Report finds global fashion brands are failing to deliver on living wage commitments to workers; Incl. co. comments

 In May 2019, a report by Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute, ‘Corporate Commitments to Living Wages in the Garment Industry', found that global fashion brands are failing to deliver on living wage commitments.

The report identified significant obstacles to the payment of living wages to workers in the global garment industry and makes a series of detailed recommendations for how more meaningful progress can be made.

Companies including Amazon.com Inc and France's Decathlon said that their suppliers respected local laws on pay and benefits - but did not mention a living wage.

Gap Inc: It is working with partners and other brands to engage governments and encourage wage-setting mechanisms as "we know there is more work to be done".

Puma: Wages should be negotiated locally - and involve workers, management and government - not mandated by global companies or international organisations. "It is not easy to define a 'fair' wage...A recent wage project conducted for PUMA in Bangladesh ... listed five different living wage figures."

Primark: “We have been working hard for many years to make sure our products are made with respect for workers’ rights and the environment...We are now putting more emphasis on communicating our work in this area to our customers.”

H&M: “We are working together with 21 other brands and the global union IndustriALL, that represents garment workers, towards this goal...This would be a true game-changer and turning point for the industry.”

Inditex: Insisted that wages should meet both the basic needs and discretionary income of workers and their families and that they must be earned in a standard working week. “Inditex is committed to support living wages across its supply chain.”

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Article
31 May 2019

Global: Brands failing promises made to pay their workers living wage

Author: Jonathan Eley, Financial Times

"Top retailers failing on pledge to pay fair wages, says report", 30 May 2019

Leading international retailers are failing to fulfil their commitments to pay fair wages to some of the poorest workers in the world, according to a new report...

...academics from Sheffield University have found that in many cases compliance with advertised standards is patchy and transparency about progress is limited.

Genevieve LeBaron, a professor of politics at Sheffield University and one of the authors of the study...“Brands made commitments about improving pay and conditions that were quite ambitious, but in many cases they are failing to make good on those commitments,” she said. The definitions used to set out fair pay levels are confusing, as they include multiple specifications of what a living wage is, Ms LeBaron said...

...Many brands have outsourced the process of auditing minimum wage compliance...to NGOs who lack the clout to enforce standards, and whose policies are not always compatible with companies’ own codes of conduct.

Ms Le Baron said brands continue to purchase clothing at prices that are inconsistent with paying decent wages, and industry initiatives to improve conditions had often marginalised workers and their representatives.

“We have been working hard for many years to make sure our products are made with respect for workers’ rights and the environment,” said a spokesman for the retailer [Primark]... “We are now putting more emphasis on communicating our work in this area to our customers.”

H&M...said that industry-wide solutions were necessary to make fair living wages a reality.“We are working together with 21 other brands and the global union IndustriALL, that represents garment workers, towards this goal...This would be a true game-changer and turning point for the industry.”...

...Inditex said it insisted that wages should meet both the basic needs and discretionary income of workers and their families and that they must be earned in a standard working week. “Inditex is committed to support living wages across its supply chain,”...

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Article
31 May 2019

Global: Report finds brand commitments to living wage have not led to increased pay for workers

Author: Kieran Guilbert & Amber Milne, Thomson Reuters Foundation

"Big clothes brands found to fall short of own fair wage promises", 30 May 2019

Most major garment companies lack plans for calculating - let alone achieving - a living wage in their global supply chains, despite signing up to initiatives that push for better pay, said researchers at Britain's Sheffield University.

A living wage is supposed to cover the cost of normal family life...plus allow for modest savings and be paid within a normal working week...Only three of 20 big clothes companies...-Sweden's H&M, and Dutch giants C&A and G-Star RAW - have committed to wages that meet that brief, their report said.

And even that commitment has not led to higher earnings...

..."There is little evidence that corporate commitments to living wages are translating into meaningful change on the ground," said Genevieve LeBaron, a politics professor at Sheffield University and lead author of the report. "Consumers are purchasing products they may believe are made by workers earning a living wage, when in reality, low wages continue to be the status quo,"...

...companies including Amazon.com Inc and France's Decathlon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that their suppliers respected local laws on pay and benefits - but did not mention a living wage.

Gap Inc said it was working with partners and other brands to engage governments and encourage wage-setting mechanisms as "we know there is more work to be done".

...Puma said wages should be negotiated locally - and involve workers, management and government - not mandated by global companies or international organisations. "It is not easy to define a 'fair' wage...A recent wage project conducted for PUMA in Bangladesh ... listed five different living wage figures."

...The researchers said there was "widespread inconsistency and confusion" among firms over the definition of a living wage, with many passing the buck by outsourcing vows on better pay to external schemes that are out of step with their own policies.

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Report
30 May 2019

Global garment companies are failing to deliver on living wage promises to workers, new SPERI study finds

Author: Remi Edwards, Tom Hung & Genevieve LeBaron, Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute

garment%20wage%20report

Since the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013, the garment industry has faced growing pressure to raise wages and improve working conditions from consumers, civil society, unions and governments. Leading global corporations have made ambitious commitments to deliver living wages to the workers who make their clothes.

The new report ‘Corporate Commitments to Living Wages in the Garment Industry‘ concludes that companies are falling short when it comes to meaningful action to implement these commitments and makes a series of detailed recommendations for how more meaningful progress can be made...

The researchers identified significant obstacles to the payment of living wages to workers in the global garment industry:

  • Corporations have outsourced their living wage commitments to multiple external initiatives, which have enforceable standards.
  • Company policies are often out of step with these initiatives.
  • There is widespread inconsistency and confusion among corporations over the definition of a living wage.
  • Corporations lack living wage benchmarks and most lack a ‘roadmap’ for achieving their living wage commitments.
  • Corporations are reliant on ‘social auditing’ for compliance and enforcement of living wage commitments, a tool known to be flawed and to produce misleading depictions of labour standards in supply chains.
  • There is a lack of transparency among corporations about the wages that are actually paid to workers throughout their supplier networks.
  • There is weak enforcement of freedom of association rights, which may disempower workers from raising concerns about unmet wage commitments and engaging in collective bargaining.

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