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Stolen wages in India and Pakistan mean workers owed millions
Right now, workers making our clothes in India and Pakistan are having their wages stolen as factories refuse to pay a new legal minimum wage. International brands including Zara, M&S, Nike and H&M underpaid garment workers in Karnataka India as estimated £41m last year.
The wage hike in both countries has been long overdue. Workers say their children are going hungry as a result. “If we had got the wage increase last year, we could have at least eaten vegetables a few times a month. Throughout this year I have only fed my family rice and chutney sauce,” one worker in Karnataka said. “I tried to talk to the factory management about it but they said, ‘this is what we pay to work here. If you don’t like it, you can leave.’”
This couldn’t be more important – as inflation rises in countries that make our clothes, more and more minimum wages can’t cover the cost of feeding kids or sending them to school. In most South and South East Asian garment producing countries, the minimum wage is less than a third of the amount needed to cover basic costs of living for a family, and governments are in a competition with each other to keep wages low in order to attract international brands to buy from their factories. That’s why when countries do put up their wages you can be sure it’s because they absolutely have to. Brands must respect this and make sure they increase their prices to cover the increase in costs
Can you take action to help?
Brands are the ones who must step in here and say that their money will only continue to flow if wages cover the cost of living and human rights are respected. And they will only do this if they feel consumers care enough to notice. This is why your action is so important. Will you click the button and to send a tweet to brands?
Estimated money owed to workers in Karnataka
We’ve been in touch with UK brands to ask them to contact their suppliers and make sure that the wages workers are owed are reaching their pockets, and to make sure that workers are paid the arrears due since the minimum wages were increased (letter here). So far we’ve heard back from ASOS, Burberry, M&S, New Look, NEXT, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, but we’ve had nothing from Primark, Boohoo, and River Island.
Paying the minimum wage is the very bottom line of what the brands who make our clothes need to do to show responsibility in how they make clothes. Only brands can change this situation by stepping in and demanding their factories pay workers what they are legally owed.