Utrecht, 23 August 2017 – New investigation, commissioned by the National India Working Group and Stop Child Labor, shows that modern slavery, low wages, dangerous and unhealthy working conditions occur frequently in South Indian granite groves. Child labor has also been found in some groeves.
There is a big difference in working conditions between permanent workers (especially supervisors) and temporary workers (70% of workers). The first group gets safety equipment, health insurance and a contract of employment, while temporary workers, who do heavy labor, need to lack these basic labor rights.
The investigation shows that granite originating from the studied groves is imported by 33 natural stone companies and 3 banks, including the Dutch companies Arte, Jetstone, Michel Oprey & Beisterveld (MO & B), Kerasom and the Belgian Beltrami and Hullebusch. Furthermore, companies from Australia, Canada, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Spain, the UK and the US * . China is also a major importer, processor and re-exporter of Indian granite for the international market.
Only a few companies are members of sustainability initiatives aimed at improving working conditions in the natural stone sector, but they are hardly tackling the problems in grains. The draft report was sent to the 36 companies, including banks, for comment. Only Dutch companies, the Belgian Beltrami and the RBS bank responded.
From quarry to importer
India belongs to the top producers and exporters of granite, a natural stone type used for wall and floor tiles, tombstones and worktops. Governments in the west are a major end user of granite, including buildings, pavements and squares. Half of the worldwide export of rough granite is from India.
The survey was conducted in the southern indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, which provide 75% of Indian granite production. There are 22 groves examined and six locations where granite grooves are processed. Ten of the granite grooves examined have a direct relationship with one or more foreign importers. Other groeves also produce granite for the export market, but they are traded through intermediaries.
Over 70% of workers are temporary workers, mostly migrants, who receive a daily wage or are paid on duty. Growth management and mediators know the workers to commit themselves through advances that amount to amounts equal to one to three months salary and by loans with excessive interest rates. Almost a quarter of the workers have loans with 24% to 36% interest. About half of all workers have big debts at the quarry owner or a mediator. This makes employees vulnerable to bound labor because they can not change employers as long as they have not paid off their debts. In 9 of the 22 examined groves there is a debt demolition.
Labor mediators ransack most workers but do not offer them a written contract and do not comply with legal requirements. The workers usually come from disadvantaged groups, such as the Dalits (the so-called ‘castless’), the lower cupboards above and the Adivasi (tribals). They are particularly vulnerable due to their low social status in Indian society.
Health and safety at high risk
None of the quarry workers are affiliated with the statutory pension fund or have health insurance. This while their profession is very dangerous and they run a lot of health risks. Many get injured and deadly accidents are often not reported. Furthermore, the quarry is a dusty and noisy environment, which makes workers vulnerable to diseases such as the common lung disease silicosis, which often makes them not older than 40 or 50 years old. Back and eye complaints are also common. In no of the visited groves, workers who saw drill bits were seen with helmets, masks or hearing protectors, except for labor inspections. About 60% of workers say their wages are a great deal to spend on medical care.
Less child labor, but certainly still present
At the beginning of this century, many children continued to grow in granite groves, but this has been greatly reduced by government, industry and civil society. Nevertheless, working children in seven examined groves have been found. In addition, no quarrel appeared to have an active policy to prevent child labor and rehabilitate working children.
Child labor is still prominent in the processing of residues to gravel and “child headers”, also for export. Nearly 80% of the rest stone is being processed by women and children. Children under 14 years account for 3% of the workers who process brick and 5% are between 15 and 18 years old.
Low wages, poor housing and no active unions
In view of the long working days, wages in half of the tested groves do not meet the legal requirements. Overtime is regularly paid in snacks and alcoholic beverages. The amount of daily wage varies depending on the type of work, from € 3.55 to € 6.19 per day. The housing of workers is very small. Workers share small rooms with hardly ventilation, sanitation and privacy. There is no clean drinking water in half of the groves examined. No active trade union was present in any of the groves examined.
The report makes recommendations to companies, sustainability initiatives, the Indian government and the EU and its Member States. Duty duty ( diligence) by companies is needed to address human rights violations, increase chain transparency, map risks and implement improvement plans. The Indian government must implement its own legislation and the EU and its Member States must Strengthen their purchasing policies and buy sustainable granite.