Bulgarian National Television (BNT) has aired a report about the exploitation of sewists in the country. It says, activists were united in fighting exploitation in Asian “sweat shops”, where the bulk of the large clothing retailers get their merchandise, while in Bulgaria, sewists were paid even less.
According to a former sewist interviewed by BNT, working overtime a lot without compensation is normal in the Bulgarian garment business. Wages for sewists are usually around 400 Leva (approx. 200 Euro). In quite a few cases, workers are being paid very late, as the German TV channel Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) found out, when they produced a report on the subject, in Bulgaria, just ten days ago.
The ZDF spoke to sewists in Blagoevgrad, who had not been paid in several months and who described terrible conditions they worked in, due to a lack of alternatives.
Bulgarian sewists accused their employers of exploitation. In front of a BNT camera, one of them said: “The individual is being reduced to the level of an animal.”
According to the Bulgarian television report, modern day slavery is very frequent in south-western Bulgaria, where a large part of the clothing industry is settled. More than a thousand clothing factories are registered in that region. Low wages and 15-hour working days are no exception, according to the report.
In the town of Gotse Delchev, where the BNT team went, there are both tiny production units with two to four people, located in garages, and huge factories with hundreds of sewists and other employees. But the practices of those companies were all the same, said the BNT reporter.
Both Bulgarian and foreign entrepreneurs open factories, according to BNT. All of them rely on the desperation of the local population. People will get ultra-low wages, in exchange for long working hours and terrible conditions.
The practices in this industry are illegal, both under Bulgarian and European legislation. But the authorities do not seem to want to enforce the law.