The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), an international organisation working to protect garment workers, accused factories and brands of abandoning workers after the devastating earthquake in Turkey last February.
"As most of them were not paid in full after the earthquake, workers had to return to work out of financial hardship, without safe accommodation and before the factories they worked in had undergone structural safety inspections," said the CCC's recently published report ‘The impact of the earthquake on textile and garment workers’.
This finding is based on a survey of 130 workers from the earthquake-impacted cities of Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş, Malatya and Adıyaman, which was conducted between August and September 2023.
The report described the difficult working conditions faced by the earthquake victims, such as job insecurity, low wages and verbal harassment. Some of these problems already existed before the earthquake, but were exacerbated by the natural disaster.
Contracts do not cover disasters such as earthquakes
For the factories, it was more important to fulfil orders than to consider the welfare of their workers. Many therefore had to return to work shortly after the earthquake, often before the structural safety of the factories had been checked. More than 50 percent of respondents reported that there had been no inspection of the factory buildings.
In addition, 35 percent of the workers surveyed had not received their wages, which led to financial difficulties and forced workers to return to work - often before they could take care of their own families and housing situation. Those who were unable to return to work lost their entitlement to severance pay in some cases.
The study confirms and expands on the findings of an earlier survey conducted in August by the Middle East Technical University in Istanbul. The new report echoed the CCC's March 2023 call for brand manufacturers to ensure that workers in their supply chains are safe and their rights are respected.
Bego Demir from CCC Turkey and one of the authors of the report stated: "The February 2023 earthquake clearly shows that workers' welfare is not protected by existing global agreements and compromises. New agreements and solutions are needed that are specifically tailored to crises like an earthquake. The Pay Your Workers agreement is one such option."