi and face everyday harassment again.”

– Haritha, a 28-year-old tailor at Shahi factory, which produces clothes for Columbia Sportswear

A month after 2,000 workers from the Shahi Exports factory – Unit 44 at Kuppam, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, India, gathered to protest outside their factory, a new fact-finding report has been published by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance. The report details a wide range of labour rights violations, including gender-based violence and harassment at the factory, which supplies to US-based Columbia Sportswear. 

Read the report here.

These include the management’s refusal to pay statutory minimum wages, retaliation against workers for their five-day protest, and oppressive working conditions ranging from gender-based violence and harassment and inhuman production targets, to lack of sufficient ventilation, sanitary toilets, and workplace-induced health issues and industrial injuries from accidents. The report highlights at least four statutory violations and innumerable unfair labour practices.

The report, titled “Fact-Finding Report into Violation of Workers’ Rights at Shahi Factory in Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh, India,” was published on June 16, 2022, and cites testimonies from 18 workers from the factory. According to the research, most of the workers belonged to either the Dalit community or other marginalised and vulnerable sections of society. While a few workers came from around Kuppam, many others travel as far as 30 kilometres a day to reach the factory from the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The workers are majorly women in their twenties supporting entire families on salaries ranging from INR 6,000 to 9,000 per month. The wages are the same for workers, regardless of their work experience, with little to no scope for a salary hike, and newer tailors are harangued into meeting the same targets as workers who have been working for years. Caste- and gender-based slurs are commonly used by line managers and supervisors to discipline workers.

It is unacceptable that one of the largest apparel exporters of the country engages in Statutory violations, unfair labour practices & retaliation against its workers. We expect Shahi top management to engage in meaningful dialogue with the worker representatives and AFWA to address the issues 

– Aman Khan, India Coordinator, Asia Floor Wage Alliance 

On May 9th, around 2,000 workers had had enough and started an unorganised protest, which lasted five days. The workers were protesting their low wages – a grievance they had been consistently raising with no respite for several months. Based on extensive recorded interviews and credible documentation, some of the violations documented by AFWA India are as follows:

  1. Non-payment of statutory minimum wages to workers despite revised minimum wages notified by govt. of Andhra Pradesh (Notification No. G/723/2022 published on 6th April, 2022);
  2. Rampant pervasive caste-based and gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) including non-functional/biased grievance committee (including Internal Complaints Committee)
  3. Non-compliance of Factories Act and other labour laws in matters of wage deductions, leave policy, working conditions etc.;
  4. Retaliation by factory management against workers in the aftermath of the protest, including deteriorating drinking water quality, banning phones even on factory gates, abusive behaviour, forced resignations etc.

The report also details the demands of the protesting workers, as well as recommendations from the fact-finding team of AFWA India to ensure safe and dignified working conditions for workers. 

On reaching out to the supplier factory Shahi Exports for comment on the report, Shahi has sought time until June 25th, 2022 to furnish a response. Asia Floor Wage Alliance has also reached out to Columbia Sportswear, to whom the factory supplies and their response is awaited.