5 September 2014, Hong Kong

Last year, a joint report entitled Breathless for Blue Jeans: Health Hazards in China’s denim factories[1] by SACOM, ITUC/GUF Hong Kong Liaison Office (IHLO), War on Want and Clean Clothes Campaign found workers lack the occupational health and safety protection and their working condition remain exploitative and the deadly sandblasting[2] was still common in the industry. SACOM and other groups launched a global campaign and urged the involved brands to respond and improve the working condition immediately.

From this February to April, SACOM reinvestigated two of the investigated factories, and we found that the factories did not protect workers’ rights and their health and safety according to the Chinese Labour Law. The two factories are suppliers of renowned brands such as American Eagle, Hollister, Levi’s, GAP, Wal-mart and H&M.

It costs a few hundred Hong Kong dollars for each pair of jeans but workers are earning as little as a few jiao[3] for producing each pair of jeans. The meager wage led them to long working hours. The factories ate up workers’ extra remuneration of overtime hours[4] and provided invalid monthly pay statement to workers. The factory supplied to American Eagle and Hollister even used the fluctuated order from buyers as an excuse to ask workers be on call without pay; they violated the Law’s requirement on rest day arrangement.

Workers were not provided with adequate and appropriate protective gears, they also did not have proper training and were not informed on the risks of the chemicals they use everyday. Worse still, in order to produce trendy distressed jeans, sandblasting, hand-sanding, chemical spraying, polishing etc. were used in the production which create a lot of dust mixed with silica sand, fabric fibre, chemical vapour, extended inhalation of these particles can cause severe respiratory diseases and silicosis. From these conditions, we doubt the brands’ commitment to their corporate social responsibility and we urge them to

  1. ban sandblasting immediately;
  2. provide adequate and appropriate training and protective gear to workers;
  3. provide annual regular medical checkup to workers and compensate to those who suffer from occupational diseases;
  4. pay overtime extra remuneration according to the Chinese Labour Law;
  5. limit excessive overtime hours to 36 hours monthly;
  6. provide pay slip with full and genuine information to workers;
  7. maintain transparency to public by disclosing full supply list where their products were manufactured;
  8. support the set up of fully worker-represented trade union in their supplier by direct and   democratic election

Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour

Updated Jeans investigative report

Promotional video of “The human cost of high-end jeans” report:

[1] Retrieve the full report of Breathless for Blue Jeans at http://www.sacom.hk/hk/archives/2373

[2] Sandblasting is a method of distressing denim by blasting sand through high speed compressor gun onto denim fabric.

[3] Jiao is currency units of Renminbi, 10 Jiao equals to 1 Yuan.

[4] The Chinese Labour Law requires extra renumeration of 150%, 200% and 300% of normal pay to workers on weekdays, weekends and statutory holidays respectively.