US designer treats workers like dirt

Submitted by Anon on 10 December, 2005 - 12:12

Workers for the Michael Aram Export Company, which manufactures metal artware goods such as cutlery, vases and tableware for such top-end New York department stores as Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, are demonstrating outside their Okhla, New Delhi workplace against poor conditions and with-held pay.

Their work is highly skilled, yet the workers only receive the minimum wage — even though production rates have increased massively since the unit was started in 2001. It is also very dangerous – the debris from steel polishing makes them cough up dark phlegm, as well as rendering them vulnerable to tuberculosis and stomach disorders. They are denied proper pollution masks and clean drinking water.

The situation deteriorated in March when the designer, Michael Aram, and Indian Director Francis Joseph fell out over alleged siphoning off of funds. All work was stopped at the B-156 plant, but Aram assured the workers that a more transparent operation would be back in force within two weeks. But wages were given out reluctantly and late — workers had to go to the Labour Department every month to file a complaint if they wanted to receive any pay. One worker was killed on his way to do so, and his widow was promised his job — nothing came of this offer.

In May Aram set up an alternative company — “Michael Aram Design India Private Limited” — in India to do the same work at a different place, employing a different set of workers, some of them contractors’ workers doing illegal night shifts. In October, his previous outfit, Michael Aram Export Company, declared that it had no funds, issuing “final settlements” workers and refusing to pay their previous month’s wages.

These workers have taken to demonstrating outside their former workplace with placards. You can sign a petition demanding payment of their wages and their re-employment at www.gopetition.com/online/7559.html

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