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IKEA refuses to join Bangladesh Accord

IKEA refuses to join Bangladesh Accord

On 1 June 2018 the Transition Accord will take effect, working to make garment factories in Bangladesh safer. It will continue the work of its predecessor, which was established shortly after the deadly Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, to inspect factories and monitor renovations in a credible and transparent way. The new Accord has a range of new features, including the fact that it now welcomes producers of home textiles and fabric and knit accessories, next to garment factories. This means that more companies can join and more workers can be protected. However, IKEA, the largest home furnishing company in the world, has refused to bring the home textile factories it sources from in Bangladesh under the purview of the Accord.    

The 2018 Transition Accord is now signed by 175 garment and home textile companies, including some of the main companies sourcing from Bangladesh such as Primark, H&M, C&A and Aldi. This covers more than 1,300 factories and approximately two million workers. As the initial Bangladesh Accord was signed by over 220 garment companies, it means that there are still many companies sourcing from Bangladesh that have refused to take responsibility for the safety of the workers producing their garments, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Sean John Apparel and Edinburgh Woollen Mill. Other garment companies have never even signed the first Accord, either creating their own, less credible and binding alternative or sticking to completely voluntary measures. These companies, which include VF Corporation (The North Face), GAP, Walmart and many others, should soon take responsibility for worker safety as well and join the Accord. Companies can and should still join after the start of the 2018 Accord, as it is never too late to start protecting workers’ lives.   

One of the new features of the 2018 Accord is that it also covers factories producing home textiles and fabric and knit accessories. In March therefore Future in Our Hands (FIOH), the organization that hosts Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) in Norway, reached out to the country’s three main producers of home textile. While the two domestic companies Kid Interiør and Princess Gruppen answered favourably and signed the Accord, globally operating retail giant IKEA, originating from Sweden, refused to do so. 

The IKEA Way vs The Accord

In communication with representatives of FIOH and CCC Norway, IKEA claimed that the company’s own code of conduct, ‘the IKEA Way’ (IWAY), is sufficient to ensure safety at the company’s suppliers. In a meeting last Monday in Norway, IKEA reassured representatives of both organizations that there are several ways to reach the goal of factory safety. Clean Clothes Campaign is however convinced that there actually is only one credible way towards safe factories in Bangladesh – and it is not IKEA’s way. 

The Accord offers the only road towards safer factories in a country in which voluntary corporate social auditing systems has in the past failed to prevent the thousands of deaths of the Rana Plaza and Tazreen factory catastrophes. In response to that, the Accord is a collective scheme, that is a legally binding agreement between a great number of brands and trade unions and contains extensive enforcement mechanisms. IWAY is no different from previous voluntary corporate auditing schemes: it is IKEA’s code of conduct, which is accountable to only the company itself. It lacks the transparency that makes the Accord credible and accountable; while the Accord publishes inspection and progress reports as well as lists of factories that have been terminated from the programme, IKEA makes none of this information public. This makes it impossible for outsiders to check whether IWAY is actually making factories safer. Moreover, while the Accord inspects all factories that signatory companies source from or sourced from in the recent past, IKEA only carries out audits in its main suppliers, expecting them to in turn check on their subcontractors. This suggests that IKEA wants to deflect responsibility from these suppliers and strongly decreases their possibility to oversee the process and be knowledgeable about working conditions in those factories.  

IKEA claims to have has five main suppliers in Bangladesh. Research by FIOH reveals that only one of these suppliers in Bangladesh is covered by the Accord, meaning workers in the remaining factories are still at risk. 

What can you do?

Tell IKEA you want to see them respect their workers and sign the Bangladesh Accord. You could do this by:

New report shares good practice for advancing workers’ rights in the shoe industry

New report shares good practice for advancing workers’ rights in the shoe industry

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”3755″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]Press release: Tuesday 19 December 2017

New report shares good practice for advancing workers’ rights in the shoe industry

Campaigners hope to encourage progress on workers’ rights with a new review of better practice in the shoe industry.

“How To Do Better: an exploration of better practices within the footwear industry” is published today by Labour Behind the Label and the Change Your Shoes campaign.

The campaign hopes the cases and recommendations will encourage companies, federations, policy makers and other stakeholders  to learn from the work being done by others, and that this review will allow greater cooperation between workers, civil society organisations and brands in moving forward on human rights due diligence.

The practices are assessed according to how they improved five key areas of widespread human rights violations in the shoe industry: improving working conditions, occupational health and safety, freedom of association, environmental issues and transparency and traceability across the whole supply chain.

“There are plenty of ways in which companies pursue an ethical ethos, and through our research we can see how different weight is given by different companies to ensuring ecological, organic, certified materials, or fair conditions and social compliance, in production and in countries with a high risk of human rights abuses or low environmental standards. We have sought to find different practices which present an integrated approach and are transparent enough to reveal more than a simple commitment to ‘ethical’ production”, say Dominique Muller and Anna Paluszek, the authors of the report.

The report aims to share good practice, case studies and results for others to follow, and to share with all stakeholders examples of sustainable alternatives within the shoe industry. It is not designed to be used as a shopping guide nor does it attempt to rank or rate brands.

The report presents some cases of brands (including Ethletic, Veja, Sole Rebels, Nisolo, Po Zu, Pentland, !Think and Van Lier) who work towards a more sustainable supply chain and end product, as defined by a focus on ethical and fair production, collaboration with civil society organisations and Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives and/or ecological materials grown without harm for people, animals, and the environment.

There are examples of initiatives of tripartite collaboration between main footwear industry actors such as the Fair Wear Foundation, and enforceable binding agreements on freedom of association. Numerous labels and certification systems exist, private and public, which monitor conditions in the footwear industry. The report presents initiatives addressing endemic issues in the footwear industry in a collaborative and holistic way (including Austrian Ecolabel, Bluesign, IVN).

The main finding of the report is a need for increased credibility – for brands, large or small, to make credible claims to support environmental and/or ethical standards. It is imperative that these brands always include both ecological and social criteria.

“Changes are needed to ensure meaningful due diligence by companies. Without behaviour that supports change on the ground by producers – such as increased lead times, fairer pricing systems ensuring fair working conditions and living wages – there will be little improvement for the vast majority of workers and their families”, says Stefan Grasgruber-Kerl of Change your Shoes.

Read the full report and Executive Summary

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New report shares good practice for advancing workers’ rights in the shoe industry

Report: How To Do Better: an exploration of better practices within the footwear industry

The report presents a short review of the better practices in the shoe industry.

The practices we found were assessed according to how they improved five key areas:
1. Improving working conditions in all parts of the production supply chain (from tanneries to factories) including employment contracts, protection of vulnerable workers, working time etc.
2. Occupational health and safety (OHS) for workers in all parts of the production supply chain (from tanneries to factories).
3. Freedom of association – including collective bargaining, cases of good industrial relations, effective resolution of industrial disputes, and support for trade unions and workers’ rights.
4. Environmental issues including the use of toxins, water and waste treatment etc.
5. Transparency and traceability of the supply chain – including public reporting of audits, suppliers, grievance mechanisms, wages etc.

The report aims to share good practice learnings, case studies and results for others to follow and to share with all stakeholders examples of sustainable alternatives within the shoe industry. It is not designed to be used as a shopping guide nor does it attempt to rank or rate brands. Cases are not examples of compliance with local, international or EU laws and regulations but are examples of significant steps to develop innovative and outstanding practices which provide positive impact for workers and their families.

Download the report: How to do Better

Download the Executive Summary

Published in 2017.

Report: The Real Cost of Our Shoes

Report: The Real Cost of Our Shoes

This report is an investigation into the supply chains of three major shoe brands: Tod’s, Prada and GEOX. It reveals continuously changing global production routes, where the mobility of capital, combined with outsourcing strategies, has created the perfect environment for continuously adapting products to consumers’ tastes and pockets, while driving working conditions and pay downwards.

Recent research by Change Your Shoes, simultaneously conducted in Italy, China, Eastern Europe, India and Indonesia, has demonstrated shoe production as a labour-intensive process subject to short deadlines and very low prices which corrode the living and working conditions of millions of workers, wherever they produce. This damaging trend has also occurred in Europe – enough to generate significant production relocation shifts back to Europe. This report, published by Centro Nuovo Modello di Sviluppo and Fair for the Change Your Shoes project, highlights this emerging trend and the reasons which lie behind it.

Download the report: The Real Cost of Our Shoes

Download the factsheet

Published in 2017

Despite massive profits, big fashion brands refuse to pay workers after factory closures

Despite massive profits, big fashion brands refuse to pay workers after factory closures

16 December 2017

Despite massive profits, big fashion brands refuse to pay workers after factory closures

  • Garment workers and activists unite in global actions against wage theft
  • Unpaid garment workers demand justice: messages to shoppers found in clothes in Marks and Spencer, Next and Zara

Over the weekend, while festive shoppers across the UK browse clothing stores, they are also discovering messages from garment workers seeking help.

The messages being found by shoppers in clothes in Marks and Spencer, Next and Zara stores say: “I made the item you are about to buy, but I didn’t get paid for making it”.

Elsewhere in the world, notes are also appearing in stores of Mango, Uniqlo, Adidas, Mizuno and Nygard. The messages are from workers in Cambodia, Turkey and Indonesia who are all owed money for making clothes for these fashion industry giants. In four discrete instances between 2012 and 2016, workers saw their factories suddenly close, even overnight, leaving them jobless and owed months of back wages and severance payments.

These factory closures (Chung Fai factory in Cambodia; Bravo factory in Turkey; PT PDK and Jaba Garmindo factories in Indonesia) were often preceded by major buyers cutting off orders, without warning or explanation to the workforce, most of them women. The consequences for the workers and their families have been dire.

Hikmet, who used to work at the Bravo Tekstil factory in Turkey – which produced clothing for Next, Zara and Mango – until it closed, says: “I haven’t been able to pay my rent for four months. I cannot pay my debts. I am in a desperate situation.”

Each of the brands involved, despite collectively earning billions in annual profit, are refusing to pay the workers from these factories their back wages and severance – money they earned over many years of working hard and long hours to produce clothes for these brands. Labour Behind the Label and the Clean Clothes Campaign believe that to deny these workers their payment is tantamount to wage theft, and call on all the brands involved to ensure these workers receive what they are owed.

Kokom Kolomawati, a former worker of the PT PDK factory in Indonesia, says: ¨International standards, like the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, are crystal clear – brands retain full responsibility for their supply chains and must ensure that we are paid what we rightfully earned and are now owed.¨

In the week between 14 and 20 December 2017 activists and workers are joining together in actions around the world calling for these brands to end wage theft and urging consumers to support these campaigns for justice. Message drops and protest actions are happening in over nine countries including Indonesia, Japan, Turkey, Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, and Hong Kong.

Teddy Senadi Putra, of Labour Union PUK SPAI FSPMI, formerly at PT Jaba Garmindo says: ¨The Uniqlo fortune is built from workers’ sweat, like ours, all over the world. For the 2017 fiscal year, Uniqlo had an operating profit of 176.4 billion Yen (2.05 billion EUR). They can easily afford to pay us what little amount we earned and now need. Brands need to realise that with power comes responsibility: they are more than just buyers. Brands are employers and garment workers are more than just disposable assets.¨

In a letter sent in September 2017 to brands Marks and Spencer, Nygard and Bonmarche, major buyers of the now closed Chung Fai factory in Cambodia, workers wrote: “We are your workers, and we are human beings! Some of us have worked at the factory since 1998. Instead of receiving legal severance and indemnity for our years of service, now we are broke and in debt. We shouldn’t have to keep living like this. Our cheap labour has helped you to profit. We are simply asking you to make sure we get what is legally ours.”

Over the 2017 fiscal year, Marks and Spencer generated an operating profit of 690.6 million GDP (784.7 million EUR).

Ends

Background

Sudden and unexpected factory closures seems to be a growing trend in the global garment industry. A particular challenge for workers is when factories go bankrupt following the withdrawal of orders from major brands since few countries have legal processes that prioritise debts to workers over other creditors, or legal systems that recently unemployed workers are able to readily access.

There are important precedents of brands taking responsibility for workers in their supply chain after a factory closure. In late 2012, nearly 200 garment workers at the Kingsland factory in Cambodia were deprived of their severance pay after the factory abruptly closed its doors. The workers started a month-long vigil and protest camp in front of the factory to prevent the factory’s assets from being stripped. This resulted in a historic settlement with Walmart and H&M in March 2013.

Similarly, after two years of international solidarity, adidas reluctantly agreed in 2014 to compensate 2,800 Indonesian garment workers who were owed US $1.8 million in severance pay following the closure of sportswear factory PT Kizone in Indonesia. Adidas is now involved in the PT PDK factory closure case.

Notes for editors

For more information on the Chung Fai factory closure in Cambodia involving Marks & Spencer, Bonmarche and Nygard, see: latest press release: M&S, Bonmarché and Nygård should compensate Cambodian workers after factory closure and campaign page

For more information on the Bravo factory closure in Turkey, involving Inditex (Zara), Mango and Next, see: latest press release: Zara, Next, Mango Slammed for Leaving Workers Without Wages in Turkish Factory and Bravo workers´ campaign petition

For more information on the PT PDK factory closure in Indonesia, involving adidas and Mizuno, see: latest press release: Top global sports brands adidas and Mizuno shamefully defy international standards on workers’ rights in Indonesia

For more information on the Jaba Garmindo factory closure in Indonesia, involving Uniqlo and other brands, see: latest press release: Pressure grows on Uniqlo CEO to fulfill debt owed to workers; and campaign page

Labour Behind the Label campaigns for garment workers’ rights worldwide. We support garment workers’ efforts to improve their working conditions and change the fashion industry for the better. We raise awareness, provide information and promote international solidarity between workers and consumers. 

Labour Behind the Label is the UK platform of the Clean Clothes Campaign. The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) works to improve conditions and support the empowerment of workers in the global garment industry. The CCC has national campaigns in 15 European countries with a network of 250 organisations worldwide. 

Please see www.labourbehindthelabel.org and www.cleanclothes.org for further information.

Workers protest in Cambodia after being left without pay
Workers protest in Cambodia after being left without pay
Report: Watch Your Step

Report: Watch Your Step

A Study on the Social and Environmental Impacts of Tanneries in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, India.

Every one of us wears shoes every day. But do we ever ask ourselves where the leather comes from to make our shoes? How is the skin of an animal turned into a shoe? Who does this work and under what conditions? This report takes us on a journey to the beginning of a leather shoe. The report looks at the leather industry in India and reveals the social and environmental impacts of tanneries. It provides a glimpse at the adverse conditions at tanneries in India, where people work with minimal or no protective gear, for payment below the minimum wage and no social security benefit. The workers themselves suffer from occupational diseases and the communities around the tanneries have to deal with polluted rivers and drinking water and the dumping of solid waste without regard to environmental standards and rules.

 

Read the main report: Watch Your Step Report

Read the factsheet: Watch Your Step Factsheet

 

Published in 2017. 

Tanneries in India