// H&M to investigate death of female employee at a supplier’s factory in southern India
// A male co-worker has been arrested on suspicion of murder
// Unions have accused H&M of failing to intervene
H&M is reportedly under scrutiny after the death of a female employee emerged following reports of sexual harassment at a supplier’s factory in southern India.
The fashion retailer said it will investigate the death of 20-year-old Jeyasre Kathiravel, reportedly killed by a supervisor at Natchi Apparels.
A male co-worker has since been arrested on suspicion of her murder, The Guardian reported.
The man arrested has also been accused of sexually harassing Kathiravel for months at the H&M supplier factory in Tamil Nadu.
H&M said it is launching an independent investigation into the killing of Kathiravel, who was found dead on January 5, in farmland near her home.
The family of Kathiravel and a local union representing female workers at Natchi Apparels said that she had attempted to report the harassment and intimidation she was suffering at work, but no action was taken.
They also said that gender-based violence at the factory was widespread.
Representative of women working at Natchi Apparels, Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), state president Thivya Rakini said “nothing was done” about the situation.
The factory is owned by Eastman Exports, India’s fourth largest garment export company, which is a large supplier to H&M and other western brands.
H&M responded by saying it has zero tolerance for gender-based violence in its supply chains.
It said it is working to improve worker safety in its factories in Tamil Nadu.
However, international labour rights groups, Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) and the Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), said H&M’s apparent failure to police its own codes of conduct on gender-based violence or to ensure that there was a “responsible process” after the murder had put other women working in its supply chain at risk.
The groups also accused H&M of failing to intervene to stop the intimidation of Kathiravel’s family by Eastman Exports managers in the weeks after her death.
International labour groups said H&M must use its power as a foreign buyer to ensure that any gender-based violence was eradicated from Eastman Exports factories and across all its supply chains.