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Press release: Concerns raised about NEXT’s supply chain commitments ahead of Annual Meeting

Press release: Concerns raised about NEXT’s supply chain commitments ahead of Annual Meeting

For immediate release: 18 May 2022

Concerns raised about NEXT’s supply chain commitments ahead of Annual Meeting

 

Rights groups have expressed concerns regarding NEXT’s efforts to ensure supply chain workers are compensated fairly in a joint statement released on the eve of the fashion brand’s AGM.

In the light of the global cost of living crisis, Labour Behind the Label and ShareAction have issued a joint statement calling on NEXT plc. to honour its commitment to sustainability in supply chains, and ensure workers’ rights are protected.

The two organisations are raising a shareholder question to the board of NEXT plc tomorrow, calling for clarification on the company’s commitment to responsible purchasing practices, that they say have led, in the pandemic, to factory closures where workers were left with no pay, and poverty and debt experienced on an unprecedented scale.

The question cites two cases in NEXT suppliers – the Neo Trend factory in Turkey and Wai Full Textiles in Cambodia – where workers were left without their legally owed wages and severance payments following a withdrawal of Next’s orders causing the suppliers to close. The cases are given as an example of a wider systemic issue.

Labour Behind the Label and ShareAction are calling on NEXT to intervene and ensure that workers from both of these factories are paid their legally owed wages and severance. Furthermore the two organisations assert that the brand should reduce vulnerabilities for workers in its supply chain by making a public time-bound commitment to ensuring that workers are paid a living wage.

The question further queries the brand’s approach to wage improvement and how it is making efforts to ring-fence living wage levels in its price negotiations with suppliers so that workers’ wages aren’t the topic of cost saving.

Anna Bryher from Labour Behind the Label said: “The debt crisis experienced by Asian factory workers when fashion orders stopped in the pandemic, made abundantly clear the precarious situation that workers are in in global fashion supply chains. Living on a minimum wage in Asian garment producing countries (a third of a living wage or less in almost all cases) is near impossible, and building savings even less so. Brands like NEXT must urgently make sure living wages start to be paid into the pockets of workers who are making their clothes, to avoid future exploitation if orders once again grind to a halt. NEXT must do more than simply stating a commitment to change, and must stop prioritising profits that are being made on the backs of workers”.

Martin Buttle from ShareAction said: “Over the past few years it’s been clearer than ever that the treatment of the workforce in investee companies is a material risk that investors should be engaging companies on as part of their wider ESG strategy. Furthermore, responsible investors are increasingly engaging on company approaches to living wages not only in their direct operations but also in their global supply chain. Investors should pay particular attention to ensure that commercial practices are not undermining the standards they set for suppliers.”

The full text of the question being put to the NEXT plc board is available here.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Labour Behind the Label is a campaign that works to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry.

ShareAction is a campaigning organisation pushing the global investment system to take responsibility for its impacts on people and planet, and use its power to create a green, fair, and healthy society.

The NEXT plc Annual General Meeting will be held at Leicester Marriott Hotel, Smith Way, Grove Park, Leicester, LE19 1SW on Thursday, 19 May 2022 at 09:30.

Media contacts:

Anna Bryher, Labour Behind the Label, +44 (0)7786 832 035, anna@labourbehindthelabel.org

Conor Quinn, ShareAction, +44 (0)7444 696 214, conor.quinn@shareaction.org

More information about the Neo Trend NEXT supplier case is available on the Labour Behind the Label website here. Below is also a video that the workers made to raise their case.

Next plc AGM question 2022

Question to the board of NEXT plc on Global Living Wage
AGM date: 19th May 2022
Venue: Leicester Marriott Hotel, Smith Way, Grove Park, Leicester, LE19 1SW
Time: 9.30

 

My name is Anna, and my question today is about Next PLC’s approach to Living Wages and compensation for workers in production countries following pandemic supply chain disruption.

The lack of a Living Wage for workers in supplier factories meant that when goods ordered stopped due to Covid-19, many workers were left with no savings, and facing serious financial difficulties when factories closed and jobs were lost. My question concerns both the need for immediate remedy for workers who had been making your clothes, and the prevention of this kind of financial crisis being faced by workers again.

Next have been members of ACT – an industry initiative and agreement with the global union federation IndustriALL in pursuit of living wages – for over 5 years. As part of the agreement, Next has committed to ensuring it has responsible exit strategies in place for when it leaves suppliers, and that its purchasing practices support payment of a living wage by separating out labour costs from price negotiations. However, in a recent survey of global buyers and suppliers undertaken by ACT, 70% of brands said they weren’t sure they were putting in place due diligence processes to ensure workers who lost their jobs as a consequence of a brand’s exit from a supplier, received due wages and their legally-entitled severance pay. The same survey said that 36% of buyers did not know whether the price quotations that they gave to suppliers were enough to cover the cost of a Living Wage.

So firstly, can the board tell us whether the picture painted by the ACT survey is reflective of Next PLC? Workers from former Next suppliers Neo Trend in Turkey and Wai Full Textiles in Cambodia both report that they haven’t received legally owed wages and severance pay following Next’s withdrawal of orders and subsequent factory closures. Can the board clarify that steps are being taken to address responsible exit concerns?

Secondly, can the board tell us what steps Next is taking to ensure that its buyers understand whether price costs cover living wage payment? Will Next make a public time-bound commitment with clear benchmarks to ensure a living wage is paid to all workers, and publish results on how its purchasing practices are driving living wage payment in its suppliers?

Finally, will Next agree to meet with Labour Behind the Label, Share Action and Next shareholders, to discuss supply chain pandemic impacts, severance, purchasing practices and living wages further?

 

Supporting evidence: https://actonlivingwages.com/app/uploads/2021/11/ACT-purchasing-practices-report-2021.pdf

Press release: Eliminating poverty and fighting climate change are not mutually exclusive

Press release: Eliminating poverty and fighting climate change are not mutually exclusive

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release- 31st October 2019

In a recent interview, H&M Chief Executive Karl-Johan Persson warned of ‘terrible social consequences’ if consumers ditch fast fashion amid concerns about the climate crisis[1].  In his warped logic, reducing fast fashion could lead to increased poverty as jobs and economic growth would stall. Persson’s claim that reducing consumerism will threaten the elimination of poverty must be challenged.  His claims are at best misguided and at worst deceitful and fail to acknowledge the social and environmental consequences of the global garment industry.   

We do not have to choose between improving human rights in the garment industry or reducing the environmental impact. In fact, we cannot improve one without the other. Positioning environmental concerns as a threat against human rights is divisive and dangerous. The growth of the conscious consumer should be welcomed not resisted.

Fast fashion exacerbates poverty

The global garment industry is built on the exploitation of cheap labour in developing countries. It is corporate greed, rather than environmental concerns that stands in the way of poverty alleviation. Profit from fast fashion at rock-bottom prices is only possible through poverty pay, unsafe working conditions and suppression of unions.  

Whilst Persson is reportedly worth around $1.9 billion[2], an average wage for a garment worker in Bangladesh, where H&M is among the biggest garment buyers, is around is around $1000 per year [3]. In other words, a days’ salary for a worker making clothes for H&M is around $3.64. Oxfam calculated that it takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime[4]

Persson’s claim that fast fashion supports the eradication of poverty is outrageous, considering not a single worker in H&M’s supplier factories earns a living wage[5]. Last year, in response to H&M’s failure to pay a living wage, despite their widely publicised commitment that 850,000 workers would be paid a living wage by 2018, the Clean Clothes Campaign submitted a shareholder proposal for the 2018 profits to go into a living wage fund[6].  Unsurprisingly this proposal was voted down.   

Decent jobs and a living wage are required to eliminate poverty and the global garment industry is currently providing neither. The myth that low paid labour-intensive garment production is a source of economic development is a lie. Water extraction, pollution, carbon emissions and toxic chemical use alongside excessive working hours, low pay and sexual harassment are the hallmark of the garment industry.  What is needed is decent work. If fashion brands paid their workers a living wage, not only would these workers and their families have access to a decent life, but as consumers themselves they could do more to end poverty than the spread of low-cost, low-quality garment production.  

“To reduce the damage to the environment, one of the solutions is to produce less and consume less natural/raw materials and practice circular economy. H&M must pay a living wage to all garment workers producing for H&M all over the world now!”; May Wong, CCC East Asia Coalition

“Having worked in support of worker rights for over 20 years, I am not often shocked, but the callousness and deceit of these remarks take industry white-washing to a whole new level”; said Dominique Muller, Labour Behind the Label. “If H&M was really interested in eliminating poverty it must start with paying its workers a decent wage and not pretending that the throwaway fashion model will save the planet.”

 

The climate crisis affects garment workers

 The struggles against climate crisis and exploitative labour cannot be pitted against each other. They are interdependent and symbiotic, and the impact of both crises hits the same communities hardest. Climate change fuels internal migration to urban areas where many find exploitative employment in the garment industry. [7] The UN highlights that is the urban poor in the Global South, living near polluted grounds or in instable structures, who are most vulnerable to the affects of the climate crisis[8].

We need corporations to radically change business models to pay workers more, reduce production and consumption and redistribute the value chain. It is only when businesses prioritise both people and the planet before profit, that the elimination of poverty will be possible.

 

—ENDS—-

 

Notes

Amancio Ortega, founder of Inditex—the parent company of Zara—earned approximately €1.3 billion in share dividends in 2016 (about $1.37 billion). Forbes lists his fortune at $77.4 billion.

Mahmud Kamani, founder of Boohoo, the online fast fashion brand is estimated to be worth around £1 billion. In April 2017, Boohoo announced that its profits had almost doubled. Meanwhile reports continue to emerge that some UK workers producing for Boohoo in Leicester are paid an average of £3 an hour.

“It would cost $2.2 billion a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers from the average wage to a living wage…This is the equivalent of a third of the amount paid out to shareholders by the top five companies in the garment sector.” (Oxfam 2018 [9])

Labour Behind the Label is the UK platform of the Clean Clothes Campaign, which 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 labourbehindthelabel.organd www.cleanclothes.org for further information.

Contacts

Meg Lewis – Labour Behind the Label- 0117 954 8011 / meg@labourbehindthelabel.org
Dominique Muller – Labour Behind the Label- 07596098399/ dominique@labourbehindthelabel.org

References

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-27/h-m-ceo-sees-terrible-fallout-as-consumer-shaming-spreads

[2] https://www.forbes.com/profile/karl-johan-persson/#16eded0b2b48

[3] Based on the new minimum wage of 8000 Taka per month. https://wageindicator.org/salary/minimum-wage/bangladesh/archive/minimum-wages-in-bangladesh-with-effect-from-01-12-2018

[4] https://oi-files-d8-prod.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/file_attachments/bp-reward-work-not-wealth-220118-en.pdf

[5] http://labourbehindthelabel.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/TailoredWagesUK-FP-updated.pdf

[6] https://turnaroundhm.org/finale/

[7] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/climate-and-people/climate-change-fuelling-migration-crisis-bangladesh/

[8] http://unhabitat.org/urban-themes/climate-change/

[9] https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/richest-1-percent-bagged-82-percent-wealth-created-last-year-poorest-half-humanity

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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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