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HM Fails To Stick To Fair Pay Promise

by: Lucy Jones | 2 years ago | News

Female garment workers. Image source.

In 2013, H&M committed to delivering fair wages to 850,000 garment workers by 2018. The fast fashion brand has failed to stick to this promise. According to a new report by labour rights organisation Clean Clothes Campaign, many H&M supplier factory workers in Bulgaria, Turkey, India and Cambodia are still living below the poverty line.

CCC researchers spoke to 62 garment workers employed by H&M supplier factories and found that none of them earn a basic living wage. Many of the interviewees also reported other labour law and human rights violations. 

“H&M needs to take action immediately to stop the scandal of poverty wages and workers’ rights violations,” CCC representative Bettina Musiolek told Reuters.

A fair living wage should be earned in a standard working week and provide a garment worker and their family with the funds to cover their basic needs. According to the CCC report, these include: "nutritional needs, housing, healthcare, clothing, transportation and education, plus 10% discretionary income for savings, or protection in case of the unexpected".

CCC found that workers in India and Turkey earn a third of the estimated living wage. In Cambodia, they earn almost half of the basic living wage and in Bulgaria they earn less than 10% of the basic living wage in a normal working week. The report's other key findings were:

The majority of workers and their families live below the poverty line.

Many work overtime hours that exceed the legal limit.

Overtime is not paid according to legal requirements.

Sunday work is common.

Very few workers know how their wages are calculated.

Fainting is common in factories.

The majority of workers interviewed are afraid of joining independent unions.

Researchers also found that some workers in India and Turkey only get paid minimum wage if they work overtime and meet their quota. The International Labour Organisation defines this as forced labour.

H&M's fair living wages promise was outlined in a 2013 document called the 'Roadmap Towards Fair Living Wages'. This document has now been removed from the H&M website and other documents have been reworded to omit this commitment. Despite this shifty behaviour, H&M defended its fair living wage strategy.

“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.

The CCC report suggests that H&M's fair wage promises are nothing more than empty rhetoric. Judy Gearhart, the executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum, said that H&M needs to deliver tangible results for workers. 

“Instead of empty public relations talk, we want to see transparent changes in the real wages of workers in H&M’s supply chain," she said in a statement. 

Read the CCC report in full here.

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