Last updated: December 2015
Anna McMullen from garment workers’ campaign group Labour Behind the Label reveals findings of a March 2014 report ‘Tailored Wages’ – sadly a living wage is still a long way off for clothing workers.
A living wage is a human right. Yet the scandalous truth is that the majority of workers producing clothes in the global fashion industry cannot afford to live with dignity. Labour Behind the Label have launched a report into what major clothing brands are doing to ensure the workers who make their clothes are paid enough to live and feed their families.
Based on company responses to an in-depth survey on workers’ rights, the ‘Tailored Wages’ study compares the policy and practice of leading fashion brands and retailers, to see who is doing enough.
We found that just four of the 40 leading international clothing brands asked were able to demonstrate work they were doing that could lead to a living wage. Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Switcher and Tchibo showed that they were taking some clear steps but even they still had a long way to go before a living wage becomes a reality for most clothing workers.
The report comes as Cambodian clothing workers continue to call for an increase in their minimum wage to USD 160 per month – which would almost double the current minimum wage and still be just 40% of the living wage calculated for Cambodia by the Asia Floor Wage Campaign.
Many of the UK’s largest clothing brands and retailers scored between 0 and 5 out of 40, demonstrating little or no work towards ensuring that wages for the workers who make their clothes are enough to meet their basic needs – including Debenhams, Asda and River Island.
“My expenses are increasing every day,” said Lili, a factory worker from Cambodia. “If I have a wedding or ceremony, if I have grandparents, or mother or children, how can I support them also? 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 (of which Labour Behind the Label is the UK part) and partners the Asia Floor Wage Alliance are calling on all brands to implement a living wage policy that sees actual measurable changes in a fixed period of time that will mean that women like Lili will be paid a decent wage.
How the companies scored
Nothing to say (scoring 0)
Companies who declined to respond to the survey:
Armani, Asda, Benetton, Desigual, Diesel, Hugo Boss, Levi Strauss & Co., Replay, River Island, Sainsbury’s.
Dragging their feet (scoring 0.5 – 5)
Doing next to nothing to ensure workers are paid enough to live on:
Aldi, Debenhams, Esprit, Gucci, Mango, Matalan, Pentland (inc. Speedo, Hunter), VF Corporation (inc. Lee, Wrangler, The North Face, Timberland), Versace.
Could do better (scoring 5.5 – 10)
Acknowledge the need for a living wage but doing little to make it a reality:
Asics, Aurora Fashions (inc. Coast, Oasis, Warehouse), Bestseller (inc. Vero Moda, Jack & Jones), Gap, G-Star, Lidl, New Balance, Nike, Next, Tesco.
Some effort (scoring 10.5 – 15)
Mention of work on living wages, but unconvincing so far:
Adidas Group, Arcadia (inc. Topshop, Dorothy Perkins), H&M, Monsoon, Primark, Puma, New Look.
On the way (scoring 15.5 – 20)
Work started to increase wages, but not enough yet:
Inditex (inc. Zara, Pull & Bear), Marks & Spencer, Switcher, Tchibo.
Companies doing significant work towards paying a living wage and can demonstrate this in terms of increased wages (scoring 20.5 +)
None of the companies attained this top rating this time around, as the highest score was 18.5.