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New report investigates clothing brands’ work on living wages

Date Released: 02 April 2014

Survey of 39 leading clothing brands on Irish high-street show they must do much more to ensure garment workers receive a wage they can live on.

Today (Wednesday, 2nd April), Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland launched ‘Tailored Wages’ an in depth study of what the leading 39 clothing brands on the Irish and European high-street are doing to ensure that the workers who produce the clothes they sell are paid a living wage.

Based on a multi brand survey “Tailored Wages” found that while half of those surveyed included wording in their codes of conduct saying that wages should be enough to meet workers' basic needs; only four brands – Inditex (Zara), Marks & Spencers, Switcher and Tchibo - were able to show any clear steps towards implementing this – and even they have a long way to go before a living wage becomes a reality for the garment workers that produce for them.

Of the Irish retailers requested to participate, only Penneys were willing to share their projects and ongoing work in relation to workers’ wages. Neither Dunnes Stores nor O’Neills sportswear suppliers were able to supply even rudimentary information on codes of conduct or ethical trading policies.

“Although a living wage is a human right, shockingly none of Europe’s leading 50 companies is yet paying a living wage,” said Anna McMullen, the lead author on the report. “The research showed that while more brands are aware of the living wage and recognise that it is something to be included in their codes of conduct and in CSR brochures, disappointingly for most of the brands surveyed this was as far as they went. With millions of women and men worldwide dependent on the garment industry it is vital that these words are turned into definitive actions sooner rather than later.”

Co-author, Kate Nolan of Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland added “We were disappointed but not surprised to find that so many retailers are doing so little to ensure living wages are met in their supply chains. The fact remains that a living wage is a human right and retailers who continue to abdicate their responsibilities in this matter are infringing upon those workers’ human rights.”

In key garment producing countries such as Cambodia the struggle for a living wage continues, as latest figures from the Asia Floor Wage Alliance show that living wage levels are, on average, three times the minimum wage a garment worker receives.

Cambodian workers, currently receive just US$ 100 a month, just 25% of the Asia Floor Wage calculation for Cambodia.  In recent months garment workers have been met with increasing violence and unrest as they demand a raise in the minimum wage to US$ 160 – still just a fraction of a wage they could live on.

“My expenses are increasing every day,” says Lili, a factory worker from Cambodia. “Even if we [the workers] eat all together in a small room and I collect the money from all others, we still can only spend a very small amount each because everybody always thinks 'how are we going to be able to send money home to our families?'”

The Clean Clothes Campaign carried out the research to monitor how far policies are being turned into practice by major clothing brands.  The role of companies in ensuring a living wage is paid is vital as they have the ability to change prices and purchasing practices that would ensure wages allowed garment workers to live with dignity.  

Tailored Wages is part of a global campaign run by Clean Clothes Campaign and partners the Asia Floor Wage Alliance calling on all brands and governments to take action in order to ensure a living wage is paid.

 

 


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