“We don’t even have the freedom to drink water,” S. said, adding that management doesn’t allow employees to bring in water bottles.
Instead, water is handed out by the factory. In the spring of 2018, the supplied water was making workers sick, and when employees gave management a letter with a variety of basic requests, including clean water, they were beaten in response. Their clothes were torn, and many of their valuables, including phones and jewelry, were taken.
The employees took their complaint to the labor department. The issues were resolved three months after the incident, after the factory faced public pressure from a report by an American watchdog group, social media and brands that worked with the factory.
Some conditions have improved: Employees get mineral water now. But the pay is still bad, S. said, and the main work space doesn’t have windows, air-conditioning or heaters.
“We want to ask for more salary, but people are scared after what happened last year to ask again,” she said.
(In an email, a spokesman from Shahi Exports acknowledged the 2018 incident and forwarded a statement outlining the preventive measures the company has since enacted.