Forced Labour Tainted Cotton: from Turkmenistan via Turkey

5 April 2019

Does your business source cotton products from Turkey? Or maybe you have been buying clothes with ‘Made in Turkey’ tag? I have bad news for you: you may be inadvertently supporting a massive scale system of forced labour.

You can be forgiven for not being aware of it, because Turkmenistan – which we’re talking about here – very rarely, if ever, hits the news headlines. But with over 300 million dollars’ worth of cotton and textile exported to Turkey every year, it uses Turkey as the main gateway for its cotton products to the global supply chains.

Anti-Slavery International has released a new report bringing those the strong links between Turkey and Turkmenistan to light.

Turkmenistan’s cotton crimes

Every year during the cotton harvest season, the Turkmen government sends thousands of citizens into the cotton fields against their will. Doctors, dentists, teachers, students and military personnel are some of the people who are forced to abandon their regular jobs in order to toil under hazardous conditions in the fields for days on end.

This system of forced labour, a legacy of past soviet practices, is built on threat of punishment and intimidation. Workers refusing to pick cotton face the risk of having salary deductions, losing their jobs, or other punishment that is part of everyday life in this one of the world’s most repressive regimes.

“If you refuse to go away cotton picking or have a good reason not to be away from home for 10 days, your boss will just say, ‘You Know where the door is’.”
– A worker at the Maryagyzsuv water supply company sent to pick cotton during the harvest season, 2018.

Cotton picking is an arduous work. Conditions in the fields are very poor and people have only limited access to fresh drinking water. Those workers assigned to remote areas have to stay overnight with no option but to stay in squalid and unsanitary conditions.

“It was dark and empty and had bare earth instead of a floor with a few tatty felt mats laid out. […] Our group of cotton pickers had to get by on their own food for two weeks. […] There was no shower at all and no toilet for probably five kilometres.”
– A worker at Dashoguz vegetable oil mill sent to pick cotton during the harvest season, 2018.

Risks of Turkmen forced labour cotton in global supply chains

Being the 11th largest cotton producer in the world, not only does the country hold an important position on the global market for raw cotton, but it also has significant cotton processing facilities covering the whole textile production cycle. Turkmenistan’s apparel and textile exports pose a significant risk of forced labour tainting global supply chains and present a challenge to brands’ due diligence.

Turkey and Turkmenistan have special political, economic and business relationships, which leads to a higher presence of Turkmen cotton within Turkey. Through Turkey’s investment in Turkmenistan’s textile industry, Turkish suppliers are playing an important role in upholding forced labour practices. Once in Turkey, textile products containing Turkmen cotton find their way through global markets and end up being sold in high street shops across the world.

Anti-Slavery has documented cases of Turkish enterprises that operate in Turkmenistan, some with huge production capacities. Calik Holding, for example, is a large Turkish holding company with activities in the garment and textile industry, which owns production plants located in Turkmenistan and claims to sell their products to well-known international brands.

What can brands do?

Due to the nature of the cotton production system in Turkmenistan, which is based around state-sponsored forced labour, we urge brands to stop sourcing cotton from Turkmenistan and to undertake the following steps.

  1. Stop sourcing cotton from Turkmenistan. We invite brands to publicly oppose the use of Turkmen cotton in their supply chains, for example by signing the Turkmen Cotton Pledge, to demonstrate to the Turkmen government that human rights violations in cotton production are unacceptable.
  2. Raise awareness. Inform consumers about the labour abuses that might affect the products they wear and use every day.
  3. Engage Turkish suppliers. We don’t want brands to boycott Turkish companies, as it may inadvertently affect those that don’t source Turkmen cotton, and some might even not be aware of the issue. Instead, we want brands to collaborate with their Turkish suppliers and put the issue of Turkmen cotton on their agenda.
  4. Join in on putting pressure on the Government of Turkmenistan. We are calling on brands to use their power to get involved and to raise their concerns to the Turkmen government.
people picking cotton

Does your business need help?

Anti-Slavery can help to identify risks of slavery in your supply chains and support you to addres them

Find out how

What can consumers do?

Let the brands know that accepting the risks of forced labour practices – even if little known – in their supply chains is unacceptable. Let them know that you as their customer expect more from them to ensure that the products you buy are slavery free. The easiest way to do it is to send the below tweet asking a brand to sign up to the Turkmen Cotton Pledge and implement its commitments.

Together, we can end Turkmen Cotton Crimes for good.

Tweet to your favourite brand:

#Forcedlabour is rife in Turkmenistan and affects global cotton supply chains. @[brand handle] please sign up to the Turkmen Cotton Pledge to ensure it doesn’t taint the products I buy from you. https://www.sourcingnetwork.org/turkmen-cotton-pledge/

El 82% de la población española quiere que la ley obligue a las marcas de ropa a respetar los derechos de los trabajadores

A la hora de comprar ropa, zapatos o accesorios, casi el 40% de la población española asegura tener en cuenta las repercusiones sociales y medioambientales que hay detrás de esas prendas. Sin embargo, cerca del 60% no se hace este tipo de preguntas. Es una de las conclusiones de la Encuesta europea sobre moda y consumo responsable, elaborada por Fashion Revolution y publicada este miércoles por la Coordinadora Estatal de Comercio Justo. Continuar leyendo «El 82% de la población española quiere que la ley obligue a las marcas de ropa a respetar los derechos de los trabajadores»

Denuncian en Ecuador a una empresa japonesa por esclavitud laboral

La Defensoría del Pueblo de Ecuador denunció un caso de esclavitud laboral por parte de Furukawa Plantaciones, una empresa japonesa de producción de fibra textil. Según un informe oficial, más de 200 personas han sido sometidas a condiciones de trabajo y de vida que violentan sus derechos humanos en fincas donde se recoge la materia prima que usa la compañía. Continuar leyendo «Denuncian en Ecuador a una empresa japonesa por esclavitud laboral»

Las marcas de moda occidentales subcontratan a las costureras domésticas de India por unos 11 céntimos la hora

Un 95 por ciento del trabajo textil doméstico lo hacen mujeres, en condición de trabajo forzado, y una de cada cinco es menor de 17 años. Las ONG exigen a las compañías que investiguen inmediatamente estas prácticas, completamente invisibilizadas.

Continuar leyendo «Las marcas de moda occidentales subcontratan a las costureras domésticas de India por unos 11 céntimos la hora»

El Parlamento ve con «satisfacción» la elaboración de un tratado de Naciones Unidas sobre empresas y derechos humanos.

La Junta de Portavoces del Parlamento de Navarra ha aprobado por unanimidad una declaración institucional por la que la Cámara acoge con «satisfacción» el trabajo iniciado para la elaboración de un tratado vinculante de las Naciones Unidas sobre las empresas y los derechos humanos. Ha sido presentada por UPN, Geroa Bai, EH Bildu, PSN y PPN.

Continuar leyendo «El Parlamento ve con «satisfacción» la elaboración de un tratado de Naciones Unidas sobre empresas y derechos humanos.»

Grupos parlamentarios por los derechos de los trabajadores del textil.

UPN, Geroa Bai, EH Bildu, PSN y PPN han presentado una declaración institucional a la Mesa y la Junta del Parlamento de Navarra en defensa de los derechos de los trabajadores del textil y por una legislación internacional vinculante.

En esta el Parlamento de Navarra acoge con satisfacción el trabajo iniciado para la elaboración de un tratado vinculante de las Naciones Unidas sobre las empresas y los derechos humanos, que se considera que aumentará la responsabilidad social de las empresas, incluido el sector de la confección.

El Parlamento de Navarra se adhiere a la petición del Parlamento Europeo que solicita a la Comisión Europea que presente una legislación vinculante sobre obligaciones de diligencia debida para las cadenas de suministro del sector de la confección. Subraya que esta propuesta legislativa debe estar en consonancia con las nuevas directrices de la OCDE sobre diligencia debida en el sector de la confección y el calzado, las directrices de la OCDE para empresas multinacionales que importen a la Unión Europea, la resolución de la OIT sobre el trabajo decente en las cadenas de suministro y las normas acordadas a escala internacional en materia de derechos humanos, sociales y medioambientales.

Desde DIGNItex queremos aplaudir la iniciativa y animar al resto de grupos parlamentarios de Navarra y otras comunidades a que sigan el ejemplo.

Buenos Aires: Conmoción por la muerte de una niña de 11 años en un taller clandestino

El lugar, además, era la vivienda familiar. La pequeña residía con su madre y un hermano menor.

Una niña de 11 años murió este domingo en un taller textil clandestino en Buenos Aires, Argentina, donde se originó un incendio.

El hecho ocurrió en el barrio de Mataderos. La pequeña, de nombre Mariana, se encontraba en el lugar, donde también residía, con su mamá y su hermano menor, cuando comenzó el fuego, presuntamente por un árbol de navidad, reseña la agencia de noticias local ANSOL. Continuar leyendo «Buenos Aires: Conmoción por la muerte de una niña de 11 años en un taller clandestino»