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
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