Workers at Ivanka Trump’s Clothing Factory Suffer Abuse and Poor Pay


Workers of an Ivanka Trump clothing factory are paid salaries below China’s legal minimum wage and suffer verbal abuse, an investigation by The Guardian has revealed. The media outlet spoke to over a dozen employees at the PT Buma factory in Subang, Indonesia.

PT Buma is a Korean-owned garment company that was launched in Indonesia in 1999. The company is one of the suppliers of G-III Apparel Group, the wholesale manufacturer for Ivanka Trump’s fashion label, as well as a number of different clothing brands.

The workers told investigators that they are paid one of the lowest minimum wages in Asia, and are set impossibly high production targets that are sporadically compensated with overtime. A total of 2,759 workers are employed at PT Buma; the total unionized workforce is about 200, split between two unions.

About three-quarters of the non-union workers are women, many of which devote their salary to their children. Alia, one of the workers who spoke to The Guardian, told the investigators how she and her husband can only afford to see their children one weekend every month. The children live with their grandmother.  Alia makes 2.3 million rupiah, about $173, a month – the legal minimum wage for her job in her province. This legal minimum wage is among the lowest in Indonesia as a whole.

In addition to the low wage, workers are also subject to short working contracts. Sita, 23, told reporters that her contracts will be terminated soon after and will not receive any severance.

“That’s one of the company’s ways to cope with extra expenses,” she said. “I can’t stand it any more. I work unpaid overtime every day and still earn just 2.3 million [rupiah] a month. I’m planning to move from Subang, where the minimum wage is too low. But I don’t know where to go yet. I haven’t got any connections.”

Meanwhile, to help illustrate the amount of overtime worked by employees, one worker showed the Guardian a photo of a timetable. The photo showed that the production targets are set at between 58 and 92 garments per half-hour period between 7 am and 4 pm. In comparison, the actual number of garments produced are recorded as 27 to 40. As a result, workers have to work overtime almost every day, through fear of losing their job.

To add insult to injury, the workers are also verbally abused, often being called “animals, moron[s] and monkey,” and are at risk of being fired before religious holidays. PT Buma has been noted to fire workers in the weeks leading up to Ramadan to avoid a “religious holiday bonus.” The employers are typically rehired a month following the holiday. Last month, as many as 290 workers were fired before Ramadan.

While these facts may appear shocking, many of the workers told reporters that they did not think the job was that bad. In fact, sources say that the working conditions of this factory are typical in West Java.

“It’s not surprising to me that in a factory like this, you have rank and file workers who are unclear on what their rights are, and what the law says in terms of wages and rights,” said Jim Keady, an American labor rights activist who has worked extensively in Indonesia. “But with these poverty wages — and I would call it that — just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it is moral.”

Image: Flickr, Michael Vadon (CC BY 2.0)

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