Shein Suppliers are working 75 hours a week, says report.

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Swiss group claims that some Shein supplier employees still work excessive overtime.

Workers at some suppliers to Chinese fast fashion giant Shein are still working 75 hours a week despite the company promising to improve conditions, says an investigative report by Swiss group Public Eye.

The report is an extension of work from 2021, when an investigation by the group found that several employees at six locations in Guangzhou, in southeast China, were working excessive overtime.

According to the group, which interviewed 13 employees from six factories in China that supply Shein for the latest report, excessive overtime was still common for many workers.

Shein told the BBC it was “working hard” to address the issues raised by the Public Eye report and that it had made “significant progress in improving conditions”.

Shein has grown rapidly since it was founded in 2008 and was one of many online sales companies that grew during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its formula of offering a wide range of cheap clothes – supported by campaigns on Instagram, TikTok and other social networks – has transformed it into one of the biggest sellers of trend items in the world.

The company relies on thousands of third-party suppliers, as well as third-party manufacturers, near its headquarters in Guangzhou, and is able to deliver a new item in weeks rather than months.

However, an employee who has worked on sewing machines for 20 years told Public Eye: “I work every day from 8am to 10.30pm and take one day off a month. I can’t afford any more days off because it’s too expensive . ” “

The 13 factory employees interviewed in the research were interviewed in the summer of 2023.

They worked at production sites west of Nancun village in southern China’s Guangzhou dimension .

Public Eye did not return to Nancun, the location of the original interviews, claiming “the atmosphere was too risky” due to the media attention on its initial report.

Respondents, aged between 23 and 60, said they worked an average of 12 hours a day, which does not include lunch and dinner breaks.

Furthermore , they said they usually work six to seven days a week.

Shein’s Code of Conduct for its suppliers states that workers must not work more than 60 hours per week, including overtime.

The brand acknowledged this was a long-term issue when Public Eye first raised it in 2021.

In its response to the latest report, Shein said long working hours in the sector were a ” common challenge that brands, manufacturers and other ecosystem players must work together to address”.

It added that this was not an individual problem for Shein, but said it was “committed to doing our part to improve the situation in our own production chain .”

The workers also claimed that their salaries have practically not changed since the first investigation and range between 6,000 and 10,000 yuan per month (R$4,300 to R$7,200).

Public Eye states that workers’ essential salary, after deducting overtime pay, is 2,400 yuan (R$1,745).

According to the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a minimum wage in China is around 6,512 yuan (R$4,700).

Workers also claimed to have noticed an increase in the number of surveillance cameras in factories and said they believed the footage was sent to Shein in real time so regulations could be enforced.

Public Eye also said it observed children in factories, teenagers packaging items and a smoking ban not being enforced.

In a statement to the BBC, Shein said it was investing tens of millions of dollars “in strengthening governance and compliance across the entire production chain .”

“We are actively working to improve our suppliers’ practices, including ensuring that hours worked are voluntary and that workers are compensated fairly for what they do, and we also recognize the relevance of industry collaboration to ensure continuous improvement and progress in this dimension “, he stated.

As a result of our efforts, research we conducted with our third-party auditors found that workers at Shein supplier facilities in China earn base wages that are significantly higher than the average local minimum wage .”

Shein told Public Eye that suppliers were required to promise that they complied with local laws and regulations governing wages and working hours.

“When violations [of our governance policies] are found, we take firm action… [including] terminating the business relationship .”

In regards to surveillance cameras, Shein told Public Eye that suppliers made their own decisions to install cameras at their facilities, and the company had not received footage from suppliers’ security cameras.

Regarding children in factories, the company told Public Eye: “We strictly do not tolerate child labor. We treat any violations with the utmost severity.”

The company acknowledged that some factory employees faced the challenge of weighing down their work and their children’s zeal , which “may result in workers taking their children to the workplace .”

Source: BBC News

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