Report alleges M&S & H&M of paying Asian workers less than living wage, brands respond

H&M and M&S made headline commitments to ensure living wage is possible for workers in their supply chains. Research by workers' rights group Labour Behind the Label conclude that both H&M & M&S have failed in achieving living wage in their supply chains. The report said workers from factories making clothes for Marks & Spencer were all being paid well below the amount required for a decent standard of living in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & India. The report also highlighted that H&M has made a commitment to ensure a living wage is possible for workers in its supply chain, although it is much further behind M&S on the journey. Labour Behind the Label claimed progress on this to date was limited. [Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies to respond, responses included].

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Company response
15 February 2016

H&M Response

Author: H&M

We take a positive view on wage increases and we want suppliers to pay their employees a fair living wage. As mentioned in the report, we have developed a Fair Living Wage strategy that involves not only buyers but also suppliers, factory employees and governments. It has been drawn up in consultation with global trade unions, suppliers and non-profit organizations. Our approach is that wages should be negotiated between the parties on the labour market. Our initial goal is that all our strategic suppliers should have pay structures allowing fair living wages in place by 2018. Implementation and scaling up is progressing with 68 factories during 2015 and additional 80 factories during 2016. 

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15 February 2016

M&S response

Author: Marks & Spencer

We are committed to further improving working conditions in our clothing supply chain and our work since 2010 has made a significant difference...There’s always more to be done due to the complex nature of the clothing supply chain and we cannot determine the wages paid to supplier employees. However we are committed to ensuring our cost prices remain high enough to pay a fair living wage, training workers in financial literacy and worker rights and playing our part in collaborating with other brands and governments to improve the sector.

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13 February 2016

Bangladesh: Asian workers making M&S clothes paid far less than living wage – report

Author: Sarah Butler, Guardian

Workers making clothes for Marks & Spencer in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India are still not being paid sufficiently, six years after the retailer promised to support the payment of a living wage in those countries...Anna McMullen, a campaigner at Labour Behind the Label, said she was “disappointed and angry” that M&S had been not been able to make a difference to the lives of workers, despite its promises...An M&S spokesperson said: “We are committed to further improving working conditions in our clothing supply chain and our work since 2010 has made a significant difference. For example, average wages at our supplier factories in Bangladesh are now 60% above the current minimum wage.

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9 February 2016

Do we buy it?

Author: Labour behind the Label

When we analysed wages in M&S suppliers, we found that the impact of their commitment on real wages had been minimal. At M&S suppliers in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, workers continue to live in abject poverty...In Sri Lanka...overtime was a serious issue, and factories fiddled their books to hide the illegal 100 hours of overtime a month that workers sometimes had to work to make ends meet...In India workers reported verbal harassment, gender discrimination, and unspeci ed wage deductions...In Bangladesh, we found M&S workers living in slum housing, and in debt, having to pay for groceries on credit each month because wages were too low...Looking to H&M’s fair living wage work, we sought out H&M strategic suppliers in Cambodia to analyse their wage levels. Wages had increased, but not enough to meet a living wage level. Workers reported issues with short term contracts limiting their rights to holiday and bonuses...Verdict on M&S and H&M’s living wage rhetoric: Fail (so far). 

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