One of Telenor’s subcontractors risks paying a high price because Telenor has not followed up the work of the contractor chain in Bangladesh. The company Mizan Hatim Engineering risks going bankrupt if Telenor and Grameenphone maintain the decision to break with the company as supplier of antenna towers.
Telenor is letting Grameenphone decide the fate of one of the contractors that Telenor is now rejecting after the Bangladesh scandal. "This is a business decision, but it is not a matter of principle. We can resume the dialogue, but the decision rests with Grameenphone," Pål Kvalheim, Vice President Communications at Telenor, told Norwatch.
"Five Hundred employees risk becoming unemployed. We have already introduced a series of improvements in the safety conditions. We ask Telenor to give us a chance to improve," Mizanur Rahman told Norwatch. He is the head of Mizan Hatim Engineering, the only subcontractor to lose its contract after the disclosure of the scandalous working conditions at Telenor’s suppliers of antenna towers in Bangladesh.
Only Mizan Hatim Engineering has lost its contract with Grameenphone after disclosure of the illegal conditions at Telenor’s subcontractors in Bangladesh. The reason is not that the conditions are worse at this company than at the other contractors. “The company’s management has not shown the necessary will to improve conditions,” Pål Kvalheim, Telenor's Vice President Communications, told Norwatch.
Barely 2 years ago Det Norske Veritas gave the stamp of approval to the management system of one of Telenor’s sub-suppliers in Bangladesh, Mizan Hatim Engineering. Telenor has now broken all connections with this sub-supplier because of the management’s unwillingness to improve.
Unionizing of workers is decisive to improve conditions in textile factories in developing countries. Simultaneously, unionized workers encounter strong opposition. During the past 3 years three union leaders have been killed in Cambodia. Union leader Athit Kong recently recounted this during the launching of the Norwegian Clean Clothes campaign.
The wages of workers in poor countries constitute only a very small part of the retail price of clothes. For a T-shirt of 150 Norwegian kroner, only 0.13 kroner or 0.087 percent of the retail price, is allotted to the cottonpicker, show calculations carried out by Norwatch.
Each year, Norwegians shop clothes for almost 20 billion NOK. They choose by colour, size and fabric, but they are kept ignorant on where the clothes are manufactured. The reason for this secrecy is to be formal in the EU adjustment -policy. From 1996 on it was no longer needed to label textile products with country of origin.
The hundred-years-old plantation company Grupo Madal in Mozambique has been owned by Norwegians since 1913. The company's business is a.o. coconut plantations, timber, and cattle. In July 2000, NorWatch visited the company to take a closer look at environmental and working conditions, and to try to find out whether the company is contributing to economic development in the dirt-poor country. Norfund is negotiating with the company over a possible investment.
The Norwegian-Ugandan rose farm Jambo Roses has received NOK millions in grant from NORAD, which paints a rosy picture of the company's profitability and working conditions. NorWatch studies, however, show that the workers are working under highly objectionable conditions, and that the company is using pesticides that are banned in Norway, despite assurances to the contrary by the Norwegian owners.