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11-12-2013
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it's a scam. they won't say what the "living wage" actually is. washingtonpost:

H&M says it will pay factory workers a ‘fair living wage.’ It doesn’t say what that means.

Posted by Lydia DePillis on November 26, 2013 at 5:01 pm

H&M's "roadmap." (H&M)

On Monday, H&M announced what looked like bold progress towards paying its factory workers something above poverty wages for the hours they spend pumping out flimsy garments. The Swedish company's "four-pronged approach" went into wide media release, and at a time when most other retailers are still dithering over how to help in the wake of the catastrophic building collapse in Bangladesh in April, positioned it as the socially responsible corporation to beat.
But how real are H&M's proposals? They're summarized on a cute one-pager, mostly rendered in the non-committal passive voice, as follows:
  • "H&M will support factory owners to develop pay structures that enable a fair living wage, ensure correct compensation, and overtime within legal limits. This will be explored by implementing the Fair Wage Method in our role model factories, from which we will source 100% of the products during five years."
  • "H&M's strategic suppliers should have pay structures in place to pay a fair living wage by 2018. By then, this will reach around 850,000 textile workers. Our strategic suppliers are currently 750 factory units producing about 60% of our products."
  • Starting in 2014, H&M will "Develop our price method to ensure the true cost of labor. By doing this we secure that we pay a price which enables our suppliers to pay their textile workers a fair living wage and reduce overtime."
  • "H&M will encourage governments to engage in a process to identify a living wage level, set a legal minimum wage accordingly and review wages annually thereafter."
Plus a few things about educating workers, strengthening unions, and strengthening their "social dialogue" project.
What's missing here? An actual number for what it'll pay workers. The closest H&M comes to that is saying it'll use the "Fair Wage Method" developed by Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead, who manages wage policy at the United Nations' International Labour Organization. The Fair Labor Association describes it as a 12-step way of determining whether rates are in fact fair, including factors like productivity and prevailing wages, and providing for annual review. But it's not exactly a formula, and therefore would be difficult to dispute when -- and if -- H&M arrives at a final number.
Those who've been working around these issues for a long time find the lack of specificity exasperating.
"If they want to pay living wages, they should pay living wages. They should give themselves a near-term deadline and give the world a number," said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium advocacy group. He was at a meeting in Stockholm a few weeks ago where H&M announced the initiative to stakeholders like labor unions and NGOs, and didn't make much of what it had to offer. "Just staying 'we're for a living wage, in 5 years we're going to pay an undefined amount in a subset or our factories,' that's not credible."
How much would paying a living wage even cost H&M? According to the WRC's calculations, labor comprises about 6 percent of a factory's costs, and only 1 or 2 percent of the final retail price. Bangladesh, where two of H&M's pilot factories are located, is proposing to double its minimum wage to about 31 cents an hour. The WRC estimates that a living wage would be more like $1.50 an hour. That would increase the price of a tank top, but not by much.
Meanwhile, H&M is already a member of the Fair Labor Association, which has a code of conduct that addresses adequate wages (the FLA certifies H&M's work only in China). Even so, it still pays the same rock-bottom prices as Wal-Mart and Nike.
"We've been down the road many times. This has all the hallmarks of fluff," Nova says. "Where H&M has the power to make it happen now is in the factories now. If they are willing to take the steps necessary, they can achieve it. Why are they not doing that, is the question."

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11-12-2013
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^ But it would be a different number in each and every country where they'd have factory workers, right?

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Quote:
Originally Posted by fashionista-ta View Post
^ But it would be a different number in each and every country where they'd have factory workers, right?
that depends on how the trans pacific partnership treaty goes. a draft of the treaty was leaked recently which listed that companies could export items from (vietnam for example) into the US (and other countries where H&M have markets and are included in the treaty) duty free (versus made in china which has an import tax)

if this happens than H&M will likely pull out of countries that require the duty entirely.

it's a race to the bottom to find the lowest cheapest wage possible with no duty or taxes.

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H&M Plans to Pay Garment Workers Fair Wages. Here's Why That's Probably BS.


—By Dana Liebelson
|


Terry Chay/Flickr
I recently wrote about the Indian sumangali scheme, wherein girls from poor, rural families are recruited to work in clothing factories, on the promise that they will earn enough money for a dowry. Instead, many toil in exploitive conditions, earning far less than recruiters told them they would. Many of these factories sell to American companies. H&M has been accused by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations of using sumangali labor in the past, but the company is trying to rid its factories of the scheme by 2014. Shortly before Black Friday, H&M announced that it also plans to start paying 850,000 workers at 750 factories—out of its some 1,800 total factories around the world—a fair wage by 2018.
Fair-trade experts say that the announcement is a step in the right direction, but some point out that the plan has major holes. Most notably, the factories that will be covered under the fair-wage program produce just 60 percent of H&M's products, and the company did not say whether it would eventually extend the plan to its other factories, as well. Here are a few other red flags:
H&M won't say how much it will pay workers in each country. Anna Eriksson, a spokesperson for H&M, told me that that the company does not believe US buyers should dictate a minimum wage to its factories; instead, it expects factory employees and factory owners to work together to come up with a fair wage. Wages will depend on the country and the factory, and must meet the Fair Wage Method, which was developed by Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead, who oversees wage policy at the United Nations' International Labour Organization. This standard is based on a number of factors—such as promoting "acceptable living standards" and being "comparable to wages in similar enterprises in the same sector." H&M also plans to support unions that empower workers to negotiate for wages, and encourage governments to identify a living wage level.
But Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, criticizes the company's plan to rely on governments and factories to set wages. Nova told the Washington Post, "Just saying 'we're for a living wage, in 5 years we're going to pay an undefined amount in a subset or our factories,' that's not credible." Jefferson Cowie, the chair of the Department of Labor Relations, Law, & History at Cornell University, echoed those concerns. "It is hard to see governments taking a strong role in boosting wages in the short run," he told me. Fair wages can also be hard to enforce. I saw this firsthand while reporting my sumangali story: In India, the government does have a minimum wage for textile workers—but many of the female workers I spoke with were not being paid that wage, and didn't have access to a union.
H&M claims that increasing wages somehow won't raise prices consumers pay for its clothing. Eriksson says that the company will keep its clothing prices steady for Western consumers by using in-house designers, buying clothing in large volumes, and finding other efficiencies. But Elizabeth Cline, the author of the 2012 book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, says that she doesn't believe that H&M can pay garment workers a living wage without raising retail prices. "How can that be true?" she says. "It makes me think that the company is just riding on unsustainable expansion [and] will just continue to sell more and more low-quality clothes to make up for this increased cost." However, Joel Paul, a law professor and expert in trade policy at the University of California-Hastings, speculates that the claim could, in fact, be true: Because foreign garment factory labor accounts for a tiny percentage of a shirt's total cost, he says, increasing workers' hourly wages from 15 cents to a $1.50—an estimated living wage in Bangladesh—wouldn't substantially undercut profits.
The wage increase won't affect any of H&M's spinning mills. H&M's fair-wage promise does not extend to all of its subcontractors, which include the factories that spin the cotton into thread (also known as spinning mills). In India, most sumangali schemes take place in spinning mills. That the plan doesn't include subcontractors could be a big problem: If some factories in the supply chain are not required to pay a fair wage, garment factories can simply outsource more of their labor to those cheaper operations. When I asked H&M how the company plans to address the challenge of factories outsourcing labor to subcontractors with potentially exploitive conditions, spokesman Håcan Andersson said, "We are not able to assist you further in this matter."
Despite the plan's significant problems, Cornell's Cowie says he believes that H&M deserves some credit for taking baby steps toward fixing a notoriously exploitive industry. "Do they have the perfect solution?" he says. "Absolutely not. If they wanted to pay the highest wages, they wouldn't be shopping for labor in Cambodia and Bangladesh in the first place. But making an open commitment to workers matters—as long as it does not end up being just a cover for their old practices." (motherjones)

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22-03-2015
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Human rights watch has published a 140 page report on cambodia's garment industry and spotlighting human rights abuses at H&M's factories there.

here's an excerpt:
Quote:



Factory 1 subcontracts work to many other smaller factories.[328] In November 2013, Human Rights Watch visited a subcontracting factory whose workers said that H&M was one of the brands they produced for, work that was ongoing as of April 2014. The factory had no visibly displayed name board. Workers identified the factory using a nickname. The subcontractor factory managers did not issue workers identity cards or written contracts.
In one case, team leaders in the factory 1 told workers that they should work Sundays at an unauthorized subcontractor to help meet production targets. Workers were not paid any special overtime rates for work on Sundays and public holidays. This allowed factory 1 to bypass labor laws governing overtime wages and a compensatory day off for night shifts or Sunday work.[329]
Human Rights Watch spoke to five workers from one subcontractor factory who said they were supplying to factory 1 or one of its branches. They knew they were producing for H&M because the managers had discussed the brand name and designs with workers. The factory also subcontracted with other large factories in the Svay Rolum and Sethbau areas in Kandal province that produce for international brands. The workers were paid on a piece-rate basis and when the factory received many orders, workers said they were forced to work overtime on Sundays and public holidays. On some days they were also forced to do overtime until 9 p.m. and sometimes overnight until 6 a.m. The workers said they were not given any overtime wages.[330]
Workers said they were fearful of forming a union and that eligible workers did not receive maternity leave or pay. From employee accounts, some workers were children younger than 15, the legally permissible age in Cambodia. One woman estimated that 20 of the 60 workers in her group were children. Children worked as hard as the adults, they said, including on Sundays, nights for overtime work, and public holidays when there were rush orders.[331]
features.hrh.org

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22-03-2015
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^ Wow.

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Most of H&M’s “best” factories in Bangladesh still don’t have working fire exits
Marc Bain/qz.com

Factory fires pose one of the greatest dangers to Bangladesh’s garment workers.
After the 2013 factory collapse at Rana Plaza, more than 200 clothing brands from around the world signed a binding commitment to create (pdf) a Bangladeshi garment industry “in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses, or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures.”
The first brand to sign the commitment was H&M, which is the single largest buyer of garments from Bangladesh. But a study released Oct. 1 (pdf) by the Clean Clothes Campaign, in collaboration with several labor groups, says the company is “dramatically behind schedule” in making actual improvements in the factories it sources from. Many of those delayed improvements would ensure worker safety in case of a fire.

What’s more worrisome, the report only looked at H&M’s “Platinum” and “Gold” suppliers—the factories that supposedly boast the highest standards in labor and environmental protections. They account for 56 of the 229 factories H&M uses in Bangladesh.
About 61% didn’t have fire exits that met the accord’s standards, which demand that fire exits have enclosed stairwells and fire-rated doors. Without those measures, exits can quickly fill with smoke in a fire, effectively trapping workers on a factory’s upper floors.

It’s not a small risk. Factory fires are a persistent hazard in Bangladesh, as the New York Times noted after the 2012 fire at Tazreen Fashions that killed 112 people.
“[Lack of appropriate fire exits] is the defect that has been the primary culprit in virtually every mass fatality fire in the Bangladesh garment industry,” the report states, estimating that this violation alone puts nearly 79,000 workers’ lives in danger.

Other major fire hazards included lockable doors, as well as sliding doors and collapsible gates, all of which can make it difficult for workers to escape quickly in an emergency.
The Clean Clothes campaign is a coalition of European organizations that advocates for garment workers’ rights. For this report, it collaborated with the International Labor Rights Forum, Maquila Solidarity Network, and Worker Rights Consortium, with research assistance from Fordham University’s School of Law.
A spokesperson for the Clean Clothes Campaign told Quartz the report focused on H&M because it is the largest buyer from Bangladesh, and therefore has significant leverage in the country.
H&M has also “communicated to consumers through their sustainability reports that all significant repairs are complete,” according to the spokesperson. The report was a way to independently check on those claims. Its analysis is based on publicly available information from factory-inspection reports and “corrective action plans” disclosed by the organization behind the accord.
H&M issued a press release in response, stating that every factory H&M sources from meets the accord’s minimum requirements for operation, and tthat “almost 60% of the remediation work is completed and we see good progress. However, the accord is experiencing some delays of the planned remediation process.”
In a separate statement to Quartz, a company spokesperson explained that delays are due to technical and structural issues in the factories that “require more time and access to technology not available in Bangladesh.”that progress is happening, if slowly.
It says in the factories where it’s the lead brand sourcing there A heavy workload for the inspection experts was also a factor.
H&M has shown a commitment to improving conditions for workers in its contracted factories. A few weeks ago, it introduced a “fair wage program” in its Asian factories that will boost workers’ pay. But as long as it continues operations in factories without proper fire safety, tens of thousands of lives are in danger.

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04-10-2015
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^ H&M's platinum and gold would turn your finger green.

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05-10-2015
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That is awful. I won't be buying from them again

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Quote:
The kids who have to sew to survive
By Darragh MacIntyre
BBC Panorama

The first time you see a child hunched over a sewing machine in a hot, airless factory will never leave you.

The boy, no more than 11 or 12, peeked up at me with just the trace of a smile before he dipped his head again, back to work. It felt like a punch in the gut.

I'd been told that child labour was endemic in Turkey. But I wasn't prepared for the reality of it. Or the scale of it. One basement workshop was almost entirely staffed with children, many of whom couldn't have been more than seven or eight years old, the very picture of Dickensian misery.

I was in Istanbul investigating allegations that Syrian refugees and children are being exploited by the garment industry. And specifically that many are working on clothes destined for our High Street.

This undercover investigation was unusually tricky. Secret filming is illegal in Turkey and we were halfway through our investigation when a state of emergency was declared in the country. We were routinely stopped and questioned by police. Our secret filming equipment had to be kept out of sight.

And yet finding Syrian refugees and children making branded clothes for the UK market was relatively straightforward.

Only a tiny percentage of the estimated 3 million Syrians who have sought refuge in Turkey have the necessary work permits. To survive, they have to work illegally, without any rights, and for low wages. A made-to-measure workforce for the garment industry, and a reminder that one person's plight is often another's opportunity.

I was able to see how this exploitation works for myself. It was just before 08:00. A group of people had gathered on a street corner on the outskirts of Istanbul, all desperate for a day's work.

We filmed through the blacked-out windows of our van a dozen yards away as a middleman picked this day's workforce, selecting them one by one. Those who were chosen boarded a bus to take them to a factory.

We know now that up to seven of the workers on board were Syrian refugees. One was just fifteen. Another, we'll call him Omar, was our source.

We followed behind until the bus stopped outside a factory in an industrial zone a few miles away. This factory was known to us. We'd been told it made clothes for some of the world's leading brands.

Later that evening, Omar met up with me. He showed me the labels from the clothes he'd been working on, that day. I recognised them instantly. So would you. The brand could hardly be better-known in the UK.

Over the next few weeks, I got to know Omar and his friends. Like all the Syrians I spoke to, they knew they were being exploited, but they knew there was very little they could do about it.

Some of them were being paid a little over £1 an hour, well below the Turkish minimum wage. The 15-year-old boy told me he wanted to be in school but he couldn't afford not to work. So he was spending more than 12 hours a day ironing clothes that are then shipped to the UK.

All the brands I contacted about this programme say they regularly inspect the factories making their clothes to guarantee standards. Some of these audits are unannounced. But the Syrian boys explained how the factories got round this problem.

When the auditors arrive, they are hidden out of sight. And when the auditors leave, they go back to work. As simple as that. Some of the brands acknowledge the inherent failings in the auditing process and are now trying to tie up with trade unions and NGOs to combat abuses.

Other factories may never be visited by auditors because as far as the brands are concerned, they don't make their clothes. They're part of the chain of sub-contractors who make up much of the garment industry in Turkey.

They take orders from so-called first-tier factories - official suppliers to the brands - but often without the knowledge of the brands themselves.

This is where you'll find the worst abuses of Syrian refugees and children. We decided to follow delivery vans from one of the first-tier factories hoping they would lead us down their supply chain.

Our plan was successful but also darkly disappointing. We filmed outside one of the sub-contractors as a small boy carried and dragged bags of material as big as himself to one of the vans. He couldn't have been more than 12.

We go inside posing as the owners of a new fashion business. In the manager's office we immediately spot a jacket that has been made for a British clothing retailer. It's whisked away. Later, after browbeating the owners to let us see the factory floor, we get sight of the young boy again.

He's carefully folding clothes at an ironing station. He looks up briefly and then looks down to his work again. And he's far from alone - there are half a dozen Syrian children of around his age in the workshop.

Efforts are being made to get them into education but it's estimated that as many as 400,000 are working, many of them in the garment industry.

I've spoken to some of the parents of these children. They don't want their kids working, but they say they simply don't have a choice.

One boy, just 13, told me he was between jobs. He had spent the morning looking for work when we spoke. No luck. I asked him what he would do now. Tears rolled slowly down his cheek as he told me that if he didn't work, he couldn't live.

Our evidence confirms that big fashion brands are profiting from refugees and their children. All the brands involved say they are completely opposed to child labour and any exploitation of Syrian refugees.

But our investigation shows they sometimes don't know how or where their clothes are being made. And until the brands know exactly who is making their clothes, then this type of exploitation is almost certain to continue.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-37693173
This just breaks my heart.

There is a longer 30 minute version on BBC for those in the UK http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0813kpq.

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Fashion brands ignore 'endemic' abuse of Syrian refugees in Turkey - watchdog
By Timothy Large

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Big fashion brands are failing to protect Syrian refugees from "endemic" abuse in Turkish clothing factories supplying European retailers, a monitoring group said on Tuesday.

Child labour, pitiful pay and dangerous conditions are among the risks facing undocumented Syrian refugees working in Turkey's garment industry, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

The London-based charity surveyed 38 major brands with Turkish factories in their supply chains on steps they are taking to protect vulnerable refugee workers from exploitation.

"A handful of leading brands, like NEXT and New Look, demonstrate it is a moral imperative, and commercially viable, to treat refugees with respect," Phil Bloomer, the watchdog's executive director, said in a statement.

"The great majority of brands are doing too little. They should learn rapidly from these leaders to outlaw abuse of refugees in their supply chains, and insist their suppliers provide decent work for all their workers."

Almost 3 million refugees - more than half aged under 18 - have fled to Turkey to escape war in Syria. Many work illegally in Turkey's garment industry, which supplies $17 billion in clothing and shoes a year, mostly to Europe, especially Germany.

A Reuters investigation this year found evidence of Syrian refugee children in Turkey working in clothes factories in illegal conditions. Turkey bans children under 15 from working.

A BBC Panorama investigation broadcast on Monday found that Syrian refugee children had been working in factories making clothes for British high street retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) and online store ASOS.

An M&S spokesperson told Reuters before the BBC report aired: "We had previously found no evidence of Syrian workers employed in factories that supply us, so we were very disappointed by these findings, which are extremely serious and are unacceptable to M&S."

ASOS Chief Executive Officer Nick Beighton said in a statement: "The issues Panorama raises aren't with our approved factories, who we audit. It's with unapproved outsourcing to factories we don't know about. This will continue to be a problem until we know where every garment is made and however difficult, that's what ultimately we’ve got to achieve."

WORK PERMITS

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre said many brands justified inaction on labour exploitation by denying the existence of refugees of any age in their supply chains.

In its survey, drawn up with trade unions and rights advocates, only nine brands reported that they had found unregistered Syrian refugees on factory floors.

Those brands were ASOS, C&A, H&M, KiK, LC Waikiki, Primark, New Look, NEXT and Otto Group.

Until this year, Syrians were not entitled to work permits, so many refugees worked informally.

Turkey started to issue permits in January, but the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre said "the vast majority of Syrian refugees continue to work without legal protections, making them vulnerable to abuse".

It said ASOS, C&A, Esprit, GAP, Inditex, LC Waikiki, Mothercare, New Look, Otto Group, Primark, Tesco, Tchibo and White Stuff all now expect suppliers to support unregistered refugees to get work permits.

"This is a positive shift given many brands previously cited a zero tolerance policy towards unregistered refugees working in factories, leading to their dismissal - the worst outcome for their welfare," the charity said in a report.

It praised NEXT, New Look and Mothercare for having detailed plans for protecting refugees and for paying a minimum wage even when Syrians are employed without work permits.

The monitoring group criticised standard methods used to make sure supply chains are free from labour exploitation, in which brands announce in advance audits of so-called first-tier suppliers.

Rights groups say a lot of abuse occurs at the murkier ends of supply chains when suppliers subcontract production from third-party factories that are much harder to keep track of.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre noted that Adidas, C&A, Debenhams, LC Waikiki, Puma, Inditex, ASOS, H&M and NEXT audited sub-contractors below the first tier. But it said much more needed to be done.

The survey showed a minority of brands were taking collective action on exploitation in Turkey through the Ethical Trading Initiative, an alliance of trade unions, firms and charities promoting workers' rights, the group said.

"Disappointingly, six brands did not respond to the (survey) questions - Gerry Weber, Lidl, Mexx, New Yorker, River Island and Sainsbury's," it added in its report.

Nobody was immediately available for comment at New Yorker, Mexx or Lidl. A River Island spokeswoman declined to comment.

A Sainsbury's spokesperson told Thomson Reuters Foundation: "We expect our suppliers, both in the UK and abroad, to follow our Code of Conduct for Ethical Trade, which incorporates the Base Code of the Ethical Trading Initiative."

A spokeswoman for Gerry Weber said in an email: "We have raised awareness with our suppliers for the issue and are furthermore on site with our own staff. Additionally we realise audits with independent third parties."

Arcadia, Burberry, s.Oliver, SuperGroup, VF Corp and Walmart only provided short statements in response to the survey, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre said.

(Reporting by Timothy Large; additional reporting by Zabihullah Noori; editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-europe-migrants-refugees-retailers-idUKKCN12O2RZ

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