Picture: the Argentine Labor Minister, Carlos Tomada, pushes a new law to fight sweatshop labor. Credit: La Nacion.
The Argentine government is pushing a new law that, they say, will help regularize the situation of workers from the textile industry.
These days brands deal with workshop owners, who have an independent relationship with them and act as intermediaries with the actual workers, treated as independent contractors under a legal figure of 'home-based worker'. The new regulation establishes that workshop managers have to start companies and workers have to become their employees, with all the benefits of a registered job.
Even though from the government they say brands will continue to be held responsible for what happens inside the workshops, some organizations claim this will benefit those labels that have already been accused of using sweatshop labor. More details about the law and claims in the extended.
Via La Nacion and Pagina 12 newspapers.Sweatshop labor in Buenos Aires and the new plan to fight it
According to an investigation published by La Nacion newspaper, Buenos Aires hosts over four thousand illegal sweatshops, and about 78% of the textile industry workers are in an illegal labor situation in Argentina. The exploited people are mainly immigrants from Bolivia, who are recruited in their home towns are brought to the country by workshop owners.
So far the situation was easier on owners because a law that regulates 'home-based work' allows brands to request production to them as contractors who act as intermediaries with the workers (supposedly working from home or in a good environment). But now the Argentine government wants to eliminate the figure of the workshop owner altogether by forcing them to establish a company and have their workers registered as employees, while making brands request work from these smaller production companies.
Criticism and responses to the law
Even though coherent sounding, the law was criticized by some segments. La Alameda, an organization that has rescued many workers in inhuman conditions, says the law will only free brands from what happens inside the workshops and will proliferate the number of sweatshops in the city.
The measure is also resisted by some workshop owners grouped in the Cámara Única de Talleristas de Indumentaria (something like Garments Workshop Owners Chamber), who claim to have their workers in a good situation.
From the government, they answer that brands would continue to be indirectly responsible under a clause called 'solidarity principle', which says that when a company contracts another for services related to production it becomes responsible for irregularities related to workers social security.
They also say the only way for laws to work is by increasing the number of controls, and claim they have gone from 20 inspectors to 400 and that they have done 6500 inspections to workshops in the last two years. From there, irregularities were found in 2300 companies.
The new law will be sent to Congress in the next couple of days.
Sources (all in Spanish):
More control in textile workshops (La Nacion newspaper)
"We have to end slave-labor", interview with Argentine Labor Minister (Pagina 12 newspaper)
Argentine Law 12.713, Home-based work (.doc link)
Let's defend home-based work law (La Alameda)
Investigation: Sweatshop Labor in Buenos Aires (La Nacion newspaper)
More on green and socially responsible clothing:
How to green your wardrobe
Buy green guides: Women's casual shoes, Women's jeans, Men's casual shoes, Men's casual pants