Transparentem Survey Finds Evidence of Exploitative Labor Practices in Bangladesh Tanneries

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In the summer of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic threw global supply chains into disarray, Transparentem commissioned a survey of tannery workers in Bangladesh, seeking to understand how the virus was affecting the lives and livelihoods of this vulnerable population. Our survey found that the pandemic was making a bad situation much worse.

As detailed in the report “Pandemic Pushes Struggling Tannery Workers to the Brink,” the survey revealed that many tannery workers said that they did not have signed employment contracts; some appear to have been earning less than the minimum wage, even before the virus struck. When COVID-19 led to shutdowns at many Bangladeshi tanneries, workers in already precarious situations found themselves struggling to support their families.

“I have no money, I cannot provide for my family, I cannot fulfill my children’s needs properly. My life is full of sorrows,” said one of the 100 survey respondents from 19 tanneries in the Savar industrial estate, the center of Bangladesh’s tanning industry.

Working without the protection of a written employment documentation can lead to exploitation; workers may have no record of their agreement with their employer, and little to support their case in the event of unfair treatment or dismissal. This kind of precarious employment, combined with low or below-minimum wages, may mean that tannery workers suffer disproportionately during a disruption like a global pandemic.

Transparentem seeks not only to increase awareness of the struggles of Bangladeshi tannery workers, but to transform their circumstances. To that end, Transparentem’s report includes specific recommendations for action by a variety of stakeholders, to ensure that all tannery workers are protected from exploitation and employed in accordance with labor law.

Click here to read our op-ed on the survey.

Photo Credit: NurPhoto / NurPhoto / Getty Images