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‘Press 1 for Child Labor’: Garment Workers from Bangladesh to Turkey use Cell Phones to Report Abuses

Two mobile services, both by U.S.-based companies, encourage workers to call toll-free numbers to anonymously log violations they see around them

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FILE - A worker is seen in a garment factory in Savar, Bangladesh. Two mobile services, both by U.S.-based companies, encourage workers to call toll-free numbers to anonymously log violations they see around them. VOA
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Textile workers from Bangladesh to Turkey are using cellphones to report child labor, delayed wages and trafficking – a trend rights groups say shows the promise of technology in tackling abuses in the garment industry.

Two mobile services, both by U.S.-based companies, encourage workers to call toll-free numbers to anonymously log violations they see around them.

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The idea is to give big brands early warning of problems at the furthest ends of their supply chains as they seek to comply with tougher legislation against labour exploitation and modern slavery.

“One of the big challenges for companies in locations far from their suppliers is: How do you hear from workers directly?” said Sarah Labowitz, co-director of the Center for Business and Human Rights at the NYC Stern School of Business in New York.

“When it comes to issues such as discrimination, harassment and abuse, workers have a role in flagging these problems. And as with a lot of social problems, we often look to technology for solutions,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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The two systems, Laborlink and LaborVoices, are similar. Workers call and answer simple questions, pressing 1 for “yes” and 2 for “no.”

Questions are along the lines of: Are you being treated fairly? Are wages paid on time? Are fire exits locked? Have you seen a child worker?

An analysis of calls to LaborVoices from more than 5,000 workers in Bangladesh in the first half of the year showed almost a fifth of factories had a “high risk” of child labor, Ayush Khanna, a LaborVoices director, said.

“Mobile-phone penetration in developing countries is more than 90 percent today, so it’s an obvious technology to use to increase the transparency and accountability of the supply chain,” he said in a phone interview. “The system gets around many of the limitations of traditional audits, which are slow, occasional and may be inaccurate because workers are afraid.”

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Bangladesh, which ranks only behind China as a supplier of apparel to Western countries, relies on garments for more than 80 percent of its exports and about 4 million jobs. Workers earn a minimum monthly wage of $68, compared with $280 in China.

Low wages and poor working conditions have plagued the country’s $26 billion garment export industry. Bangladesh had one of the worst industrial accidents in 2013, when more than 1,000 people were killed in the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex.

In May this year, three workers were killed in a fire at a textile factory near Dhaka.

Since the Rana Plaza disaster, legislation has been introduced for greater supply-chain transparency and improved rights and safety for workers. But progress has been slow.

The 5,239 workers who called LaborVoices in the first half of the year worked in 85 factories in Dhaka and Chittagong, which supplied more than 30 global brands including Walmart, Target, Zara, Adidas, H&M and Levi’s, Khanna said. LaborVoices is also tracking abuse of Syrian migrant workers in Turkey’s garment industry, seeking evidence of forced labor and trafficking, Khanna said.

Laborlink has reached more than 500,000 workers in 16 countries from China to Colombia, the company says. But while technology can help flag abuses in the supply

chain, it cannot single-handedly solve them, Labowitz said.

“Calls from workers is a good system to have, but it is not a substitute for audits and checks,” she said. “You need both to tackle the issues in the supply chain.” (VOA)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)