Most companies seem to think that ensuring payment of a minimum wage is sufficient to have discharged their responsibilities, or at least an adequate stop-gap measure. But a stop-gap for what? There is little cause for workers to be optimistic on the basis of our sources.
Brands and retailers at the top of the supply chain aren’t passive entities floating on a sea of global trade. When they work together, they control the industry. They don’t have to relocate to chase the cheapest labour. They could take responsibility for their actions, commit to paying a living wage, and absorb the small increase in costs this might create.
Whether a living wage is defined by a formula or by collective bargaining, it requires that companies address the root problems of the conflicting messages they send to factory managements, and the way they purchase. This means finding solutions that work on a country-wide, supply chain-wide and ultimately an industry-wide level. Companies deserve credit for working actively to find industry-wide solutions to the difficulty, but not simply for signing up and then doing nothing.