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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:

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
Will H&M deliver on its promise to pay a living wage in 2018?

Will H&M deliver on its promise to pay a living wage in 2018?

25 November 2017

Garment workers are waiting for an answer – will H&M deliver on its promise to pay a living wage in 2018?

Four years ago today, fashion giant H&M made a bold promise that, if kept, would mean a game changer for the industry. On 25 November 2013, the company vowed to pay what H&M calls a ‘fair living wage’ to the garment workers in its supply chain by 2018. On the fourth anniversary of H&M’s historic statement, with 2018 just around the corner, Clean Clothes Campaign – including UK-based Labour Behind the Label and global partners – are anticipating the moment next year when every garment worker who stitches clothes for H&M will receive a living wage.

H&M actually paying garment workers a living wage would be a ground-breaking development, as up until today poverty wages remain the norm in the global garment industry, including throughout H&M’s supply chain. The wages that garment workers, most of which are women, currently receive are miles away from what would constitute a living wage: a salary that would enable a worker to live a decent life, including a healthy diet for a worker and their family, proper housing, access to medical care, access to education and transportation and some discretionary income, to use in case of unforeseen events.

Over the past five years since declaring their living wage initiative, H&M has been notoriously opaque regarding its plans, which has raised questions as to whether their promise was merely a publicity stunt to allay public concern about their fast fashion brand. Currently, average wages at H&M supplier factories in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia and India are only slightly above the national minimum wages. In Bangladesh, for example H&M claims that workers at its suppliers earn on average $87 per month, which is even below the World Bank poverty line of $88 per month. As a result of their low wages, workers and their children suffer from malnutrition. Estimates on what a living wage constitutes vary, but on average they indicate that wages in Bangladesh would need to triple in order for workers to afford a healthy diet, proper housing, access to medical care and access to education for children. The dire situation of workers stitching clothes for H&M in Bangladesh became particularly clear in December 2016 when thousands of workers spontaneously hit the streets to protest for higher wages in the district of Ashulia, many of which worked for factories supplying H&M.

The low minimum wages in garment producing countries are set nationally by the government. However, these governments are slow in raising wages out of fear of losing garment orders critical to the national economy, leading to an international race to the bottom. Ineke Zeldenrust, of Clean Clothes Campaign, explains: “Brands could influence these wages, by reassuring governments that raising minimum wages will not make them leave, investing in long term relationships with their suppliers and assuring them that they will continue to receive orders even if prices go up, and taking direct responsibility for wages through direct payments on top of their orders to their supplier factories, to increase wages to living wage standards. As the most important player for Bangladesh’s exports, H&M can have considerable influence over these wages.”

Shortly after the great fanfare of their remarkable living wage promise, H&M set out to reformulate this promise towards a less ambitious course. Instead of paying all the workers in its supply chain a living wage directly, H&M clarified it would only put ‘mechanisms’ in place which would enable payment of living wages to at least 80% of the workers its supply chain. The actual practical and measurable steps to achieve this goal have not been shared publicly, nor has H&M been transparent about its wage pilot projects. This precludes workers and labour organisations from tracking progress of H&M’s living wage promise.

The goal that H&M set itself in 2013, to pay a living wage to 850,000 garment workers in their supply chain, while ambitious, is certainly possible and affordable for a company with the size, profit, and power of H&M. For example, the company’s chairman himself, Stefan Persson, could easily provide the H&M workers with a top up on their wages until the moment that H&M has sorted out the payment of a living wage. He is currently worth 19.9 billion dollars, which would be enough to pay all H&M garment workers in Bangladesh a full living wage for the next thirty years.

Ineke Zeldenrust states: “H&M certainly has the financial means to ‘walk the talk’, and has stated time and again they want to be a leader on these issues. We have looked at the numbers and if H&M were to reallocate just one year of its annual advertising budget towards wages, they could pay their Cambodian workers a living wage for 6.5 years.”

H&M’s net profit in 2016 was over $2 billion USD (18,636 million SEK). It would cost H&M only 1.9% of this profit to pay all its workers in Cambodia the additional $78 USD every month they would need to meet a living wage standard. 

Notes to the editor:

Benchmarks on what constitutes a living wage in Bangladesh differ. The current minimum wage (5,300 taka) is only 27% of the average of these estimated living wages.

 

Global Living Wage Alliance (2016) Wage Indicator Foundation (2016) CPD & Berenschot (2013) Asia Floor Wage Alliance (2015)
BDT 16,460 (Dhaka)
BDT 13,630 (satellite cities)

> BDT 12,200

 

< BDT 18,000

BDT 17,786 BDT 37,661
Current wages would have to almost triple to reach living wage standards. Current wages would have to double to triple to reach living wage standards. Current wages would have to triple to reach living wage standards. Current wages would have to septuple to reach living wage standards.
http://www.isealalliance.org/sites/default/files/Dhaka_Living_Wage_Benchmark_Infographic.pdf http://wageindicator-wages-in-context.silk.co/page/Bangladesh CPD & Berenschot (2013) Estimating a Living Minimum Wage for the Ready Made Garment Industry in Bangladesh. https://asia.floorwage.org/

 

Labour Behind the Label campaigns for garment workers’ rights worldwide. Labour Behind the Label represent the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) in the UK. The 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.

Contact:

Ineke Zeldenrust, Clean Clothes Campaign, ineke@cleanclothes.org, +31 20 4122785/+31 6 51280210

Labour Behind the Label welcomes agreement between ASOS and IndustriALL

Labour Behind the Label welcomes agreement between ASOS and IndustriALL

Press statement: 16 October 2017

Labour Behind the Label welcomes the agreement which was recently signed between ASOS and the global union federation IndustriALL

Global Framework Agreements (GFAs) aim to strengthen trade union rights for workers throughout the brand’s supply chain. This can therefore be a powerful tool to aid ASOS in the implementation of their human rights due diligence obligations.

We appreciate that the ASOS GFA is deeply rooted in solid language on the fundamental and enabling right for workers to join or form a union of their own choosing and to enter into good faith collective bargaining with their employers. This right is explicitly reconfirmed throughout the Agreement and covers “all workers producing products for ASOS”, and “any subsidiary brand label”. We also recognise and welcome the inclusion of periodic assessments of the impact of ASOS purchasing practices as current company purchasing practices play a key role in the suppression of decent working conditions in the fashion industry.

The agreement further extends the rights of workers to include a broad scope of rights including the right to a safe working environment, decent working hours and maternity protection, by referring to a broad scope of authoritative instruments.

At the same time, it is unfortunate that a number of key rights such as the right to refuse dangerous work, the right to decent employment relations and the right to a living wage remain only indirectly recognised. Given what is known on ASOS’s supply chain, the agreement could also have benefitted from more explicit language on particularly vulnerable groups of workers such as migrant and contract workers.

To assess the actual results on the ground that such a GFA can potentially bring, Labour Behind the Label (LBL) calls upon the GFA partners to foresee regular, public, and transparent reporting on activities and impact in addition to the commitment to public supply chain disclosure.

To make this GFA work for all it is crucial to include comprehensive systems for access to and delivery of remedy, and clear binding dispute resolution processes accessible to local unions. We therefore hope that explicit, transparent, and representative systems for reme-diation, and monitoring at the global and national level, are further developed in line with best practices of other GFAs in the garment sector.

“We welcome this constructive move by ASOS towards working together with trade unions in support of better working conditions for the garment and shoe workers in ASOS,” said Dominique Muller, Policy Director at Labour Behind the Label. “We also hope that this agreement results in clear, measurable and monitored results for the workers which are publicly available and publicly reported on.”

“At the same time, we see this as a positive step forward in transparency and commitment from ASOS who have already begun publishing their supply list – although so far this only contains tier 1 suppliers.”

Further information:

For the announcement from ASOS, see: https://www.asosplc.com/~/media/Files/A/Asos-V2/global-news/pr-03-10-2017.pdf

For the IndustriaALL press release, see: http://www.industriall-union.org/industriall-signs-global-framework-agreement-with-asos

Day of action calls for urgent change for workers in the shoe industry

Day of action calls for urgent change for workers in the shoe industry

Waste from leather tanneries in Bangladesh (c) GMB Akash

6 October 2017

Day of action calls for urgent change for workers in the shoe industry

  • Concerned groups will be taking action at shoe stores in Bristol, Exeter, London and Manchester on Saturday 7 October – join an event near you
  • Petition already has over 10,000 signatures asking Schuh, Office, Harvey Nichols, Primark, Boohoo.com and other leading UK brands and retailers to publish supplier information and take responsibility for working conditions

People across the UK are taking to shopping centres this weekend to call for urgent action to improve safety and conditions for workers in the global shoe industry.

Groups are coming together in Bristol, Exeter, London and Manchester after hearing about the dangerous conditions and poverty wages endured by people toiling in leather tanneries and shoe factories to make the footwear we buy on our high streets. On Saturday 7 October, they want to share this message with shoppers and encourage shoe brands to Step Up and respect the workers who make their shoes.

Organised by Change Your Shoes – a partnership of 18 organisations across Europe and Asia – the ‘Step Up’ day of action falls on the World Day for Decent Work, when organisations around the world call for decent wages and safe working conditions for all workers.

85% of all leather sold in Europe is tanned with chromium, often in countries like India and Bangladesh. The leather tanning process produces a toxic chemical called chromium VI which can cause asthma, eczema, blindness and cancer. When it transfers to waste water it causes harmful pollution to the environment and to those living and working nearby. Campaigners are calling on leading shoe brands to move away from the use of toxic chemicals in shoe production. They are also calling on these brands to show that they are willing to be held accountable for working conditions by publishing details of all their suppliers, and to respect the human rights of all workers who make their shoes.

“We all buy shoes. But how many of us know the reality behind the boots and heels we buy?” said Nicola Round from Labour Behind the Label. ““We have written to 11 leading UK shoe brands and retailers, but unfortunately most have not responded fully to our questions – including Schuh, Primark and Boohoo.com. Harvey Nichols and Office have not responded at all. Shoe brands hide behind a lack of transparency and public awareness, but their customers want to know that the people who make their shoes are treated with respect. That’s why people around the country are taking part in this urgent day of action. Over 10,000 people have signed our petition so far, and we want to give more people the opportunity to make their voice heard.”

A parallel petition calling on other leading fashion brands to be more transparent has been signed by over 70,000 people. “There is now a growing and unstoppable movement for transparency in the fashion industry”, says Round, “People across the world are waking up to the links between the shoes and clothes they buy and exploitation of workers by well-known brands.”

As a result of increased campaigning in recent years, many big fashion brands have now started publishing information about their suppliers. Shoe and leather brands are lagging behind, but some steps are being taken. UK brand Clarks has recently committed to publishing supplier information, an important step forward for workers’ rights.

Change Your Shoes interviewed workers from a factory in Indonesia, owned by the Danish shoe brand ECCO. “We were pleased to find examples of good working conditions at this factory,” says Round. “Wages are on living wage levels, contracts are permanent, and workers are able to join a union. Sadly this is not the case for many of the workers who make our shoes. But examples like this prove that brands can be responsible. We will continue to work with all brands to improve supply chain transparency and working conditions. And we call on all brands to make urgent changes to stop workers risking their lives for poverty wages every day.”

Zara, Next and Mango slammed for leaving workers without wages at Turkish factory

Zara, Next and Mango slammed for leaving workers without wages at Turkish factory

26 September 2017

Zara, Next and Mango slammed for leaving workers without wages at Turkish factory

Workers at the Bravo Tekstil factory complex in Istanbul are demanding their unpaid wages and severance after working without payment for three months following the sudden shutdown of their factory.

The factory was producing for fashion giants Zara, Next, and Mango. UK campaigning organisation Labour Behind the Label, and the international Clean Clothes Campaign, support the workers’ demands that these brands take responsibility and pay up.

The workers have sought justice in the Turkish courts and have won their case. Legally they are owed the full three months’ wages and severance payments. Over one year since the closure of the factory in July 2016 there is no satisfactory solution in sight, so the workers, supported by their union, have launched a petition. They are calling on conscious consumers to support their campaign for compensation for their three months of unpaid labour.

“We demand what is rightfully ours. We only demand the compensation for our labour. Nothing else, nothing more,” says Yeliz Kutluer, a new mother and former Bravo Tekstil factory worker.

The workers had been employed making clothing products for Zara, Next, and Mango. Despite 75% of the factory’s overall production being for Zara, and Zara making record profits in the first quarter of 2017, Zara has refused to ensure that the workers who made their products are fully compensated for their labour. Next and Mango have also refused to take responsibility for all 140 Bravo Tekstil workers who are now left with nothing. The amount the workers are asking for is 2,739,281 Turkish Lira (about 650,000 Euros), which for Inditex – Zara’s parent company – constitutes around 0.01% of net sales for just the first quarter of 2017.

“Brands are principal employers. They have proven time and again that they control every aspect of their orders to their suppliers. Therefore, it is clear that it is in their power to make sure that all workers who produce their apparel receive their monthly wages and are working in safe conditions, and morally they must do so,” says Bego Demir of Clean Clothes Campaign Turkey.

After more than a year of negotiation Zara, Next, and Mango have not been able to offer a settlement to fully compensate all 140 workers. The brands’ offer would cover only about a quarter of the amount the workers are asking for. Azem Atmaca, a former Bravo machinery operator, stresses that it would be unacceptable to find a solution for less than the full group of 140 workers: “One worker would get his money and the other wouldn’t. We all have families and children.”

Sudden factory closures are not uncommon in the garment industry, in which competition is fierce and capital flexible. Within the garment supply chain, power is concentrated at the top, where major brands such as Zara, Next and Mango make high profits and have a lot of leverage over the factories vying for their orders. Past cases in Indonesia, Cambodia and Latin America, involving major brands such as adidas, Nike, H&M and Walmart, have shown that brands can and should take responsibility to ensure that abandoned workers in their supply chain are paid their legally owed back wages and severance.

“My father worked so hard. I know well how he worked non-stop, day and night. So I want him to have what he is rightfully owed… (Zara, Next, and Mango) should hear our voice. That’s all I want,” says the daughter of Hikmet, a former Bravo Tekstil worker. She has been unable to enroll in her second year at university because of the brands’ refusal to compensate her father for his work.

Clean Clothes Campaign supports the Bravo Tekstil workers in their struggle for justice and calls on Zara, Next, and Mango to pay the 140 Bravo Tekstil workers what they are rightfully owed.

Notes

• The petition launched by the workers is at https://www.change.org/p/justiceforbravoworkers in English and https://www.change.org/p/bravoiscileri in Turkish.
• Videos in which the workers explain their situation since the closure of the factory:
 https://youtu.be/LPUOe5wcsqI
 https://youtu.be/jWMQjRNG-AU

For all press queries email: press@labourbehindthelabel.org