New research findings accuse H&M of failing to ensure living wages for its supply chain workers; incl. co response

New research findings published by Clean Clothes Campaign on 24 September 2018 allege that many workers making H&M's clothes live below the poverty wage, forcing many employees to work overtime - despite H&M's commitment to ensuring workers in its supply chain are paid a living wage. The new research, based on interviews with 62 people in six H&M supplier factories in Bulgaria, Turkey, India and Cambodia, forms part of the campaign "Turn Around H&M" launched by CCC and International Labour Rights Forum on Labour Day 2018. 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited H&M to respond to the launch of campaign in May 2018. More information including their response is available here.

We also approached H&M inviting them to provide additional comments on the new research findings released in September. They sent us a statement on 1 October. The report, along with H&M's comments are available below.

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Article
13 December 2018

H&M hosts Fair Living Wage summit & unveils review of its wages roadmap

Author: Sarah George, edie.net

"H&M holds fair wage summit after criticism of supply chain pay policies", 11 December 2018

Fashion giant H&M... held a summit to determine how best to ensure all supply chain workers receive a "fair" living wage, following campaigner accusations that it had failed to pay some garment workers enough to keep them above the poverty line. The summit... in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was attended by representatives from other fashion retailers as well as NGOs, supplier factories... investment firms, [c]ampaigners, trade unionists and academics...

...H&M also unveiled an independent review of its roadmap for wages, which includes a headline goal of ensuring 100% of its supplier factories and farms meet its “fair living wage” standards... the roadmap concludes that H&M’s strategy... “contains some strong elements that seek to address the long-term, systemic root causes of low wages”. However... wage growth among garment workers has “remained slow” and... it recommends that the company... improves the basic rate of pay for all garment workers...

Responding to the report, H&M Group... said the company’s commitment to ensuring all workers receive a fair wage was “stronger than ever”...

... H&M published new information on the wage requirements it enforces across its supply chains in Cambodia, Turkey, China and Indonesia. The figures state that the average worker in Cambodia currently receives 123% of the national living wage, with the rate standing at 193% for China.

The [Clean Clothes Campaign] declined an invitation to the summit, citing concerns that its marketing "concealed important issues" and that the event would not address these challenges...

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Article
27 November 2018

H&M faces global living wage protests during Cyber Week

Author: Simone Preuss, FashionUnited

"Black Friday for H&M: global protests for living wage during Cyber Week", 26 November 2018

... H&M promised on 23rd November 2013, five years ago after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, in its “Roadmap towards a fair living wage” to have “pay structures in place to pay a fair living wage by 2018” to all its workers globally (at the time, around 850,000 people in 750 factories). But now, 2018 is almost over and this has not happened; the 'Roadmap' has since been removed from the company’s website. The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) checked the wages that factories making H&M’s clothes pay in Cambodia, India, Turkey and Bulgaria and found that in EU member state Bulgaria, only 9 percent of a living wage is paid...

...activists and workers around the globe are joining hands to demand living wages and fair employment conditions throughout the supply chain. Demanding “Turn around H&M”, protests have started on Black Friday and will continue throughout Cyber Week and end on 30th November...

“Workers revealed that H&M was nowhere near the payment of a living wage at its supplier factories ‑ to the contrary, many workers reported poverty wages and labour rights violations...” said Bettina Musiolek of the Clean Clothes Campaign who coordinated the research...

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Company response
1 October 2018

Response by H&M

Author: H&M

We invited H&M to respond to the new research findings. H&M sent us the following statement.

We are working towards the same vision as the one expressed in the [CCC] report: that textile workers should earn a living wage. We agree that wages are too low in garment producing countries. This is one of the most important questions for our industry, but also one of the most complex issue as it requires an industry solution where brands like ourselves, worker representatives and unions, government and other actors need work together towards transformative change on industry level. We share [CCC]’s concerns – which is the very reason why we are so committed to our work within this area. We have a responsibility and as a big company we can also work with others to influence change.

To ensure long term solutions, this work needs to involve all actors. Change will not happen overnight, but gradually we do see positive change. It is essential to stick to such solutions that will bring about change for all garment workers and that stands the test of time– no matter at which factory they work or for which brands they produce. For this to happen we need to drive change for workers on factory level, establish social dialogue on industry level and towards governments to establish an enabling legal framework that supports regular wage revisions, freedom of association and collective bargaining. On factory and industry level it is also important to do so by empowering the workers’ voices and strengthening their skills to be able to negotiate their own wage, just the way we do it in Sweden. Our view is that wages shall be sat through fair negotiations between workers and employers, and this is a view that we share with the ILO, the global trade union federation IndustriALL and Swedish IF Metall.

This is how we view our role in bringing about a higher wage level - to ensure the tools are there but not disempower the workers and cheat them of their own negotiation skills and empowerment by dictating a wage level only for thus producing in factories with H&M products. Both ILO and UN stress the importance of strengthening workers’ voices.

By working for freedom of association and collective bargaining in countries where our goods are produced, making sure purchasing practices are enabling fair and good wage processes and supporting our supplier factories to implement good workplace dialogue and wage management systems that supports transparent, fair and progressive wage setting principles we are working towards our vision of fair living wages for textile workers. Considering this, we launched our fair living wage strategy 5 years ago, which is currently being evaluated by the aid of a third party to inform the way forward and integrate lessons learnt over the past five years. So far, we have reached 930.000 factory workers in 655 factories covering 10 countries with our fair living wage strategy. See more at: https://about.hm.com/en/media/news/financial-reports/2018/9/3057029.html

Article
25 September 2018

H&M accused of failing to ensure fair wages for global factory workers

Author: Kieran Guilbert, Reuters

Fashion giant H&M is failing to fulfill a pledge to ensure garment workers who supply its high-street stores are paid a fair “living wage”, forcing many employees to work excessive hours in order to survive, civil society groups said on Monday. 

Based on interviews with 62 people in six H&M supplier factories in Bulgaria, Turkey, India and Cambodia, campaigners said none of the workers earned anything near a so-called living wage that would allow them to cover their families’ basic needs...

However H&M - which has more than 4,800 stores in 69 nations - said it had reached at least 600 factories and 930,000 garment workers with its fair living wage strategy, and did not share the CCC’s view of how to create change in the textile industry. 

“There is no universally agreed level for living wages, and wage levels should be defined and set by parties on the labor market through fair negotiations between employers and workers representatives, not by Western brands,” a H&M spokeswoman said...

Many worked overtime hours that exceeded the legal limit without being properly paid, while others were only paid the minimum wage if they worked extra hours and met their quota, which the United Nations defines as forced labor, the CCC said.

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Report
24 September 2018

H&M: Fair living wages were promised, poverty wages are the reality

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

In November 2013, H&M announced that all “H&M’s strategic suppliers should have pay structures in place to pay a fair living wage by 2018... 

Clean Clothes Campaign set out to check what workers were making in some of those supplier factories, and how close that was to a living wage... 

Our researchers spoke with 62 workers in Bulgaria, Turkey, India and Cambodia. This document highlights their key findings as well as some additional facts that shed light on H&M’s supply chain and the brand’s progress in implementing its commitments... 

Workers reported that they have to work overtime just to earn the statutory minimum wage, but even doing overtime does not necessarily mean they will receive the minimum wage... 

Two thirds of respondents have fainted at work and all workers have had to receive glucose drips because of dehydration... 

In addition, women workers have to care for the household and family. These factors combined have a detrimental effect on women workers’ health... 

Whereas H&M is involved in a multistakeholder initiative 36 engaging national governments on the issue of living wage, minimum wages in all researched countries are still far below living wage estimates.

Note: The report also mentions labour abuses at Shahi Exports Pvt. Ltd factory in India. More information, including Shahi's response and actions taken can be found here.

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