Last month, one of the largest brands in Pakistan’s apparel industry, Khaadi, found itself at the centre of a growing civil campaign against inhumane workplace conditions and workers’ rights.
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Several protest demonstrations were held in Karachi, Lahore and London by workers and activists alleging high-handedness and unfair labour practices by Khaadi’s management.
Even after the news that an agreement between Khaadi and its unofficial workers’ union have been reached to end the dispute, the clothing brand continued to distance itself from the workers, insisting they are not their employees but are in fact employed by a “third-party vendor” TexMark.
Khaadi spokesperson Mohammad Usman told Express Tribune that “The agreement only stated that Khaadi would ensure labour laws are implemented where our products are made through vendors.”
He also refrained from responding to a question on the number of Khaadi employees who produce their goods, telling “It doesn’t matter if the number is 600,000 or just 60, because the agreement or the press conference that followed was not about that.”
TexMark or Khaadi?
Contrary to Khaadi’s claims that plot D-106 in Karachi’s SITE area belongs to TexMark, it emerged that it is actually Khaadi’s property. Around 500 metres away from its Unit III, a police patrol on its routine duty was asked for directions to the plot. “That’s Khaadi’s address, it’s just round the corner, see,” said a constable, pointing towards the factory with large maroon gates where workers could be seen leaving after finishing their shift at 2pm.
Three workers leaving the premises also confirmed that the factory belonged to Khaadi. “It is not a TexMark factory. We produce Khaadi products and were hired for the company. They started saying it was TexMark’s unit just recently. We don’t believe this,” said one worker as he sped off on his bike.
Another worker outside the factory at SITE, who chose to remain anonymous, agreed.
“Why do they have to hide behind TeMmark when we know it’s Khaadi we are working for? We were appointed to work for Khaadi and told that we will become permanent employees after three months but they did not keep their word,” he said.
“We stitch Khaadi kurtas day in and day out at this sweatshop that are put inside boxes with TexMark’s inscription. It’s very confusing. Where do we go for our rights? Khaadi or this new face Texmark?” he added.
Further, well-reputed architecture firm Arshad Shahid Abdullah (ASA) claims on their website that they had designed one of Khaadi’s factories and its office in Karachi. Meanwhile, in a report published online, students of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) claim to have toured Khaadi’s factory in Karachi where they witnessed their products being manufactured, the report in ET stated.
However, on the other hand, it seems the much-sloganeered boycott against the company lost its momentum as men and women flocked to avail the enchanting sale offered by Khaadi.
The Khaadi in Giga Mall (Islamabad) announced an opening sale, and this was enough to allure people as they flocked to avail it.
This is how Twitter reacted to the sale:
So Khaadi had a sale today. Nice.
— Shumail (@Shumyl) June 10, 2017
— Kamran Yusuf (@KamranUsuf) June 10, 2017
— Nida chaudhary (@Nida436) June 10, 2017
Just saw women push the guard to gain entry from the exit side at a khaadi sale (35% off). Like there's no tomorrow
— Noor (@NoorRathore) June 11, 2017
There's a Sale at Khaadi today.
Irrelevant but where can I buy a bulk-load of Kerosene from?
— Buffetkhor (@MyDixonCider) June 10, 2017