Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ivanka's Sweated Labour

The reality of working in a factory making clothes for Ivanka Trump’s label has been laid bare, with employees speaking of being paid so little they cannot live with their children, anti-union intimidation and women being offered a bonus if they don’t take time off while menstruating.

At the fashion label’s factory in Subang, Indonesia, employees described being paid one of the lowest minimum wages in Asia and there are claims of impossibly high production targets and sporadically compensated overtime.

Alia is nothing if not industrious. She has worked in factories on and off since leaving her provincial high school, through the birth of two children, leading up to her current job making clothes for brands including Ivanka Trump at the PT Buma Apparel Industry factory in Subang, West Java. Throughout her marriage to her husband, Ahmad, one or both of them has always worked. And yet, says Alia, the couple can never think about clearing their debts. Instead, what she has to show for years of work at PT Buma is two rooms in a dusty boarding house, rented for $30 a month and decorated with dozens of photos of their children because the couple can’t dream of having enough money to have them at home. The children live, instead, with their grandmother, hours away by motorcycle, and see their parents just one weekend a month, when they can afford the gasoline.

Alia makes the legal minimum wage for her job in her province: 2.3 million rupiah, or about $173 a month – but that legal minimum is among the lowest in Indonesia as a whole, and as much as 40% lower than in Chinese factories, another labour source for the Ivanka Trump brand.

When Alia was told the gist of Ivanka Trump’s new book on women in the workplace, she burst out laughing. Her idea of work-life balance, she said, would be if she could see her children more than once a month.

Sita, 23, started working at Buma last year. She told the Guardian that her contract will be terminated soon, after seven months of work. “That’s one of the company’s ways to cope with extra expenses,” she said. As a contract worker, she will not get any severance. “I can’t stand it any more. I work unpaid overtime every day and still earn just 2.3 million [rupiah] a month. I’m planning to move from Subang, where the minimum wage is too low. But I don’t know where to go yet. I haven’t got any connections.”

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